Street Photography Tips – The Rule of Odds

What can I tell you about the “rules” of composition? They are interesting. They are often applied and rarely mastered. The masters of photography like Cartier-Bresson practically invented them. One has to wonder if they knew that when they were doing it? Or did it later become a so-called rule?

Many of the masters of photography, yes they were mostly men, started out in painting. They had already studied composition. Alas, it was introduced into photography. 

The rule of thirds has been done to death. It certainly has its moments and I admit, I often use the rule of thirds. Sometimes with good results. It’s like grammar. Learning how to communicate visually. Poetry however pushes the basics to a new level. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson - rule of odds
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rome, 1959

The rule of odds is yet another of the composition guidelines. It is a bit looser in some ways. It can apply to a disjunction of sorts. Like a very large man with a very small dog. The photo above by Cartier-Bresson is a classic example of the rule of odds. The photo below is me mine and also an example of the rule of odds. There is one odd person in each photo.

The Rule of Odds
Every Which Way, New York City, June 2015

For many street photographers, the rule of odds is about numbers. It would seem that even numbers are not favored. Odd numbers create tension and the number three is a particularly good one. And three can form a triangle indicating movement as well. 

When the rule of odds works it can work very well. But circumstances don’t always allow it. It’s not like you can get people into place or even that you’re thinking where are my three people? So I would say that it’s more often used as a method of justifying why a photo works or doesn’t after the fact. It’s a bit of a crap shoot.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hope that you’ll be alert enough to capture it when you see it. Just don’t get hung up on trying to get that. Maybe you find the even numbers are easier to capture and you’re getting shots that you’re happy with. The art of photography is always an ongoing process. My evolution is ongoing as is my sense for what makes good composition. Happy shooting and composing!

Street Photography Tips – Up Close

When you’re in the middle of large crowds of people it is actually rather easy to get up close and personal shots. Whether you stand in one spot and wait for people to approach you or you shoot while walking it’s not difficult to do. The funny thing is that most of the time people aren’t even aware of me when I get these kinds of shots.

Monochrome NYC Street Photography
Monochrome Mood 20, New York City, August 2018

So of course the most important thing is to have correct exposure settings on your camera. It’s also important to keep your eyes open. This is where it’s good to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. I tend to lift the camera and use the viewfinder. Which is what I did while walking to get the 2 shots shown here.

Monochrome NYC Street Photography
Monochrome Mood 14, New York City, August 2018

That said I also often just lift the camera without really looking at the preview and shoot. In the right state of mind it’s like a good mental and physical exercise. Street photography is very cool.

It’s Everywhere You Go!

Photography in its broadest definition has become important to everyone! It is such a dominant part of our culture and our lives. Creating and consuming images is constant. So how do we differentiate between the different kinds of photography? Are they all equal? Do we even understand the effect that images have on us? Visual literacy is a tricky subject. Especially when there’s barely enough time to understand it all.

I work as a tour guide. On a regular basis I come into contact with tourists taking selfies with major attractions in New York City. It would be difficult to not witness this everywhere in the city. I wonder what the actual value is of these photos? (I will refrain from being judgmental here even if it is annoying.) They are intended as souvenirs.

One Grand Central, New York City, January 2019

The idea that you can choose to remember something by an image or an object. The strange thing is that souvenirs actually have a way of killing memories. They take on new meaning. We no longer have to remember it.

Perhaps the actual act of taking a photo is more important than the photo itself. That and the fleeting moment that it has a life on social media. We designate a moment which we have predetermined to be worthy of remembering. We have scripted our lives in doing this.

Planned vs unplanned photos. My favorite photos that I’ve taken are not planned. They couldn’t have been planned. They are decided only at the moment that they are shot. Sometimes I like them. Others I don’t. It’s always starting from scratch. Starting over with a clean slate.

When it comes to street photography you can’t decide beforehand what you’ll shoot. It’s life in motion. By it’s very nature it is unplanned.

Photography is – Part Eleven

The action doesn’t stop, but a photo desires to freeze time in a way that it can be remembered. If we didn’t pause to look and shoot, life would still move on. A photograph exists as a memory of a time that no longer exists. My photos are a record that I was here. It is what I do with my time.

LES Street
LES Morning, New York City, December 2019

Photography is – Part Ten

Photography is a facsimile. It is a miniature view of a much larger picture. Even a 360 degree photos misses more than it captures. It represents the fleeting moments in life.

The Great Believers, New York City, December 2019

Street Photography Tips – Framing

Of the many things that you can do in street photography or photography in general, framing is one method of having a photo stand out. It is one of my favorite composition styles. Framing can add a different perspective to what might not be an interesting photo otherwise.

Monochrome Street Photography
On Lafayette Street, New York City, 9 April 2017

There are many possibilities of ways that you can use framing. This photo was of course taken through a car window. Windows and doors work well. But the possibilities are numerous. Next time that you’re out shooting, have a look around you to see what things you can use to provide a frame for your photo. It’s fun!

Photography is – Part Nine

Truth resides in photography only as much as the person who took it believed it was worth shooting it. Truth in photography exists when the viewer can relate to the image that is represented in a photo.

Love + Be Loved, New York City, May 2019