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In honor of
Tom Howard & Murray Becker
Two greats from the annals of documentary photography history.
Taken in part from Secrets of Candid Photography
a forthcoming artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
When I refer to ‘shooting from the hip’ I am talking about shooting blind. The shot does not have to be exactly done from the hip. The shot can be taken overhead, chest level, behind the head or back, down low or from the proverbial hip.
Sad Buskers NYC Infrared flash photo (Candid)
Shooting unframed, from the hip is a good skill to develop. Some people are for it, some against it. Well, it does not matter what ANYONE says…the proof of the pudding will be in bringing home the goods.
In a recent article Eric Kim dismissed hip shots as poor form. (Learn From the Masters: Lesson #3 Don’t Shoot From the Hip) Poor Kim seems kinda confused on the subject. First he writes articles on how to shoot from the hip, then he writes articles against shooting from the hip.
Well, Kim just reads books to learn. He reads one book, thinks it is the last word on the subject and he writes about how great a book it is. He reads another book that contradicts the first book, then he adopts its theory as gospel. Kim’s opinions are as wishy-washy as the next book he reads.
My skill as a street / doc photog came from nearly 50 years experience shooting on the street. It was developed from trial and error and lots of pain. More importantly it is based not on ego, not on Eric Kim…my success is based on what works!
Staten Island Ferry NYC
Shooting from the hip is nothing new – Robert Frank did it in the 1950’s shooting for The Americans. The old timers before Frank even shot from the hip when needed. Here is a vintage 1960 pix from Japan showing photogs shooting overhead and unframed.
HCB got one of his early iconic shots overhead, unframed.
Alfred Eisenstaedt would shoot from the hip with his TLR back in the 40’s.
Winogrand was a big devotee of shooting unframed, from the hip. He is a great example of how NOT to do it. Although Winogrand is widely honored by the ‘know nothing’ camera fondlers out there, all in all Winogrand was a pretty shitty photog when you start looking at the bulk of his work. They even invented a term to justify his crappy photography…they call it ‘snapshot aesthetics.’
There is a reason why only a tired handful of Winogrand’s estimated 1.5 million photos are trotted out when his name is mentioned. We all know that if given enough time, even a monkey can take great photos…
Here are a few of Winogrand’s beauties…
Now, if you are a devotee of Winogrand and like your work a jumbled up mess and off kilter, don’t let me stop you. I’m just telling you how I do it and what appeals to me. I work to take candid photos of people that are clean and even look possibly like posed portraits. If my candid shots from the hip can look like normal framed photos, then I’ve succeeded.
Whether you like me, my work or not, one thing is for sure – if your ego or Eric Kim gets in the way from doing the unframed shot, you will get nothing, if the shot in unobtainable otherwise.
Sure, no one disputes that if you have time you can be as anal as you like and frame it up to do a good job.
But time does not stand still and successfully freezing time of live persons is our job. Consequently if you are serious about bringing home the iconic shot in our fast paced world, the skill of shooting sans viewfinder is a must.
Beside using shooting blind as a tool for bringing in the photo, shooting blind is an important tool for self-preservation if your a street photog. There is more danger and pissed off people on the street every day that goes by. People are paranoid and don’t like to be shot. People are having a hard time getting by and in a bad mood. Their diet is degrading and they are fed an unhealthy diet. Some are drunk / drugged up and half out of their mind. For your own safety as a street photog, being low key is a good practice if you want to avoid confrontation.
Shooting kids is another problem, esp for male photogs. In today’s society, if a male photog points their cam at a stranger kid they are looked at as a sexual predator.
The Lost Princess…an unframed, off the cuff shot.
Here is an article on how to shoot from the hip…
The photos in it are OK, nothing spectacular, but a good primer on the subject. Compare his photos to mine and see the difference in expert, from the hip shooting.
Here is another ‘how to’ article. This guy does nice work and has some very good articles. Check him out.
This is general rule of thumb for hip shots that I use: I multiply the focal length of my lens by 4. Then use that as a rough estimate of distance in feet to shoot for. For instance, if I am using a 35mm lens I multiply it by 4, which is 140. That tells me to try for 14 – 15 foot unfarmed shots.
It is important to note that just shooing from the hip will not bring in masterpieces. There are technical aspects as well as artistic aspects involved in my photos I show you here. I will go over it all in a forthcoming limited edition artists’ book called Secrets of Candid Photography.
Here are a few of my unframed shots from….high, low and from the hip, chest level, even behind my head one time! I’ve also included a few photos from my book on infrared flash photography Piercing Darkness. When shooting at night with infrared flash I can’t see anything in the viewfinder. If I didn’t have the skills for shooting blind I would not do as well as I do.
Your goal when you shoot blind should be to shoot decent photos, not crap like Winogrand did. If your a fan of snapshot aesthetics, then by all means shoot off kilter, crooked photos of nothing. When shooting blind it is impossible to shoot them all perfect. But as you see, with practice and the skill that hopefully follows, you can do a decent job. Almost all of my photos here have been cropped and straightened. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I take perfect pictures blind. Almost none of these photos were near perfect as shot.
All unframed shots. No viewfinder used…
Adult themed horror house – women examining their clitoris in the dark with a flashlight and mirror. Infrared flash…pierced the darkness!.
Lesbian separatists…they didn’t like me shooting there. Infrared flash photograph.
Bottom line…don’t let your ego, Eric Kim or anyone else get in the way of your success. One idiot on the Rangefinder Forum (they banned me) said that lucky, unframed, overhead shots don’t count.
Always remember, there are no photo police or head photo accountants to say what counts and what does not count. If you have the skill the only thing that is holding you back from getting that iconic shot is your ego and your pet prejudices. Unless your a camera fondler or a constipated anal perfectionist, the job IS to get the shot…get it any way you can.
Photos used herewith are taken from the following hand-printed, limited edtion artists’ books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
The Americans…60 years after Frank
Bikers Mardi Gras
De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District
180: The circular fisheye at large!
Secrets of Candid Photography