From Chinese shop workers to doormen to waiters to day-trippers to artists to a strange dancing woman to colourful transvestites on a birthday bash there to see ‘Pruscilla – Queen of the Desert’ – One thing that is for sure is that when it comes to street photography Covent Garden offers plenty of subject matter to keep your photographers’ eye working.
The hustle and bustle of a big city especially in an area such as Covent Garden offers much for the photographer, even in the current climate where photographers are treated, at times, with suspicion, if you use the right approach you can still work freely and hopefully get some good shots.
The beauty of working in an area of a big and bustling city like this is, for me, the sense of freedom that comes with it. You can be anonoymous and you almost feel that you can do anything you want and nobody will give you another thought – within reason. It is a very liberating feeling.
My approach in this kind of environment is to be very upfront when I photograph and to try and act naturally, with confidence and present the appearance of being someone who is exactly where they are supposed to be! If you act suspiciously or without confidence then people will pick up on this, act naturally and you won’t draw unwanted attention.
Sometimes I take candids, sometimes, in fact often, the person will know they are being photographed, my initial approach is to allow them to see the camera, I lift it up making sure they will see it, more often than not I will have, hopefully, a friendly smile (rather than a manic grin) on my face and will quickly move into taking pictures. Occasionally a comment to relax the subject, depending on what I think might suit each particular situation and when I have finished I may, not always, offer my hand for a quick handshake, thanking them quickly and then moving on.
This approach worked fine yesterday in Covent Garden, it’s an approach that has worked in other places that I have photographed but don’t think that it will always work, always be prepared to change your approach to suit the situation.
A lot of it is trial and error, trying to find the ‘flow’ or the ‘feel’ of a place and fitting into that flow. In a way it’s easy in this kind of environment because there are many street entertainers, loads of tourists, many of whom are taking photos, and various weird and wonderful characters so one more random photographer taking pictures kind of gets lost in all the confusion.
Everyone has a story or something to say and more often than not if you treat people with respect and a little humility then you can get your pictures and they sometimes even thank you for your time afterwards, even though you have used them to get your pictures. Thats one of the great things about photography, especially this kind of photography, you get to see other people, get to chat to them briefly and see a part of life that maybe you would never come across during your normal day to day life.
So go into it with confidence, keep a few witty comebacks or oneliners for the smart arse with his mates, don’t sneak around when your moving to take a picture of someone, realise when the point is reached when someone really doesn’t want their pictures taken and move on – would that particular photo actually be that good? Keep your kit light and simple, no place for heavy bags here (All these pictures are NikonD3 with 50mm prime), have your technical skills nailed so your not messing about and have a good time and enjoy it, you can get some nice pictures and if your a slightly shy photographer then this is something you should absolutely do – your confidence will soar and as a result all your photography will benefit.