Let the light paint your story


Blog by Dali Ma Photography, Phoenix Aperture, California Fashion Photographer based in Orange County.

Common Misunderstanding About Street Photography

There has been this hype about artificial light as the foundation of a great street photo. In fact, if you look closely at what most YouTube photographers have to offer, it's all about the army of lighting systems and the professional gear which requires a regular workout to be able to drag along. However I'm here to say differently.


Do artificial lights really matter?

It's true that certain lighting and artificial lights will provide your camera a pumped behaviour - your shutter will be faster, you are able to utilise a bigger range of lenses without your photo showing "ghosts" of models. However, I personal like manipulating what's available to you, and rewrite that moment with my own thoughts. One inspiration of this is DigitalRev's Cheap Camera Challenge, particularly the one with Lara Jadehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDAnNjRJxOQ

The video clearly shows how concepts of photographers weights way more than simply equipments, or artificial lights. Below is an example of a shot I took during summer, with the sun completely behind the building and there's barely any interest lights or shadows to play with


Actually the banner photo was in no better situation. However I used the reflection of the cars to create nice bokeh of light balls, as well as a corridor (a runway, conveniently in this case) for the model, who presented a street gal's feeling ver well.


What if you are on the street, travelling, say, in Paris?

Everybody loves Paris, and let's say if you were walking down the breathtaking Paris streets, and suddenly a well-dressed couple showed up. And there's no artificial light around you, to light up the faces of the two "models". What do you do.


The common myth or misunderstanding about street equipment (if you care about your photos at all), is that zoom lenses will always provide that kind of convenience. Well, it's true .... for lazy people.

Whilst zoom lenses do give you and extensive range, especially those 70-300mm ones. They produce poor quality picture for the same focal length (e.g. 85mm on a prime (non-zoom) lens vs. 85mm on a 70-300mm lens), they tend to produce much poorer images, due to the fact that the manufacture had to take into consideration the size and weight of the lens, and obviously the zoom mechanism. That's why for street, I usually carry my 35mm, 50mm, or 90mm (it's actually a 45mm but on a micro 4/3 system). Well it "sucks", because I do have to walk more. But the quality of the glass, and the aperture range give me a much more artistic image, and night shot capability.

What if I'm a starter, but really want to get into street photography

Great, welcome to the team!

The best starting point would be with a traditional SLR (when I say traditional, I'm trying to rule out those mirrorless ones). A little knowledge on optics will help, although not extremely necessary. Here are the other areas of trials:

  1. Start with an SLR
  2. Start with Aperture priority (not full manual, as most people believe)
  3. Start with a 50mm prime lens

Bring theses trials or guide into reality, you'll be amazed by your potential, and your confidence will accumulate exponentially. And see more photos, see what other photographers are doing. Try using your aesthetics instincts, not rules. And most importantly, have fun!

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