Want to push your photography – and yourself – to the limit? Head out onto the streets and look for the thousands of little stories going on around you all the time. Reportage photography is part journalism, part art, and takes years to master. Take the first step with our bite-size tips.
If you own an OLYMPUS camera, you probably know about the company’s street photography heritage. From war zones to riots, and from everyday street scenes to once-in-a-lifetime candid captures, OLYMPUS cameras have always been the go-to camera for street photographers everywhere. Don’t believe us? Just check out the hashtag #OLYMPUSUK on Instagram, where an army of talented photographers will wow you with their street work.
Want to be a part of the street reportage movement? Of course you do. Here are our top tips on how to get involved – and get good results.
1. One lens, one camera
While the name of this particular game isn’t pretending you’re not taking pictures – which never works and will simply wind people up – you don’t want to stick out too much. Having a giant bag full of kit and two cameras dangling off your shoulders will attract attention, when what you want to be doing is capturing off-the-cuff moments.
Learn how to use your camera quickly, and attach a lens that’s long enough you don’t need to get under people’s coats to get a good frame of them, but wide enough that you can always capture some context. Potential options in the OLYMPUS range include the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 25mm 1:1.2 PRO, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑40mm 1:2.8 PRO or the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm 1:2.8 PRO.
2. Go where the action is
Want interesting reportage shots? You need to think like a journalist. Demonstrations, protests, marches – anywhere where people are looking to be seen or make a point will produce interesting photography. Follow the local news and you’ll find plenty of action to follow.
3. Don’t ask permission…
You know what’s guaranteed to ruin a candid photo? Bounding up to someone and shaking their hand just as they were about to do something really interesting. Reportage photography is tricky – on the one hand you don’t want to be sneaky about getting people’s photo; on the other if you’re ostentatiously waving a posh camera about in their field of view you’ll find the natural behaviour you’re so keen to capture will vanish.
Our advice: move around a lot and try to get your images in the bag within seconds of spotting them. Re-shooting a person or an event from a million angles will draw attention and you’ll get a lot of photos of people looking at you out of the corner of their eyes.
4. …except when you do
You know what’s guaranteed to ruin a portrait? Someone noticing you with a camera at the last possible second and ending up with a kind-of portrait, kind-of candid photo that doesn’t really work. If someone looks interesting enough to shoot, plaster on your biggest smile, give them your friendliest handshake and ask if you can take their picture.
Wave vaguely at their camera if you don’t speak the language and you’ll find most people will say yes. Trade email addresses afterwards and send through the finished images for maximum photographer karma points.
5. Process carefully
Yes, Cartier-Bresson shot reportage photography in black and white, and so did Robert Capa, but that doesn’t mean that every reportage image you shoot need to be knocked back to high-contrast black and white with loads of digital grain introduced so you can ape your heroes. Photographers of that age were masters of human interaction, timing and composition, and – who knows? – may well have shot their entire careers in colour if the technology had been available.
Avoid processing clichés such as too much black and white, heavy-handed cross-processing and so on, and look for great light, great “people” moments and incredible colour instead. If nothing else, processing your images in a more neutral style will make them more palatable for the picture desks of newspapers around the world – worth bearing in mind in the event you happen upon real news as it unfolds.
Street photographer in the making? We want to see your photos! The OLYMPUS Flickr group is a great community of photographers shooting all manner of photographic styles and subjects, and can be found here. If you prefer your pictures square, join Instagram, shoot your heart out and use the hashtag #OLYMPUSUK to appear on our Photo Of the Day radar. Good luck and happy shooting!