Back to basics

We all still remember the time when we were absolute beginners – the time when we still struggled with the basics. You’re obsessed about improving your photography, so you’re looking for tons of videos, tutorials and books on how to get your aperture, shutter speed and ISO right. Over time your pictures get better and now the challenge lies in composition and giving your images a deeper meaning.

I can only speak for myself here but now I often neglect these basics of using a camera. This means that I don’t get creative with them anymore and focus more on the street and people instead.

Last week however, I had a photography course at my university. There were many beginners in that course so we went over all the essentials and did experiments with them in order to understand them better. Even though I knew all the basics already, I could get very creative and find a few ways to get experimental on the street.



Shutter Speed


If you just take your shutter speed for example, it can change everything about a scene. From the atmosphere to the meaning and the level of abstraction. If you’re not familiar with Alexey Titarento go have a look at his famous ”City of Shadows” series here:

His ability to take scenes from the street and turn them into abstract, almost surrealistic images simply amazes me. It shows  how much more is possible on the street than just capturing a moment as it happened. Sure, there’s no clear rule to what a street photographer has to capture and to how he does it, taking on new challenges and views on what you’re doing however will boost your creativity and ultimately make you a better photographer.


In no way comparable with Alexey Titarento but an interesting contrast between the silhouette and the blurred rest





Same goes with using aperture within street photography. Mostly used to isolate a subject from the often chaotic surroundings of the city, there’s much more to do with it. Why not move really close to something in order to exaggerate the bokeh and create a contrast or an abstract composition that way?


The strong bokeh here gave me this blur while keeping the right part sharp



You could combine this with taking objects out on the street with you. Wether it’s a prism or something like a mirror, I’m sure you’ll get some interesting results. This isn’t compatible with the photographer being a bystander who doesn’t interfere with a scene but instead just captures it. But if the documentation isn’t the aspect you prioritize the most, then there’s no reason for not giving it a try.



High- and low-key


Exposure can be also used to subtract elements and abstract images. I have long been underexposing images to get that dark background that isolates your subject. Using an overexposure is a lot more challenging in my opinion though. The only shots I do have, are the ones that I overexposed by accident and realized that it looks kind of cool back home. High-key as well as the low-key photographs both let you take away objects that you don’t want to be in your composition. An overexposed image however gives you a whole different feeling when you look at it. So why not set yourself a challenge to only shoot overexposed images for one day?


Actually by accident, the high key fits this monk quite well.




An older image. The high key puts him into this emptiness alone with his thoughts



Make the street your playground


Recently I’ve been drawn to the windows of coffee shops, restaurants and everything else that has windows. Especially shooting through a window at night often creates this beautiful play with reflecting lights. It adds some degree of abstraction to an image, it makes it feel a bit dreamy or like from a fantasy. Taking that photography course made me realize that there’s so many ways to achieve this effect and many more. It motivated me to take at least one day per week where I experiment with the basics as mentioned above – and so should you. Not only will this give us interesting images but also challenge us creatively. And being as creative as you can be with capturing photographs is what were all after, isn’t it?



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All images are subject to copyright © Aram Franke 2019

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