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Thread: Has digital changed street photography?

  1. #1

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    Has digital changed street photography?

    When I was young (searches memory, draws on long closed archived material) I didn't like my picture being taken (except on rare occasions). In film days every frame cost, and so fewer images were taken.
    Now with digital just about everyone has the opportunity to take an image at anytime.
    So (now the scene is set), do you feel that people are MORE willing to pose for a stranger asking to take their image? Is the extra exposure (no pun, but I'l accept the praise/groans) to photography desensitizing people (therefore less self-conscious or concerned)?

    Graham
    (I would still far rather be behind the lens than in front - age related I guess)

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamH View Post
    When I was young (searches memory, draws on long closed archived material) I didn't like my picture being taken (except on rare occasions). In film days every frame cost, and so fewer images were taken.
    Now with digital just about everyone has the opportunity to take an image at anytime.
    So (now the scene is set), do you feel that people are MORE willing to pose for a stranger asking to take their image? Is the extra exposure (no pun, but I'l accept the praise/groans) to photography desensitizing people (therefore less self-conscious or concerned)?

    Graham
    (I would still far rather be behind the lens than in front - age related I guess)
    I don't think the technology changed the frequency of shots taken. When I still used film and on vacation I would take at least twenty rolls of film with me. I think the big concern was getting the film developed and would sometimes hold off getting some rolls developed. I did most of my traveling with a group of forty or more people then and we would sometimes boast about the number of rolls we shot during the trip. And I don't think we were as critical of our work back then, getting an under or overexposed image was only frowned upon based on the amount it cost us for an unusable image. I used one of the pharmacy based developers back then and would often wonder why he or she didn't exclude that image from the packet and give me a discount. Now If I use a digital print shop, I get angry if they dare to edit my work.

  3. #3
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Digital technology has certainly changed my shooting habits. I shoot a LOT MORE now than I ever shot with film, even when I was shooting in the Navy and my film was supplied.

    Folks seem to equate shooting large quantities of images as indiscriminent "spraying" I don't think that is the case with me. I just shoot from more angles and am able to shoot more versions of an image than I did with film. Not only was cost a factor in most film photography but, the largest roll of film most photographers used was 36 exposures and we often shot with ten or twelve exposure medium format film (or even cut film which was even slower and heavier). Having to reload (which was a lot more complicated than switching memory cards) after relatively few exposures made me a bit stingy with my shooting. IMO, one of the important factors in wedding photography when shooting with a medium format camera was managing my film so I would always have a fresh load available for significant portions of the shoot.

    I have more extensive equipment now than I ever had as either a Navy Photographer or a commercial photographer. I often covered weddings quite successfully with a single camera and a fixed lens (with another camera of the same type in reserve) such as a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex. I don't shoot weddings any more but, if I did, I would have several lenses and several cameras at my side.

    Many of the great "street photographers" shot with a single 35mm camera, black and white 35mm film and a single 50mm lens. Was this because they considered this the optimum outfit? I think not! It was fairly difficult in the earlier days to use longer or wider lenses on 35mm rangefinder cameras and the older single lens reflex cameras were slow and unwieldy. Early rangefinder cameras needed a separate accessory viewfinder for longer (or wider) lenses. That was a big pain since you could not focus and frame your image in one window. The original SLR lenses did not automatically stop down to the chosen aperture when the photographer pressed the shutter button. The photographer had to manually stop down the lens and then manually reopen it to refocus. I think that the photography styles evolved from the equipment that photographers had at their disposal.

    Today's digital technology has made photography considerably easier. As an example, when you are shooting at ISO 100 and need a faster shutter speed or smaller f/stop, or if you are suddenly in darker conditions... No sweat, just bump your ISO higher. You have an umteen gazillion ISO to choose. You also have a zillion images available on a card and switching cards takes seconds (as opposed to minutes for switching film rolls). You have very capable zoom lenses available so you are not locked in to any focal length or foot zooming.

    I would say that digital technology has changed the roadmap of photography, not just street photography, but in its entirety as much as George Eastman changed it by his "Press the button and we'll do the rest." Kodak cameras.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 19th November 2011 at 02:54 PM.

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    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    John/Shadowman:

    It seems to me that your experiences and usage of film were not typical. I certainly never took nearly as many images with film as I do with digital. I've never done commercial work and never will - perhaps this is the difference.

    In the first year of shooting digital, I took about 10,000 images. I never took that many using film from 1962 until 2006 when I went digital. Perhaps 200 rolls of 24 exposure which = 4,800 images.

    I only once took multiple images with film - a fountain at night with Kodachrome II. I routinely shoot multiple image of one flower in several minutes.

    So it seems to me that digital has "loosened up our shutter fingers" - probably because there is virtually no cost - if it looks bad on the screen, I delete it. With film, one was reluctant to pitch the image because it had a cost. My wife used to be aghast when I'd pitch several slides from a roll - "throwing away all that money" was the expression.

    On the topic of people being photo shy, I don't see any difference, but I'm not into street photography.

    Glenn

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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    My mother had a shoebox full of blurry, underexposed, overexposed or otherwise useless pictures which she just couldn't get herself to throw away because they cost money.

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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    The question could also be asked "Are people now becoming less inclined to be photographed by a stranger with all the hype in the media over intrusions and individuals rights?"

    Back to the original question though. I think the camera often has an influence on people's reactions. On holiday once I saw several other people taking pictures of an artist who was painting a scene. He was there with his palet, easle and all the usual paraphanalia and he looked amazing. I wandered up and started to take a picture and he got all uppity saying he didn't want to be photographed by a professional, what was I going to do with the image, you can't sell a picture of me, don't take my picture....etc. nothing I could say, or the fact that my wife and kids were standing beside me clearly making me a family bloke out for the day, would change his mind. All he saw was a pro camera and that made me different from the rest of the crowd with their phones and compacts. Has I have used my iPhone nothing would have been said and I would have been essentially invisible.

    I took a picture anyway.

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    John/Shadowman:

    It seems to me that your experiences and usage of film were not typical. I certainly never took nearly as many images with film as I do with digital. I've never done commercial work and never will - perhaps this is the difference.

    In the first year of shooting digital, I took about 10,000 images. I never took that many using film from 1962 until 2006 when I went digital. Perhaps 200 rolls of 24 exposure which = 4,800 images.

    I only once took multiple images with film - a fountain at night with Kodachrome II. I routinely shoot multiple image of one flower in several minutes.

    So it seems to me that digital has "loosened up our shutter fingers" - probably because there is virtually no cost - if it looks bad on the screen, I delete it. With film, one was reluctant to pitch the image because it had a cost. My wife used to be aghast when I'd pitch several slides from a roll - "throwing away all that money" was the expression.

    On the topic of people being photo shy, I don't see any difference, but I'm not into street photography.

    Glenn
    Glen,

    Was the reluctancy to take more shots based on economic concerns, artistic concerns, or because you only had a limited supply of film at the time of your excursion? When I said I shot twenty rolls it was usually once or twice a year and for some reason cost didn't concern me regarding the purchase of the rolls, I was more concerned with the cost of developing the images afterward. I researched some current prices of film, both consumer and pro, and the rolls usually cost about $4-$5.00 today. I don't think I paid that much for film and there was usually some sort of discount available. Also, the cost of developing film seems to have doubled. I usually paid about $8.00 per roll for double prints and that cost appears to be around $14.00 today. One good thing about film was that you could usually wait to have the photos developed. When I made the leap to digital, I did a cost benefit analysis-taking in the cost of a computer and printer(which I already owned), memory cards, batteries, ink and paper and after absorbing the direct costs, the variable costs associated with digital soon outweighed the costs of using film. Now back to your response, what caused your hesitancy in taking more photos?

  8. #8
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by black pearl View Post
    The question could also be asked "Are people now becoming less inclined to be photographed by a stranger with all the hype in the media over intrusions and individuals rights?"

    Back to the original question though. I think the camera often has an influence on people's reactions. On holiday once I saw several other people taking pictures of an artist who was painting a scene. He was there with his palet, easle and all the usual paraphanalia and he looked amazing. I wandered up and started to take a picture and he got all uppity saying he didn't want to be photographed by a professional, what was I going to do with the image, you can't sell a picture of me, don't take my picture....etc. nothing I could say, or the fact that my wife and kids were standing beside me clearly making me a family bloke out for the day, would change his mind. All he saw was a pro camera and that made me different from the rest of the crowd with their phones and compacts. Has I have used my iPhone nothing would have been said and I would have been essentially invisible.

    I took a picture anyway.
    There does seem to be some discrimination against photographers based on the type of equipment they use. Sometimes it works in your favor, other times it does not. A few years ago, I was at a Run for Rover 5k race and after party celebration and there was clearly one professional photographer shooting the race. I standing nearby was approached by one of the sponsors was asked if I was from a news agency. I told the woman that I was just an amateur but she invited me anyway to join the other members for their party. so I suppose as in your case it's all a matter of what the subject perceives to be either your intentions or how they can benefit from your work.

  9. #9
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Glen,

    Was the reluctance to take more shots based on economic concerns, artistic concerns, or because you only had a limited supply of film at the time of your excursion? When I said I shot twenty rolls it was usually once or twice a year and for some reason cost didn't concern me regarding the purchase of the rolls, I was more concerned with the cost of developing the images afterward. I researched some current prices of film, both consumer and pro, and the rolls usually cost about $4-$5.00 today. I don't think I paid that much for film and there was usually some sort of discount available. Also, the cost of developing film seems to have doubled. I usually paid about $8.00 per roll for double prints and that cost appears to be around $14.00 today. One good thing about film was that you could usually wait to have the photos developed. When I made the leap to digital, I did a cost benefit analysis-taking in the cost of a computer and printer(which I already owned), memory cards, batteries, ink and paper and after absorbing the direct costs, the variable costs associated with digital soon outweighed the costs of using film. Now back to your response, what caused your hesitancy in taking more photos?

    The cost. I already owned two computers and printers and needed them for my home business so they aren't part of the cost of photography. My first "real" camera was a Canon A-1 purchased in 1980 for $500 + $500 for a zoom lens. The cost of a 30D + 24-105 was not terribly different in real dollars, but the cost for recording media (film to CF cards) has dropped dramatically. And the CF cards are reusable.

    The point is that doubling or tripling or quadrupling the number of images captured doesn't seem to raise the cost.

    There is also a cost in time sorting and storing negatives, slides, and prints, whereas flipping through a computer takes moments to locate an image to print. I wonder how many photogs that do this for a living would like to go back to the "good old days".

    I do spent far more time developing my images, but that's because I can actually make significant changes to them. See the current thread on what is a "real image" - creativity has increased immensely with digital.

    I seldom print anything these days - e-mailing jpegs of my granddaughters to my daughter. My wife has a "Kindle-like" LCD display on the counter that flashes through hundreds of images continuously which can be changed in a few minutes.

    Ahhh, the good old days - don't want them back. Photography came alive for me with digital.

    Glenn

  10. #10
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    The cost. I already owned two computers and printers and needed them for my home business so they aren't part of the cost of photography. My first "real" camera was a Canon A-1 purchased in 1980 for $500 + $500 for a zoom lens. The cost of a 30D + 24-105 was not terribly different in real dollars, but the cost for recording media (film to CF cards) has dropped dramatically. And the CF cards are reusable.

    The point is that doubling or tripling or quadrupling the number of images captured doesn't seem to raise the cost.

    There is also a cost in time sorting and storing negatives, slides, and prints, whereas flipping through a computer takes moments to locate an image to print. I wonder how many photogs that do this for a living would like to go back to the "good old days".

    I do spent far more time developing my images, but that's because I can actually make significant changes to them. See the current thread on what is a "real image" - creativity has increased immensely with digital.

    I seldom print anything these days - e-mailing jpegs of my granddaughters to my daughter. My wife has a "Kindle-like" LCD display on the counter that flashes through hundreds of images continuously which can be changed in a few minutes.

    Ahhh, the good old days - don't want them back. Photography came alive for me with digital.

    Glenn
    Ten years ago the cost benefit analysis was more relevant than it is today. Even the cost of printing digital images ($0.10-0.21 per print) at a kiosk or pharmacy is less than that of film. I also rarely print images unless someone wants a copy, I recently had some printed from my local camera distributor but only because I had 120 free prints from the purchase of a camera.

  11. #11

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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by black pearl View Post
    The question could also be asked "Are people now becoming less inclined to be photographed by a stranger with all the hype in the media over intrusions and individuals rights?"

    Back to the original question though. I think the camera often has an influence on people's reactions. On holiday once I saw several other people taking pictures of an artist who was painting a scene. He was there with his palet, easle and all the usual paraphanalia and he looked amazing. I wandered up and started to take a picture and he got all uppity saying he didn't want to be photographed by a professional, what was I going to do with the image, you can't sell a picture of me, don't take my picture....etc. nothing I could say, or the fact that my wife and kids were standing beside me clearly making me a family bloke out for the day, would change his mind. All he saw was a pro camera and that made me different from the rest of the crowd with their phones and compacts. Has I have used my iPhone nothing would have been said and I would have been essentially invisible.

    I took a picture anyway.
    I think the issue of 'you have a big camera, therefore you must be a pro' may have been an issue way back in the days of film as well.

    Has anyone found that people are MORE or LESS prepared to have their picture taken?
    If there is a difference, would you ascribe that difference to a (de)sensitizing due to the prevalence of picture taken?
    I'm interested in the pyschological aspect of the subject rather than the changes in the photographers approach.
    Graham

  12. #12
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Over the years I have taken many photos of people attending different types of events. Always with my camera. I would walk around and take shots of my friends attending. Often, I would be asked by a stranger(s) to take their photo and send them a copy. Strangers asking is not rare when they see you with a "big" camera. But, on several (many) occasions lately, in doing this, someone that may have been in the background would come to me and ask if they were in the photo I had just taken. I would "chimp" the photo and let them look, if they were in the shot and did not want to be, I would delete it and re-shoot.
    This had never really happened in the past, but since all the hype in the media, I guess people are more aware of people with "big" cameras. There maybe 100s others around you with cell phone cameras, but they do not seem to matter. It is the idea of people actually seeing a "camera" that freaks them out. So now, I select a background with not people, which is inconvenient most of the time.
    Shooting photos in an area once, security said that I could not have a camera taking photos. I stated that there were no signs saying I could not. He "politely" told me to put it away. I said what about those people taking photos with their cell phones? He said, " Yours is a real camera". Don't argue with dummies!
    The fact that some don't mind and some do is a tough subject. Maybe the ones that don't, have their reasons, I do not ask. That could lead to other complications. Also I find that people at functions tend to expect someone to be there with a camera, whereas someone on the street not so much so. The street person has a "wonder why" question in their head. I feel that we, as photographers, can thank the news media & internet social sites for the information people receive about photographers with big cameras. So yes, I think that the digital camera age has turned people away from having their photos taken by strangers in certain situations. The mystic of a camera is lost, EVERYBODY has one.

  13. #13

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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    my mother had a shoebox full of blurry, underexposed, overexposed or otherwise useless pictures which she just couldn't get herself to throw away because they cost money.
    ditto!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. #14

    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Anyone in a public space can expect to be in a photo or a video. Many areas have surveillance cameras everywhere. In the UK that is particularly true.


    You might note that magazine photos these days tend to blur the faces of the public. In the US it is perfectly legal to photograph in public spaces, in other nations this may be a problem—in particular if you are photographing children. I always ask if I can take a photo, unless it is a street seen.


    I carry my “big” old camera all the time, virtually everywhere. I often have people ask me if I am a pro and to send them a photo. Most museums permit photography as long as one does not use flash. It is rare that anyone ever objects to being in a photo. If they do ask I simply reassure people that I am not interested in “them” specifically as background but rather in my subject. I tell them that they will be unrecognizably blurred. If one is asked to delete photos, I would suppose that the photographer will delete or is well enough versed with the camera to make it look as if that has been done.


    The interesting thing is that if people were actually industrial “spies” they would have the proper spy cams and not show a monster camera. Of course, security people don’t get that.

  15. #15

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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Oh security people do get it. They have a boring day mostly and having the opportunity to do something like telling a photographer off is a way of cutting down their own boredom and making themselves feel important.

  16. #16
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital changed street photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamH View Post
    I think the issue of 'you have a big camera, therefore you must be a pro' may have been an issue way back in the days of film as well.

    Has anyone found that people are MORE or LESS prepared to have their picture taken?
    If there is a difference, would you ascribe that difference to a (de)sensitizing due to the prevalence of picture taken?
    I'm interested in the pyschological aspect of the subject rather than the changes in the photographers approach.
    Graham
    It depends on the location, if you are at an art festival then people take it with a grain of salt. If they are going about their daily lives, they are more inclined to question why you are photographing them. If you are on the street and photographing a building or even your friend, people walking by will give way so that you can get your photograph and not include them in the image.

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