ZW-SP S01 E02 (Street Portraiture)

October 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

*** Sorry for the sound quality*** The GoPro camera was in a protected case, therefore the sound is muffled.

Episode 2… Part of a series of small quick clips to give you ideas and to show how I go about the different aspects of Street photography. This clip shows how I capture portraits of the public, asking for permission and directing them. The video was shot on a very wide angled lens compared to my Photo camera lens, so there will be a difference in field of view.


Improving confidence in Street Portaiture

June 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

Glasgow Mela in on this weekend (Sat&Sun) 12-8pm at Kelvingrove Park. Apart from watching this cool culture event. As a photographer who may be scared of capturing portraits of strangers; as in approaching the subject and asking for permission. This could be an introduction to practice your craft. At any festivals / gatherings. People are more socially open, so you should improve your confidence, communication and technique at these kind of events before taking stranger portraits on the streets. Just a tip!

Here are some photos I had taken last year.

By Zeno Watson

By Zeno Watson


By Zeno Watson


By Zeno Watson


By Zeno Watson


By Zeno Watson

Approach the people whom you find interesting. Introduce yourself, tell them what you find amazing about them. Talk to them about their image, interest, hobby / profession. Ask to take their portrait. If they so “no”, that is the worst that can happen. If they say “yes” you capture them, and thank them. Smile! Be relaxed and be yourself, if you are nervous they may sense it. If you love, love photography! Then you should be relaxed and happy.

Another good tip especially if you are like me, and always shoot manual; is to have your camera setting ready to shoot. So you are not fumbling about with the buttons/dials when photographing a person, taking up a lot of their time.

After you have captured their Portrait. It is entirely up to you, if you want to show them the photo on the LCD screen (if digital), ask for their email to post them the photo you taken, and if photography is your business, then perhaps give them a business card.

Once you become comfortable in your technical skills, then you should try and be creative. Direct your subject to look in to the lens or look away from the camera. Choice of shot full body, 3/4 or headshot. Ask them to pose a certain way. The list goes on and on.

Remember there are people who say you can’t and people who say you can, both are right! No excuses, get out there and capture the photos.

The lazy photographer…

November 16, 2012 § 6 Comments

If you are serious about your photography, but are a sensitive person then do not read! If you want to think hard about yourself and push your abilities, then please read.

We live in a world today, where almost anyone with a camera calls themselves a photographer, and expect to be an excellent photographer in weeks, months or within a year or two. Some people even think if they buy the best flagship camera, then it is a given right to call themselves a professional or a fantastic photographer. If you are offended by what I have just said, pause, think and ask yourself why.

As a serious photographer you are bound to the trust of the person or subject being photographed. As a serious photographer, the quality of the photos should be down to your skill and not left to chance… What do I mean by that? You should not let the camera decide on the photo.

The most important element in photography is Light!

  • Have you studied light?
  • Do you know what the different types of light are?
  • Do you know what is the perfect type of light for a given situation?
  • What the correct white balance should be?
  • What is the difference between hard and soft light?
  • When is the wrong time to use a flash, and when is the right time?
  • Can you work without the inbuilt or an external light meter, can you look at light and know the setting using your brain?
  • Even more important… If you are constricted by the lack of light, what do you do?
  • If you find that you cannot answer all those questions above, then read up and teach yourself. It will improve you as a photographer.

You may look at the list above and say you do not think too deep about light, and that you just take a photo of what you see. However is that just an excuse to immerse yourself and deepen your thoughts and knowledge about light? Is there a laziness?

Not relying on those  automatic settings!

The next point I would like to make is not to use the “automatic” camera settings, which is the Green Box symbol or the little picture clues on most cameras. Ideally you want to be in control of the camera and not the chip and it’s software. Even if you use the “Av”, “Tv” or “P” on Canon cameras and “A”, “S” and “P” on Nikon camera, which stand for “Aperture priority”, “Shutter priority” and Programmable. As a serious photographer the last thing you want to be is frustrated, when a photo does not turn out the way you want it to be.

  • Did you photo turn out over or under exposed?
  • Was it too blurry or too noisy?
  • Did you camera give you the correct light reading and still the photo turn out too dark or too light?

These are common mistakes that can frustrate a photographer. However by learning exactly what your ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture is, how they relate to each other  in the exposure triangle, and how they individually affect your photograph. I am not tell you, go and learn from workshops, books, online etc. It will massively benefit you as a photographer.

So are you ready to use the manual setting “M”?

The three best ways of mastering the manual mode in your camera is by:

  1.  Educating yourself.
  2.  Learning from failure.
  3.  Practice, practice, practice!

There will be times when you need full control over the lens too, and relying on autofocus “AF”, especially in low light conditions and also shooting from the hip, you can be guaranteed that the camera will not focus exactly on what you wanted. Again time to go manual focus “MF”

Know thy Camera!

All cameras are different, all cameras have strong and weak points. Know your camera’s personality, know your camera functions inside out. KNOW HOW TO OPERATE YOUR CAMERA IN THE COMPLETE DARKNESS! And what I mean is, know by feeling where the buttons, dials, levers are, as well as their function.

Know thy Lens

The same applies to your lens

The points I have made are to get you thinking, to push you out your comfort zone,  point out any weaknesses you may have, to use manual settings – especially if you really are serious about becoming a master of the craft and not being just a lazy photographer.

Practice what I preach!

July 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

It has to be done!!!

I often say to friends on Flickr, it is very healthy to tidy up your gallery and get rid of photos, that just do not make the mark. I also do this in a Street photography I run Global Street Photography (GSP), where posted photos from my groups members have their photos removed, if they just don’t have enough substance, creativeness, emotion, magic, cleverness, or story to tell.

The main reason, and I practice what I preach is to keep your body of work strong. It is about being honest to yourself and listen to positive criticism too!

So I have reduced my Flickr Gallery from 743 down to 150, and I may reduce this further.

So here is my tip, remove the dead weight photos that clutter your on-line gallery, and it will strengthen your body of work.

The biggest obstacles are in our mind.

March 25, 2012 § 6 Comments

Logically lay to rest your fear and become confident.

In Street Photography  I often hear verbally, in emails and on-line comments, “How do you have the confidence to shoot so close to people on the street?” and “Have you not been punched in the face / Are you not scared of being punched?”

Having confidence comes with plenty of practice, as well as a state of mind. If you go with the mentality that, what you are doing is wrong or that harm will come to you. You will either not shoot Street Photography, or come across nervous and project negative vibes, that people will sense from you.

To break the mental barriers, think about this. You camera is nothing new, they have been around in the last three centuries. So having a camera at hand should feel natural, especially in this tech driven world, the camera is more prominent and used more than ever.

The next hang up… Taking photos on the street. Well Street Photography is nothing new. There are plenty of books of fine Street Photography over many decades. So what you are doing is not cutting edge or odd. It should feel natural.

What other hang ups are there? Taking photos of people without their permission… In most countries (do your research) you are within your rights, to take photos of the public in public places, within reason. You are not doing anything wrong, so relax and capture that photo.

Any hang ups left? “What if the person I am capturing acts negatively towards me?” Remember be natural, smile and say thank you, or compliment them, 90% of the time that will help you. Should they persist, then you can either delete the photo (if digital) if they ask/tell you. Alternatively you could stay strong and believe in yourself and your work and walk on. Remember it is your photo, not theirs.

People will rarely challenge you, although the chances of being challenge will increase if you get in their face or be insensitive in a situation. Use your common sense.

So if you are new to Street Photography, do not put up mental barriers with pre-conceived negative thoughts. Go out and have fun capturing photos like the many thousands of photographers have done.


July 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

Composition is how a photograph is composed, how pleasing a photo is to the eye.

When you first start out in photography your first natural reaction is to place the subject in the center of the photo. Try and avoid this as it makes your photo flat and uninteresting. Unless doing close-up high contrast flash photography, in which it can give a photo a dynamic edge.

1. Rule of Thirds
The rule of third is quite simple. When looking through the view finder, split your rectangular view into thirds or nine rectangles as seen in the image below.

Ideally you should place your horizon on one of the horizontal lines and not in the middle of your photo. You would then place the subject on the line of the vertical lines. Lastly you would place your main focal point (Such as the body, head or eyes), on one of the cross sections. (indicated in diagram above with red circles).

The photo below is an example of me using the rule of thirds.
Scatter by Zeno Watson

2. Use of Lines
When you look through the view finder or screen, look out for lines or geometrical shapes that draw the eye into the main focus point, see my photo below. Lines are good for drawing attention to detail.

Strength and Beauty By Zeno Watson

3. No Merges or Distractions
When composing you photo, look out for distractions that would conflict with the main subject. Such distractions could be litter, a lamp-post sticking from behind someone’s head, a cluttered background or even sometimes other people.

4. Use of light
Try and make sure you have the correct light for the subject you choose to shoot. After all you do not want your subject to look flat and lifeless. Or perhaps unwanted shadows that spoil the main features. With good use of light you can create great sense of mood and emotion for a picture.

5. Framing
If you can try and frame the picture through your view finder with a natural frame, such as a drooping tree branch, an archway, man-made geometrics shapes. It does add quality to the subject.

6. Be Creative
Use your imagination, try out ideas that pop into your head or techniques that you have learned. Such as reflections, night-photography, different weather or different ISO speeds and colour. After all a picture is what you make it to be.

7. Depth
To give you photo more meaningful depth, have something in the foreground, middle and background that all relate to each other. This will make your photo more interesting.

Composition shows that you as a photographer have really thought about the photo before capturing it. However there are times when these rules could and should be broken. And only you as a photographer through experience know when it feels right to do so.

How to gain confidence in Street Photography

June 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

How do you gain confidence in capturing people up close?

I know a lot of people have hang-ups and feel nervous capturing the public up close, in fear of getting caught or get into trouble. And if you did try out street photography you would prefer to use a good zoom lens and shoot from safety. The problem with that method apart from maybe looking creepy, your photos can become detached and have a feeling of voyeurism.

I love to shoot from various distances depending on the scene, but I really enjoy shooting super close within touching distance using a 17mm focal length. Apart from giving you a more dynamic photo, it allows the viewer to feel part of the scene whether they like it or not, and connect with the photograph. I love the detail and senses that can be captured, when shooting super close.

So how do you capture complete strangers, super close with confidence? Well you could do it the hard way like I did taking photos inside abandoned asylum’s in the dark by yourself or do Parkour. After doing those I had the confidence to do almost anything.  Ok my more helpful advice is to attend events like festivals where there are a lot of people. The reason being you will have a great mix of people, who if they seen you taking photos probably would not mind or even not notice, as they are pre-occupied with the main event.

Look out for interesting characters and situations, as more often the people watching are more interesting to capture than the event itself. It is a great practice ground for you to train your skills and build your confidence.

So give it a try!


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