Street Photography Tips with a Film Camera

Most of us who’re learning to take photos using our digital cameras, do so by going out on the streets and taking photos. That’s mainly because subjects are readily available there and we also get a variety of everything to work with. And it doesn’t matter much if we make any mistakes because unlike film digital storage is not so much a constraint.

But just imagine yourself in a situation where you’re doing street photography using film. Just think of how careful you must be before pressing the shutter button. In case you miss, you’d miss not only the moment but would also exhaust your storage resources quicker. In today’s video, photographer Chris Chu talks about some of the best camera settings that you can use when doing street photography and increase your success rate:

“Film is scary because you can’t review any of the stuff that you photograph.”

The primary reason why street photography feels hard is that you don’t have control over anything that’s going around. However, there are possibilities to make it much easier and more interesting.

Chu starts by sharing his go-to film stocks and how he overexposes them by pulling the film. If you’re wondering why – doing so allows us to preserve the shadows in the images. And interestingly, you don’t have to worry about overexposing the film either. Overexposing a film can be quite beneficial, especially in tricky lighting conditions. Unlike digital sensors, films can handle overexposure quite well. Contrarily, if you underexpose, your shadows will be crushed and you can’t recover anything.

The lens is another important part of the equation when it comes to street photography. As Chu explains, his favorites for street photography are the 28mm and 35mm lenses. The focal lengths are wide enough to capture the context around a subject, and they also have a good enough depth of field. The latter is important for zone focusing which allows you to quickly and easily have subjects in focus; especially when the subjects are moving around unpredictably.

“Sunlight is my best friend in street photography and shade to me is dead. It could be different for you.”

Chu also shares the most common camera settings that he uses when using a film camera for street photography. Looking at the settings, you can easily make out that he’s aiming to get towards the fast shutter speed.  This makes sense as he’s moving constantly and the subjects are usually moving too. But when you’re shooting, if the motion is limited, you don’t need to set a very fast shutter speed. Even something like 1/250s can be good enough to take perfectly frozen stills.

Towards the end of the video, Chu answers a bunch of questions related to street photography which can help you out; especially if you’re just starting with this genre. If you have any more tips on street photography using film, be sure to share them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

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