Go Guide: Street Photography with Bill Hendricks
A lot of us take the same travel photos: landscapes, close-ups of natural or architectural details, and selfies at a viewpoint. But when it comes to capturing a mood or a specific moment in time, street photography connects us like no other.
When KEEN fan and professional street photographer William Hendricks reached out with photos he’d taken of his Coronado sneakers in Cuba, we had to get him on the line and ask him a few questions. Read on to learn William’s approaches to street photography and how this perspective can turn casual vacation shots into powerful images—plus his tips on how to take the best candid photos.
WHAT’S STREET PHOTOGRAPHY?
While you may not be familiar with the term, you likely already know what it is. It’s candid photography, showing a random moment in a public place. Most of the time, the photos focus on people or suggest their presence. (Note: Because they’re candid and anonymous, we can’t show the classic examples with faces on our blog, but it's an easy Google).
You don’t necessarily have to do this in a bustling urban environment (it just makes it easier for you to blend in). What’s more, you can easily do street photography in your own city or town—it might even be easier as you’re familiar with where to go.
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A CONNECTION
As a photographer and photography professor who has been doing both for decades, William often sounds like a philosopher. And it makes sense—he spends his days studying people and how they interact, how they move, and what makes them tick.
“For me, photography is a way to reduce chaos into a meaningful moment,” William explains. “It’s rarely been about making the image, it’s about making a connection. A connection to our interconnectedness.”
As travelers, this sounds appealing. We’re always looking for ways to connect more closely to the places we visit—and a picture of our brunch really isn’t going to cut it. But street photography does so much more: you notice the moment. You’re in the moment. It’s mindfulness, with a camera.
SEIZE THE MOMENT—OR MAKE IT
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of it, William has two strategies: Seizing the moment and creating the moment. The first is about being spontaneous and responding to the moment at hand. The latter is about being attentive to the mood of the street. Stop and ask yourself, is this place dark and mysterious? Light and beautiful? Dangerous or friendly? And then you seek out the elements that express that mood.
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
Feeling inspired? Ready to tackle some street photography this weekend or on your next vacation? Here are William’s top tips:
Do research. Be familiar with the place before you go. Do some actual research. Read books. Blogs. News articles.
Seize a moment. Be spontaneous and ready to act. That also means knowing your equipment so you can respond to the moment at hand.
Capture a mood. Feel like nothing’s "happening?" There’s always the mood of the street. Photograph elements that reveal it.
Engage with the street. Engage with anything and everyone around you. Look for the cracks and bits of light in everything. That can mean imperfections, contradictions, tension, or ambiguity.
Embrace the darkness. (No, really.) The street is connected to everything. Politics. The economy. The effects of Mother Nature. Keep that in mind. Show us the beauty and tragedy of our time.
Be curious and courageous. Talk to people. As questions. Really see those you are photographing as individuals.
Understand your intention. If your intent is to exploit your subject, it will be evident in your photo. If it is to respect and raise someone up, that will also be evident. Have a clear idea of what your photos are meant to be about.
Here's a sample of what you'll find in William's photo bag:
• Sony A7Rii
• 50mm F/1.4 Zeiss Lens
• 35mm F/1.4 Zeiss Lens
• Benro carbon fiber tripod
• Really Right Stuff ball head
• Nikon SB-800 Speadlight with a MAGMOD
• Pocket Wizard Plus III Radio Slaves x 2
As a professional, William carries professional gear, but if you’re just starting out, your phone or your digital camera will do the trick without the price tag—you can always borrow or find used gear, too.
William wears our retro classic, the canvas Coronado shoe, while traveling and taking photographs in Cuba. "The Coronado is built for comfort and flexibility and seems to always draw attention wherever I am working,” he says.
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