Street Photography with a Canon M50: an Artist’s Novice Attempt
Recently, I have become intrigued with street photography. I forgot what exactly that I was looking for when I stumbled up some videos about it on YouTube, but it was most likely something about advice and suggestions about my new mirrorless camera, the Canon M50.
I will attempt to give you a quick description of what street photography is. Well, the shortest description would probably be: photography taken on the streets. However, I will describe it a little bit more. A lot of street photography is candid shots of life in public areas. Although the photos usually include people, it doesn't have to. Also, a lot of the photos are converted to black and white, but I have also seen some really nice color photographs.
Now you might be asking: Are you allowed to take pictures of people without asking for permission? Answer: Yes. It is absolutely legal for someone to photograph (or record video) any person or thing while in a public space. Most sidewalks and streets are public areas, so you can take pictures of anything from that spot, even if the subject is not in a public space. For example, if a person is sitting inside a Starbucks, you cannot go inside and start taking pictures of people without their permission, but you are legally allowed to stand on the public sidewalk and take a picture of them through the window.
Is it an invasion of privacy? Yes and no. This is more of a moral issue. While a person is in a public space or can be seen from a public space, there is no privacy. I have heard of some photographers that will get right up close to someone and take a picture of them and walk away without even asking permission or even saying a single word. Other photographers will have more moral standards and will either snap pictures without the people knowing it, or will at least make some kind of gesture to the person/people before snapping a picture.
After watching many street photography videos on YouTube over the last few weeks, I planned on going out yesterday morning to try my hand at it. I got out of work at 7am, and wanted to hit up Tampa for a few hours. However, it was cold (for this part of Florida) and overcast, so I scrapped that idea and went home. A couple hours later, even though the same conditions were still lingering, I chose to drive just a few minutes away to the downtown area of the city I live in. St. Petersburg does not have a bustling scene, especially during work hours.
Most of the street photographers that I have been admiring have some really nice, expensive cameras. I do not. That is not stopping me from doing street photography though. I may not be able to get as good of pictures as the others, but I can still get some really good ones. The images in the post are probably my three best shots. They are not great, but I am just starting and I will get better at it. For the most part, the outcome of the shots have to do with the settings of the camera and the composition of the shot. There are things like aperture, f-stops, and ISO to think about when taking a picture, and the amount of light at the given time will affect all of these settings. In street photography, there isn't usually a whole lot of time to make adjustments to the settings before snapping a picture. Often there is only a fraction of a second to get an interesting shot.
The first image in this post was my favorite shot from yesterday. As soon as I took the picture, I knew that as long as the settings weren't too bad, it would probably be the best shot of the day. It tells a great story. A woman was setting up the outside area of a downtown eating spot and took a quick moment to give a bottle of water to some guy, whom I presume is probably homeless. I wasn't expecting that and only had a split second to bring the camera up and press the shutter button. I would have preferred better framing and settings, but I cropped the shot to an uncommon aspect ratio and adjusted some of the light setting later. As I mentioned earlier, it was an overcast day, so I did not have the ideal lighting situation to work with.
There is not much to say about the second image. I will let you interpret your own story. This shot was captured just 2 minutes after the previous picture that I wrote about. I had a little more time to compose this image, but I still had the lighting issues to work through. I would have liked the person a little closer to the rule of thirds, but on one side of the image was the corner of the building that I didn't want in the shot. On the other side of the picture, there was a sign post that probably would have been a distraction if left in the photo.
The third image was a candid shot that I was happy to get. Earlier, I was standing on the corner that can be seen in the background and he stopped at the light right in front of me. I tried to sneak a shot of him as he rode in front of me, while I was holding the camera down by my chest and hoping that I took the picture at the right time. However, he was out of focus in the shot. As I got a little farther down the street, I told myself that I should have had the courage to ask him for some shots while he was stopped there in front of me. Fast forward about an hour and I spotted this same guy and decided that I would now ask him for permission to take some pictures. Unfortunately, just as I was walking up to him, he started talking on his phone, and I didn't want to interrupt him. Therefore, I stood about 8-10 feet away and put the camera down by my hip and angled the screen so that I could get the composition somewhat decent. I had taken several shots before this one, but I think it was at this moment when he noticed that I was taking pictures of him and asked me if he could pose for me. So I was then able to get some shots of him for a "street portraiture" series that I wanted to start for one of my Instagram accounts (@facesoftampabay). I will write about that in a later blog post.
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A few words about the camera that I used for these photos. I used the Canon EOS M50 - an entry-level mirrorless camera that features an electronic viewfinder, fully articulating touchscreen, single control dial and a 24MP APS-C sensor. I am still learning how to use all the features, but I am really happy with the weight of this camera compared to DSLR cameras. It makes a big difference when carrying this around all day, whether strapped around your neck or in your backpack. There are pros and cons when comparing mirrorless cameras to DSLR cameras, but you'd have to do some research to find out which would be better suited to your needs.
Since this is an entry-level camera, I am able to play around with it quite a bit and learn how to use it before plopping down a large chunk of cash on the better cameras. If you didn't know already, cameras can get very expensive. And most of the time, the lenses are way more expensive than just the body of the camera. At this time, the Canon M50 is right around $600.
If you prefer to go with DSLR over mirrorless, two other entry-level cameras that I would recommend that you try out are the Canon EOS Rebel T7i (about $650 with an 18-55mm lens) or the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (about $600 with an 18-55mm lens). As you can tell, I am partial to Canon, but that is only because I have not owned any of the other brands, except for the point-and-shoot cameras.
One of the biggest complaints about mirrorless cameras is the battery life. It doesn't take long for the batteries to get drained. Therefore, if you decide to buy a mirrorless camera, I would suggest buying extra batteries at the same time. After doing some research, I found that Wasabi makes some good replacement batteries. So for my M50, I went with a deal on Amazon that gave me two batteries and the charger for about $20 - Wasabi Power Battery (2-Pack) and Charger.
This blog post was longer than most of my previous posts, maybe even the longest one yet, but I hope you enjoyed it and learned a little bit about street photography. Have a great and artful day!