digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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Street Corner Exercise – Photography Challenge

Photography is about light and shadow but it’s also about seeing what’s there and choosing the right, or Decisive Moment to shoot. This challenge is about helping you to hone your powers of observation and patience, two key characteristics of good photographers.

Street corner photography challenge Havana Cuba
Worker on the street corner in Havana, Cuba

New photography challenge – street corner exercise

This challenge may sound simple, but you may be cursing me after the first 10 minutes. Here’s what I want you to do:

  • Find a spot on a street corner where you can sit for up to an hour – a park bench or an outdoor coffee shop or cafe would be perfect.
  • Pick a location where there is lots of activity and daily life going on around you.
  • Part one: Get yourself comfortable, maybe get a coffee or cold beverage, and just sit. Watch and observe everything around you for 30 minutes and DO NOT take any photos. This will be the hard part if you’re used to shooting away! Notice everything, see how the light is, how it bounces and plays off of things and people. See how people interact. Look at shadows and catch little moments. Take the opportunity to talk to people around you, the waiter, fellow cafe patrons, etc., you might want to photograph them later.
  • Part two: After observing for 30 minutes it’s then time for you to start taking photos – at the same location. But be selective. Now you know where the good light is and what kind of moments may happen in front of you. Be ready and know your camera settings. If you’re usually shy about photographing strangers, use the rapport you built with people you met in 30 minutes ago in part one to gather your courage and ask them if you can photograph them.
Street photograph of a man on a motorbike with a cake in Vinales Cuba
Be observant, anything can pass by your little corner! This guy rode by while I was sitting at a cafe in Vinales, Cuba

Tips for this challenge

If you aren’t familiar with every button and dial on your camera – perhap go back and give this challenge a try: Use Your Camera Daily. You won’t be eligible for that prize on that contest but what you’ll win is experience and moving towards your 10,000 hours and being an expert with your camera.

Focus on light and looking for moments. Don’t just shoot any old thing, be selective. Make sure the light works to enhance and feature the subject, and that the moment you capture is the right timing. If a person’s head is turned away from you, wait for them to turn or have just the perfect expression.

You might also want to read this article: 6 Street Photography Tips

Street photograph of a man with an owl in Havana Cuba
A man walked by with an owl while I was sitting at a cafe in Havana, Cuba

Wrap-up and winner of last challenge

Thank you for all of the great entries to last month's Create Good Images at Midday challenge! There were some really great entries. Here are some of my favorite comments:

  • From KV – I am posting two photos I took for the challenge. This is WAY outta my comfort zone, showing anyone, never mind posting it here! What I learned was I had to change perspectives and start thinking about and seeing light, any light, or even the absence of it.

  • From bbestone –  I learned that everything ‘sparkles' and reflects so greatly during high noon and I wanted to try to use that to my advantage. What I learned is to use the time of day, even though it's not the greatest to take photos and to make it a positive!

  • From Lydia – My midday challenge entries: Recently a friend and I took a “photo-walk” through downtown Winter Park, Florida. Capturing beautiful photos was almost too easy. I'm very much a beginner photographer. I think the biggest thing I learned that day was that if I bumped up my ISO a bit higher than what I might have planned, I seem to get deeper richness and intensity to my images.

  • From Joy – I have been enjoying flora pics and macro flowers, but a hike in mid day can be a challenge. I have found that many times I can be the shade needed to get the colors to stand out and not be blown out. My body created the shade needed for the white flower details in bright sun and the cactus and lichen to stand out creating a patchwork of very different textures.

And the winner is …

Selected randomly from everyone who completed the challenge, as well as shared your images and what you learned – the winner is:

  • Annie G – Love this challenge. I live in Southern California, very much a desert area which is very hot and sunny right now, but I'm learning to seek out places where there are a lot of trees so I can shoot in this light. I'm enjoying the exploration along with the photography!

Congratulations Annie, I'll be in touch on how you can claim your prize – $50 Gift card from Amazon.

This Month’s Challenge, Contest and Prize:

Street photograph of 3 girls in the rain in Vinales Cuba
Even if it’s a rainy day, don’t let that stop you from getting great photos – Vinales, Cuba
Street photograph of an umbrella in the rain in Vinales Cuba
Same rainy day in Vinales, Cuba

Details for this month’s challenge

To participate in this month’s challenge you need to follow the steps outlined above for at least one hour – shooting only after 30 minutes. Then come back here and share your experience and images. You can do this as many times as you like this month and share as often as you want as well. I look forward to hearing your stories and seeing your images.

Street photograph of a bartender mixing drinks in Havana Cuba
Bartender mixing drinks in Havana, Cuba
Street photograph chocolate shop Havana, Cuba
Remember to look for details, get closer – chocolate shop Havana, Cuba

This one is pretty simple, you could do it in an afternoon. Here are the rules to be eligible for the prize:

  1. Complete 30 minutes without taking photos.
  2. Complete 30 minutes taking photos at the same location.
  3. Post a comment below and tell us about what you learned by doing this challenge. Did you see things you may have missed before? What did you notice? Please note: If you just share your images you will not be entered to win the prize. Please make sure to tell us about your experience as well.
  4. Share at least one of your images, taken in the second 30 minutes. Upload it right into the comments section below, along with your answer from #3 above.

Deadline for entry to be eligible to win the prize is: September 20th, 10pm MST (-6 UTC)

Some more examples:

Street photography and the decisive moment
By being observant and watching people’s feet I noticed that this man and his dog were synchronized in their stride, and captured it at the right moment.
Street photography and seeing the light
Look for interesting shadows, patterns and colors like these table and chairs produce.
Street photograph of a group of school kids in Havana, Cuba
I watched these kids and their teacher as I was eating lunch. He posed them to take a group photo so I jumped at the chance to take it for him so he could be in it (back row) and to get a shot for myself afterward.

The Prize:

This month’s winner (selected randomly) will receive a set of our new Lightroom Presets (value $29).

Now get out there and go find your street corner!


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