https://photo.stackexchange.com/a/12707/5205

The wider the lens you use, the closer you probably should be to the nearest thing in your scene. And there should be a nearest thing in your scene! The classic landscape shot is something like: near flower, middle lake, far peak. How far do you think the photographer is from the flower? The lake? The peak? How about 1 foot, 10 feet, 1 mile+? Yep, there's almost a logarithmic nature to near/middle/far in most pro landscape shots. In most amateur shots, it's more like middle/far/far (10 feet, 100 yards, 1 mile). And the image feels "flatter" when hung on the wall in a frame because of that.

I tried: f/8, 11mm, 1/15, 800, D3100

enter image description here

People on online fora have told me:

It looks to me like two separate photos, one stuck on top of the other. Neither half says anything interesting to me. Together they are just confusing.
your perspective on the foreground child is unflattering.

..

What are you showing us? What do you want us to see? Because right now, we don't see it.

..

The first thing I call the atancion is the cut of the boy's head, this does not look good in the photo, for my taste it should be seen whole.
I also do not find the objective that you have used the most appropriate for this photo, but if you did not have something else the time was worth it.

My intention was to show that poor sleep on the footpath. I believe that the sleeping kid is quite close to the camera, mother is in the center and her gaze leads us to the crawling kid which is far.

So, this satisfies the requirements of a wide angle composition as shown in the first quote of that thread.

Do the rules differ in street life? What could I have done better?

  • 3
    Not an answer, but while scrolling page, I noticed that without about botoom 20% of content (approximately from boys forehead) your image looks a lot better :) – Arvo Oct 16 at 11:36
  • IMHO one doesn't get near, middle and far with UWA. UWA is about taking one thing and shoving it into viewer's face. That's it, the only story one can tell is "mom, look!" – Agent_L Oct 16 at 12:38
  • 2
    Personally, I like the image. As Arvo says a little cropping might help. – Eric Shain Oct 16 at 14:21

Do UWA lenses and street photography go well together?

That depends.


(Dis)advantages of UWA lenses:

Most people try to not use UWA (ultra-wide angle) lenses for portraits. Faces do not go well with UWA lenses - especially if they are not in the middle of the frame, and thus will be distorted. It is by no means a hard rule to not use UWA lenses for portraits - but most people will find the effect very unpleasing.

Also, with UWA, you have very limited options regarding DOF (depth of field) - it would be hard in your composition, anyway (because of the distance between the subjects), but since everything is in focus, I have nothing to guide me. f/8, as you have used, seems to be overkill - you might already run into diffraction softness here, and since f/8 will offer its hyperfocal distance at 76.7 cm focus distance (and from looking it seems that your focus distance is around that value), almost everything will be in focus (except things extremely close to the lens - half of the hyperfocal distance minus the lens's length and the flange distance, so around 20cm).

In my opinion, in street photography, you do not need/want to have a picture that is sharp from end to end: a limited depth of field will help you to draw attention to the main act in the photo. With UWA, this tends to get really hard, as the hyperfocal distance falls shorter and shorter - even at wide-open apertures.

UWA lenses can give some spectacular insights - but they are not meant to be "always-on" lenses to spare you to walk away 2 metres to get everything in your framing. I think of UWA as a tool to give spectacular impressions of the wideness of space - take, for example, a large hall. But since your photo has no need for this sensation of space (as everything happens within 2 squaremetres), UWA might not be the best choice.


Regarding the composition of your photo:

It is difficult to explain why a picture has a certain effect to a viewer. It is especially difficult to find out if it is only oneself or everyone (without starting a poll, that is). I will try to elaborate it, but do note that everything here is 100% subjective.

The composition as a whole feels like you wanted to photograph the sleeping boy, but then you found that including his mother and sister would be a good idea - and recomposed a bit. It looks like a technical approach to a picture - i.e. using someone's guidelines as a rule of fact that works every time. The angle is top-down, which also looks to me as if you did a sort of a compromise here. UWA is bad for compromises in my experience.

Also, this top-down approach makes it hard to see where I should look. My look path was: boy's shoulder - boy's head - blanket - shoulder - mother - tree - mother - sister - street. I would try to get (close to) level, maybe even a bottom-up angle with a bit of street in front.

To me, the image lacks some sort of "context" - to see that they are living on the street, I have to look behind the boy and behind his mother.

I think that it looks to me like a technical approach because I used to do the same thing, too: Take a rule-of-thumb and use it as a hard rule, then refine it by learning its limits and potential. I certainly have a lot of similar photos in my gallery, and with increasing routine, they become less and less (that is not to say that I do not take bad (UWA) shots today!).

The particular eye-catcher in your photo is that you used a portrait (vertical) framing - again, no hard rule, but it adds to my impression that it is a compromise to get everything inside the frame.

As @Arvo pointed out in the comments, cropping the lower portion of your photo (i.e. the blanket) certainly helps. UWA photos benefit from cropping more often than other photos (in my personal experience).


What I would have tried:

(with unlimited lenses and without knowing the limitations of the scene)

Go for a 35mm or 50mm wide open, toddler in front, boy at the far end, in a wider angle (as in: compose the subjects from left to right, not in a straight line and behind each other). This way, the smallest subject is in the front and the largest (by appearance) is in the back - it might also get you some impression of movement, with the toddler in front.

Or use the UWA lens, position the cam almost exactly over the mother, and shoot (almost) straight into the ground. This could, in theory, play the advantage of space to get a feeling of alienation.

Again, please note that I do not know what the scene there looked like, how they would have reacted, how much time you had, what lenses you had at hand,... - I did so many bad photos (and still do them) that "I would have made it better" would be an outright lie. Do not take any of this as "your photos are bad and you should feel bad!"

  • I want to understand WHY did you feel all this: The composition as a whole feels like you wanted to photograph the sleeping boy, but then you found that including his mother and sister would be a good idea - and recomposed a bit. The angle is top-down, which also looks to me as if you did a sort of a compromise here. Please explain why behind this. My intention was to have a near, middle, and far object. – Aquarius_Girl Oct 16 at 10:11
  • @Aquarius_Girl I added a tiny bit of critique about it, but I will think of how to improve it. It's the first written critique I ever did, and since English also isn't my native language, it takes some time to find the proper words. Do feel free to ask and/or suggest further improvements - I will do my best :-) – flolilolilo Oct 16 at 10:40
  • Am thankful for your additional comments like Or use the UWA lens, position the cam almost exactly over the mother, and shoot (almost) straight into the ground. I can certainly try this next time. You are correct about vertical framing too. Thanks. – Aquarius_Girl Oct 16 at 10:42
  • @Aquarius_Girl I'm not saying that it will work - but at least it seems like an interesting approach to me. – flolilolilo Oct 16 at 11:18

I see a story here. The mother's world is dominated by the sleeping boy. The other child has ambition. The mother is torn...

But it isn't a happy composition. What else have you got from that session?

Cropping might help a bit...

enter image description here

Or even a lot...

enter image description here

But what's the story? Is the boy in trouble - ill - even dead? That would completely change things.

Consider the visual weight of each element in your composition.

Applying red to everything approximately 1 foot from the camera, blue for 10 feet and green for 1 mile+ hopefully makes the situation clearer:

weighting

The image is dominated by the near elements (which is fine), but there's little going on in the middle range and nothing in the far.

As @flolilolilo mentions, the top-down angle is limiting the amount of far range that can be seen in the image. I would have tried to capture more of what's to the right of this scene to fill out the mid range, and an more upward angle to capture more distant sky.

  • Am thankful for your insight. – Aquarius_Girl Oct 17 at 5:59

Your image has two perspectives: one horizontal in the top half, one vertical (from above) in the lower half. The solution is already sketched in some answers: "crop". My personal take is almost the same, namely "crop brutally". One thing to realize is that the boy's head and body is already cropped in the manner of a bad photograph, looking like a mistake in framing. So obviously the way to go is to make a virtue out of the problem: Cropped image You'll see I left enough in to make this part of a story: crop significantly more and the boy becomes background rather than topic.

As a note aside: portrait orientation wide shots often have this sort of perspective problem. They are sometimes nice for star constellations above an industrial skyline (city skylines often have too much light pollution to leave room for star constellations), where of course the near/far difference is in line of miles vs lightyears but not quite in the spirit of your guide.

The cropped picture here has a somewhat uncommon aspect ratio but fixing that is more a matter of the original framing. I don't see that you can do much better in post production.

In my view, true candid Street photography is very subjective for the audience. There will always be a myriad of opinions. Street photography is dependent on urgency where the photographer is aiming to capture the essence of the moment. He or she has limited time, so composition will always be under scrutiny when the image is developed.

We need to remember, the reason why a street photographer will even aim to capture such an image as the one you have included, is because the photographer felt an emotion, saw something unique and powerful. We as the audience have to remember, the photographer at the time of capture was in tune with all of his or her senses. He or she could see the environment, feel the environment, hear the sounds and smell the scene.

Once the shutter is pressed, all you are left with, is the captured two-dimensional aspect of that moment in time.

Going back to this image, I see a very powerful image. It instantly draws a sense of different emotions from me. The head being chopped off, does not take anything from the image. If anything, it draws me closer to the sleeping boys face.

To me, the sleeping boy is the main character. He is peacefully; fast asleep. But, he has no pillow, just a rug separating his head and the cobble stone ground. Some people don’t even like walking on cobble stones, yet this poor boy is sleeping on them. But saying that, why is he sleeping on the street? He doesn’t seem malnutritioned. He is clothed and even has a blanket over him. His hair is also cut and groomed. So why is he sleeping on the floor.

Next, I look at the girl in the middle. Firstly, I question, is she the mother? I don’t know the answer, something tells me, perhaps not, but an older sibling. Something tells me that she may have only just turned her head from the cameraman towards the crawling kid. That crawling kid adds to my curiosity further. He or she is also dressed well for a street dweller. Even seems to have socks or shoes plus a full sleeve top.

I then start to question, are these the Dalits of India? The untouchables who have been subjected to be caste outside of the main Indian Social Classes. Have these people been subjected to living on the street due to their Type, Colour of their skin, and caste type?

Or are they street vendors? Where the photographer has only composed for the three in the image, and left out others who may just be out of the frame on the left selling from a stall?

I can never say for sure what you felt when you captured this image. Maybe, you felt connected, or sympathised, or you merely were just keen on capturing an image for your portfolio with no emotion what so ever.

But as the viewer, I see your image as something very powerful because it made me feel so blessed that my family and I have a bed and a roof. I then felt sympathy for the subjects in the image and I instantly felt charitable or wanting to do something to counteract poverty.

Street Photography is more than just composition. As the street photographer learns his art, the compositions will become better.

Great image!

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I am the OP. I had posted this query on some other fora and I got a quite meaningful insight from
John Deerfield which I have posted here for everyone's benefit:

Only you as the photographer can decide when to apply a rule or guideline. An exaggerated perspective of a flower against a landscape is one thing. An exaggerated head in the foreground is something else. That isn't to say that perhaps there might be a time & place to put an exaggerated head in the foreground, but in this case, for the viewer we don't understand why it is there.

I believe that working through an exercise like this helps make you a better photographer. The flip side is to take the knowledge and make it your own, not just simply "near, middle, far". You could use a wide angle lens to put literally anything "near". Does that mean anything put near a wide angle lens is interesting composition? Why are you putting a subject close to the wide angle lens. Why do you want to emphasize that perspective?

In terms of capturing this scene "better", I really am not sure. For me, I simply don't see much of interest here. The mother looking at the child crawling down the street is, to me, the most interesting part of the image so you could loose the child in front altogether. But even then I think there needs to be "more" to the scene. Is the child crawling towards something? Or maybe more of the mother's expression, moving more camera right. I am just not sure. One compositional guideline I teach is to "explore the frame". Where might I get the most interesting composition. Granted, harder to do with street photography I might imagine, but perhaps work it out in your minds eye: the mother's expression as the child crawls off into the sunset might be something to position for. Just thinking out loud.

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