50 People 1 Question Shoreditch

On an idle autumn afternoon in London we took to Brick Lane to shoot a “Fifty People One Question” style video. We stopped almost fifty people and asked them all a common question about their lives. The goal is to edit it together to make a short video about how much we all have in common.

Gear used for 50 people 1 question

The camera setup and audio gear need to be professional enough to get a good result but small enough to not be intimidating.

People in London don’t generally like to stop and chat to strangers, so we got a lot of No’s, but we managed to get Yes’s enough to make a short video. We had a real adventure filming the video and we even got asked to leave at one point by a security guard. It was a fun process and we’ll be releasing the footage on the London Street Photo channel on YouTube.

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Best places for London street photography

One of the main things that drew me to street photography was my fascination with the wonderful characters and personalities of London. There are plenty of location guides and guides to the best locations for street photography. But almost all of them are about the best streets to photograph not the best place to find people to photograph.

London Photography Locations

The best places to shoot street photography in London are based on the best places to find the people of London that you want to shoot.

As you know, street photography is about telling stories, spotting the small human things in life and photographing people. So I’ve dug back through the London photo walks I’ve done with David Gibson and others to find the best routes in London for visitors and locals.

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Oxford Street Flasher

On the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Rd today I stumbled across a photographer using a hand-held flash to grab street portraits. It was a moment of serendipity because I was wandering along, thinking about how “asked” stranger portraits like the Extra Day Project are different to candid street photography. I stopped to chat for a moment.

Flash Street Photography

Using a flash for street photography changes the social interaction with your subject.

He’d been spit at, chased and attacked. But said that most people react very positively. In fact, many play up for the camera.

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David Gibson Street Photography Workshops

This weekend I had the chance to do a street photography workshop with David Gibson. David is a member of the in-Public collective and his work was featured in the Street Photography Now book and many others.

Street Photography Lessons

Small format street photography workshop in London

I was a bit worried that maybe I’d get looked down at for shooting Micro Four Thirds by a bunch of big SLR wielding purists. Instead we had a total mix, from a Leica M9 and X100 through to Micro Four Thirds, SLRs, medium format and even a faithful compact film camera.

Street Photography Course

David let each of us explore, looking for new angles, and new shots.

David was great because he met each of us at our own level. For me as a beginner, he had great tips about finding a voice. For others, who were much more advanced, he still had suggestions on curating projects or finding ways to play to their strengths. Overall, there were three key things I took away:

  1. Working with the background more.
  2. Finding the emotion in a shot.
  3. The importance of patience.

On day one we reviewed works by the traditional masters ranging from Cartier-Bresson to Garry Winnograd and cutting edge modern photographers ranging from Nils Jorgensen to Matt Stuart. David taught us a lot and also prompted some good debates such as:

  1. How legal/ethical is street photography?
  2. Should we bounce between black & white or colour?
  3. Should we photograph sick, injured or homeless people?
  4. What defines street photography?
  5. Is composition more important than emotion?

David showed us some of his own work and used it to explain the importance of using projects to keep your momentum and build a direction.

Streettog

We all got to try out new approaches and learn from each other.

We met for a second day at a great little cafe in Shoreditch. A couple of the crew had brought prints with them so we had a nice start to the day with a flat white and an impromptu crit. I was really impressed by the way David encouraged everyone to have a view and I learnt almost as much looking at other people’s work on Sunday as from the masters on Saturday.

Spitalfields

Each person had their own style of shooting.

The morning shooting session took us to Brick Lane and Columbia Road Flower Market. We took a short break at Spitalfields, and then spent the afternoon shooting in Shoreditch and Petticoat lane. We wandered mostly as a group but people also broke off to chase a shot.

Street Shooting

The small group meant that we all got to ask questions.

A highlight was retiring to the pub to review shots from the day. We also made time to critique each person’s portfolio. It was a refreshingly honest change from the polite feedback that you usually get from friends and family. Instead, we had great debates about the importance of consistency in a body of work, how much a photo needs to stand on its own and how a photo reflects the photographers intentions.

Photography Course London

We all tried out new techniques from the classroom session in the field.

I was cynical about going to a workshop for something so subjective as street photography but it’s amazing to learn from other people’s experiences. I was also a bit shy about being a novice but David put us all at ease and I can really recommend the course.
If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on cameras and lenses then maybe it’s time to invest a little in the most important piece of photographic equipment you have. You.