Street Photography Techniques with a Smartphone

Street photographer and professor Richard Koci Hernandez is an admirer of the past, present, and future. He wants his digital images to have an analog feel, and he uses different smartphone apps and techniques to create old, worn out, left in the gutter looking photos. The results are authentic and traditionally classic images that are absolutely beautiful. In this episode of Adorama’s Through the Lens, Hernandez explains the creative process behind his street photography and offers up a few tips:

Hernandez loves everything about photography, from the old days in the darkroom to new digital technologies and the convenience they bring to the table, like being able to shoot on an iPhone and share it with the world within seconds.

As an award-winning photojournalist, he describes his style as traditional street photography. His images look like old photographs that have been found in a street gutter, run over by cars, walked on by hundreds of people, ripped and worn, with a story to tell.

worn out street photos

“I have an absurd fascination with men and women in hats. Baseball caps don’t count; newsie hats don’t matter; it’s really like the fedora.”

“If I see somebody on the street that I would love to have coffee with, they are potentially a subject for me. And, the person I would love to most have coffee with is probably somebody wearing a fedora.”

fedora street photography

Street Photography Tips to Stay Under the Radar

When Hernandez is following a subject on the street, there’s a simple trick he likes to use: stopping and waiting at bus stops.

On the street, people have a personal space that you don’t invade. At a bus stop, everything changes. He always wears headphones, this way he becomes almost invisible. As the photojournalist says, when you have headphones in, people think you’re on a call, people just don’t pay much attention to you, so it’s okay to be there with your phone.

Another little trick he uses is to shoot from the heart, literally. He holds the camera to his chest and snaps away, without anyone even noticing.

“It’s really just trying to capture the natural moment of the time and not have people be so aware of the camera.”

window reflection street photography

Hernandez always has a bag of tools at the ready. He starts with his smartphone and if the battery runs out, he’ll pull out his point and shoot; if that battery runs out or he fills up the card, he goes to his analog film camera.

At the moment, he’s on a smartphone kick and says it’s the most powerful and freeing tool he’s used in a long time.

“It’s the camera, it’s also the darkroom, it’s also the delivery truck.”

Hernandez uses many apps to get the desired look of old, worn photos. He has also started printing the images out and rephotographing them on his iPhone. He finds this process gives the images a more analog look and authentic feel.

black and white modern street photography

Hernandez’s Advice to His Younger Self

  1. Don’t listen to anybody else.
  2. Don’t be afraid.
  3. Shoot and practice a lot more.

“Nothing makes you better than practice and not being afraid of people, not being afraid of what other people think of you or your work; just get out there and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. Period.”

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