Wait and They Will Come

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One of the techniques I use for street photography is to simple find a suitable spot, sit down and wait. On all my street photography outings over the past couple of months I’ve used this method at some point during the day, and almost always come away with a few interesting shots in the bag, or rather, on the card.

There are a number of good reasons for using this method.

The first one is that by sitting down you reduce your physical presence to the subject you are trying to shoot. When walking about with a camera people are more likley to see you – the human eye expects people to be people shaped. But when sitting down, perhaps with your back against a wall, step or whatever, that expected human shape has changed and I’ve seen from experience that fewer people actually notice you sitting there. Just try it yourself and watch where people are looking.

Another reason to use this method is that is gives you a whole new viewpoint of your subject. When walking upright your viewing angle is around eye level – if you are not shooting from the hip. When sitting down your angle of view is almost at a dog’s eye level. Great for some unusual shots.

So, where should you look when searching for a spot to sit down and wait?

My own preference is for locations where people tend to congregate, for example, as in the image above, near to where a busking piper is playing his bag pipes. In the image above, I was sitting on the bottom step of a stone monument on the south side of the High Street, Edinburgh, opposite the High Court building. People, mostly tourists, tend to stop around the piper to take photographs making it easy to take quiet unobtrusive shots without them being aware of your presence.

Other good locations to sit and wait, are places where people are forced closer together, what I refer to as “choke points”. This could simply be a narrowing of the pavement, perhaps where street furniture, traders stalls, or whatever, reduces the width. Similar places include steps or stairways, alleyways, bus shelters and so on. A good way of spotting “choke ponts” is to look and see where street beggars are setting up to beg money from the public. They will usually pick locations where people are forced close to them.

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