Street Photography: WeStreet 2015, A Review

Photo by Le Tanguerrant
Click to enlarge

The WeStreet public book project started on August 4th and what an intense ride it was.

Some 15 to 20.000 photographs have been submitted where about 70 to 75% has been rejected in the pre-curating process. The choice to pre-curate has been widely accepted by all participants with a 98% approval rate in the poll we did on this subject. The choice to pre-curate was a bit of a concern to since I am by no means an authority on street photography. Also, if can shoot the streets doesn't necessarily mean that one can judge a photograph as well. That the participants accepted this so overwhelmingly was a pleasant surprise for all of us.

The duration of the submission period with two months was experienced by me as a long time and next year this period will probably be shortened towards five to six weeks. The intense and time consuming process to curate hundreds of photographs each day was a journey I've learned a lot from though.

The pre-selecting into the pre-selection group was also an intense experience. That process is very subjective and all moderators handle this differently, but we learned from each other. The pre-selection process was a success since this was the first time we did this. For next year I have some ideas for improvement though. I'd like to invite some professionals by that time to pre-curate our selections before they enter the pre-selection group. I'm thinking of people who have earned their merrits in processing, composing and other photography techniques. The process could look a bit like this by which it becomes a bit less subjective.

  • Preselecting by moderators into a secret group only visible to WS staff;
  • A small selected team of professionals judge our pre-selections on processing, composition, etc. and delete those who they do not see as strong enough;
  • The remaining photographs will be shared into the public pre-selection group;
  • The final selection will be created by all staff members.

During the final selection process the five of us all selected 40 photographs to be published in the book where we all had one option to delete one selected shot from the others. A total of 225 shots (including three from each admin) were selected from 154 photographers and taken in 39 different countries. We are proud and thankfull to all that have participated and made this very diverse book possible.

Me chasing a lot of photographers to send us their 300dpi file which we needed to have a high quality print was very stressfull to me. Messaging, posting requests, collecting, keeping a database, changing file names, etc, etc. Not a cool job, but had to be done. I hope for a faster response from the selected photographers next year :)

Then the choice for Blurb as a tool to handle creating the book was the best option we had on such short notice. Blurb however is not cheap and the pricing can scare off potental buyers. I'm very happy with the quality they deliver, but I will be on the look out for a cheaper, but not of a lesser quality alternative for next year. I'd like to emphasize once more that we don't make any money of this project and we have to buy the book through Blurb at the same price as everyone else.

Composing the book, typing the index of photographers and adding all necessary information was a hell of a job, but very much worth it. The result looks stunning to me... All because of your amazing submitted photography!

Last but not least, we created a dedicated  WeStreet website  where all the amazing work can be viewed, the book can be ordered and a possible future blog can be followed. Check that site out!

All said, I think this project has been a huge success. This was the first time and many things could've gone wrong. The response from all participants was amazingly positive and very encouraging to me to repeat this next year.

I would like to thank my fellow admins Steven Gonzalez, Arek Rataj, Marius Vieth and my wife Sandra for their support and amazing jobs they did. Above all thank you all participants for your fabulous entries, creating a positive vibe in the group and excellent feed back throughout the whole project!

Cheers!

Willem

 

 

 

Street Photography: Cropping or Aspect Change

Hi all,

Often I get questions about why I crop to get a square image. I thought this months blog would be a good one to clarify more on that.

Actually it's not cropping what I do, but changing the aspect ratio. Since I mostly shoot with an 8mm wide angle I get a lot of so called 'negative space' in my images. Negative space is the space that surrounds the main subject in a photograph. Negative space can be used in a positive way like in the image below.

Changed the aspect ratio to 16:9. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. The big space surrounding my subject is called negative space. Click to enlarge

But especially when I take candid street portraits with the use of a fisheye I like to fill the frame with the subject only. Otherwise there will be too much distraction in the frame. Below you see two examples of changing the aspect ratio towards 1:1.

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 without cropping. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 without cropping. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

You can clearly see in the examples above that If I wouldn't change the aspect ratio, the images would be much less interesting to watch because of the distracting or uninteresting surroundings.

So basically, if you have a nice serene surrounding, you can use that negative space very well within your composition and you probably should from a photographic point of view. But if the surroundings are very busy and therefor distracting from the main subject, it is my believe that one better changes the aspect ratio to get more focus towards the subject. If changing the aspect ratio doesn't work within the composition, the shot is probably a failure.

Some cropping can help, but heavily cropping a shot which has been taken with a fisheye makes no sense since it will kill it's purpose. Minimal cropping (like 5% or so) to get rid of an annoying pole on the side or whatever can make a big difference of course and I do that if necessary. Cropping images taken with a 'normal' lense is a different thing. That doesn't matter at all of course, but watch out with too much cropping if you want to print that shot in a large format. That won't work anymore.

Below an example where I changed the aspect ratio and cropped as well. I cropped because I feel there was way to much space above his head.

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 and cropping afterwards. I didn't crop to much in order to be able to print it if I want to in the future. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

Hope to have provide some clarification on this matter.

If you have any questions, suggestions or remarks please feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the comment section below or through Facebook.

Have a good one all ;)

Willem

Street Photography: Insecurity

One of my first shots that day. They were stopping along the way and kept looking and talking about me which made me even more insecure. Never have that feeling, but that day was different...

Click to enlarge

In a previous blog I wrote about overcoming your fear. This article isn't about fear, but rather about insecurity. Especially how I got over this that particular day.

On Friday the 10th of July my wife Sandra and I went downtown to shoot the streets. The moment we arrived I had this unsettled feeling that the atmosphere was very different from what it usually is and not in a good way. I didn't mention it to Sandra although she later told me she had the exact same feeling. 

We decided to have lunch and a drink first and walk the streets after that. After we finished we both went our way. The feeling was still there and made me insecure which I normally don't experience at all when going out shooting the streets. I decided to hang out in front of a building where the sun was reflecting in the windows and try to shoot with that scene as a decor. Immediately after my first shot that feeling of insecurity was confirmed, seeing my subjects stopping after they passed me, talking to each other while watching me in the back. It made me very uncomfortable and even more insecure. Besides that, I still hadn't succeed in taking the shot I was looking for. After a few more of those failures, I finally got it... These subjects also stopped at the opposite of the street and kept watching me while talking to each other. I just kept shooting the building without subjects pretending I didn't see them and was just making pictures of the building. This 'sneakyness' is not really my style and it kept giving me that uncomfortable feeling.

Going on like this for the rest of the afternoon wasn't an option for me, so what to do next? Many past life experiences have tought me that the best way to deal with a problem is to confront yourself with it as head on as possible. This made me decide to seek the confrontation with my subjects if I would notice that they would behave as I've described earlier. So when I went on and took a shot (see below) I noticed that the subjects were unsettled, but walked on. From the corner of my eyes I saw them stopping a few times and watching me. They were already at least 30 meters away, but I decided to start walking towards them (as they moved on, I even ran a bit) and catched up with them. They immediately started asking questions, but in a decent way. Of course they were decent, why wouldn't they be? After all it was me taking the initiative to engage with them. After explaining myself, offering them my card and to email them the photograph, they smiled and everything was fine. We all went our way and I noticed my feeling of insecurity started to come down a bit. After my second and third engagement my feeling of insecurity disapated completely. 

Not a good shot, but these are the people I described above... Click to enlarge.

She actually appologised to me for being in my way. When she moved on, I walked towards here and explained what I was doing, gave her my card and we said goodbye. Her boyfriend contacted me to get the picture. They were very happy with it.

Click to enlarge

Mother and daughter. The same approach here... I walked towards them after they moved on and explained what I was doing before. They also contacted me later to get the picture and were very friendly about it.

Click to enlarge

When Sandra and I met later that day and told her about my experiences, she told me she had that same feeling all day and had two verbally aggressive encounters that day which never happens to her in that way. By that confirming the unusual uncomfortable vibe in downtown Rotterdam that day.

So feeling insecure? Approach your subjects and have a conversation. It helps... They do not expect you to take their photograph, but also not that you would approach a complete stranger to have a conversation about what you are doing. Remain calm, polite and friendly... Nobody will be agressive then...

Feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the below comment section or Facebook.

Good luck and all the best!

Willem