Choose an outdoor situation where there will be lots of people and activity, and in which you will feel confident using a camera. Take as many photographs as you comfortably can in one session. When you review the photographs afterwards, recall the comfort level you felt at the time, and consider to what extent this helped you in capturing expression and gesture.
For this exercise I chose a Christmas market where I was fairly sure i’d have a good chance of capturing people unaware without being intrusive. I wanted to fade into the background as much as possible – partly because of my lack of confidence, and partly because this section is centred around photographing people unaware. As soon as people see a camera there is a tendency to act less naturally.
The brief itself is fairly straightforward but I wanted to try to capture peoples expressions as this is something my tutor raised in the feedback for my first assignment.
When I got to my chosen location it was actually much smaller than I’d anticipated and only had food stalls (this meant more photos of people eating than actually perusing through nick-nacks, jewellery or christmas gifts.) However I thought It’d be best to make the best of the situation.
I felt quite limited in what I could achieve discreetly for this exercise. The space holding the food stalls was small and somewhat cramped, and planned out in such a way that people walked round in a circle, mainly going in the same direction. In the centre of the stall was a fountain that had been drained – meaning all foot traffic (including me) had to loop round the area.
As it was mainly food orientated I got several shots of people eating and drinking, and less of people engaging in some kind of other activity.
I used a fairly big lens for the majority of this exercise as I wanted to photograph people relatively close up but without being intrusive.
There was one stall owner who saw me taking his photo and didn’t seem to please about it – so I stopped immediately.
Confidence wise I was fairly comfortable in this situation but did feel somewhat limited in what I could produce, creatively speaking. It did become very apparent that after roughly 5-10 minutes people were aware of me and my camera (possibly because we had to loop round the venue) but this did not affect my confidence.
This exercise highlighted the limitations of smaller venues, the pro’s and cons of using a big lens (pro – You can distance yourself from your subject capturing them in a natural environment, con – foot traffic can get in the way of the shot easily and is almost impossible to prevent/predict while looking through the viewfinder of your camera) and of course, the importance of timing. Photographing facial expressions successfully (hopefully eyes open) takes patience and timing.