I started taking street pictures about 4 months ago, and initially I was genuinely fearful for my life. Each time I pointed the camera at someone, I half-expected them to confront me and/or punch me in the face (not necessarily in this order). Surprisingly, the only time I had a confrontation of any sort was when a gentleman caught me taking a picture of him sweeping the back alley of a salon, and though I was shooting with a film camera, I told him that I will delete the picture. Obviously I couldn’t, so all I did was to never scan in that picture. I consider that a reasonable compromise.
The range of reactions I get from people include amusement, disgust (rare) and more often than not, the subjects were completely oblivious to my phototaking. Now, I believe that to take good street pictures one must not shy away from the subjects, so I never shoot with anything longer than a 80mm lens (mainly because my 35mm prime becomes a 70mm on my Olympus E-P2). I much prefer to shoot with a 35mm or 50mm lens, engaging the subjects, albeit minimally. My favorite cameras are my Leica M2 — very stealthy, almost silent, and I have caught many good pictures on this camera (at least I think so), only for the previously undetected shutter problem to completely destroy the images — and my E-P2 with M-mount lenses. They say that your best images are always the ones you missed. How true!
Most of my images are what I would consider “grab-shots”, literally plucked off the scene in a moment of frantic shutter-pressing. I seldom have the time to compose, often just barely having enough time to focus (and often not even that). This used to be sufficient for me, because I get a good number of keepers, and I also considered developing this confidence an essential part of developing as a street photographer. The pictures were almost always about the subjects and how interesting they looked, and never about the interplay between them and the image frame. These pictures can get old pretty fast (there are only so many ways to photograph people walking down the street without being repetitive!).
So, recently I read an article by Adam Marelli, which discussed the various geometric relationships between the frame and the subject, and how they can be used to strengthen an image. I also read somewhere that HCB’s pictures were always immaculately composed at the point of exposure, obviating any post-exposure cropping. The author proceeded to link HCB’s classical training as a painter to his composition, which I find a reasonable assumption (HCB himself considered photography a rough, but fast instrument to depict the human condition, as opposed to painting, which he has been quoted as calling his main occupation).
And so, I am now embarking on a journey to be more deliberate about my composition, though without any sort of training, I find myself struggling more than a little. If anyone has any good recommendation in terms of books or websites, I will be very grateful if you could share that with me in the comments section!