Coloring Outside the Lines in Street and City Photography

Out-of-line coloring is a good metaphor when a photographer decides to take a leap out of the norm in a photographic genre.

You may face rebuttal from some members of the purist photography community as you apply new ideas to your work in the genre, but there’s still too much creative potential on the table to limit yourself to playing just according to the rules, so I, for one, am a huge fan of coloring outside the lines. An example of this is with street photography – a genre that I love. If you really start a debate about the rules in the street photography community, you’ll see “guidelines” brought up in the discussion. Street photography is often done with the understanding that it’s meant to be journalistic in nature, and revealing a moment-in-time glimpse into society at large with major post-processing is often discouraged (and don’t even think about staging anything!). As a journalist myself, I can really sympathize with that expectation, and generations of epic street photographers have done just that and produced images that I only dream of taking, but overthinking the idea of “should I do this?” or “should I do this?” when the correct answer is almost always: do both.

Do both? It seems like such a simple answer because it is. Unless you really want the street credibility (pun intended) that comes with adhering to total photo purism and you’re willing to pass up all the creative opportunities that come with open-minded thinking and artistic, the answer has always been to not lock yourself in. It was a wonderful realization that my street sessions could and should be a mix of journalistic methods and artistic intent, switching between the two fluidly and, like fluid, sometimes blending in various ratios. If I spend a night on the town I end up with more guards, and now it’s a mix of street photography and what you might call art (which had strong street photography undertones and urban landscape).

Just keeping your eyes open to the possibilities of both acts is almost like expanding your creative bandwidth, because instead of being open to just one type of photo opportunity, allowing you to think more fluidly as you work. will help you see how many opportunities are truly within reach. Feeling stuck because your street photos are in crisis? Consider your other options. No one ever said you were only allowed to do one thing.

One of my favorite ways to transform my street and cityscape work is to apply intentional blurring through various methods. Purists would suggest playing with slow shutter speeds first. After that they might suggest “intentional camera movement” or ICM as a good option for playing with creative methods in urban work, and that’s true, but as someone who really likes to find how much i I can shape a photograph according to my artistic vision through post-processing, these are just two of the tools in my bag. Other great methods for applying blur with artistic intent are multiple exposure (either in camera or post) and, my favorite, a combination of some or all of them. The nature of tools like Photoshop for artists can be likened to superpowers, especially when applied responsibly.

The Path Blur tool in Photoshop is a fountain of overflowing creative possibilities when done right, and the strong lines found in urban structures lend themselves very well to applying blur with artistic intent. On my last trip to the city where I often shoot, I decided to use it to transform the towering buildings around me into more futuristic, sometimes abstract scenes. Blade Runner even comes to mind when viewing some of the more dramatic and moody images, and the process of creating these was easier than the average non-Photoshop insider might assume.

First, I kept my eyes peeled for the scenes that I thought would lend themselves well to the ultimate vision I had of them, and after coming to town for a few hours, I always come back with some great options. . Once I’ve settled into edit mode, I start by choosing an appropriate image for the process and doing some basic tweaking in Adobe Lightroom to adjust contrast, curves and saturation, then exporting it to Photoshop. Immediately I duplicate the background layer so I just work on the duplicate and the original is kept.

Under the Filters tab, a subcategory called Blur Galleries contains the Path Blur tool, and clicking on it will take you to a new screen. Here you will first adjust the direction of the blur with the blue line, which you can remove and replace or simply adjust to your liking. I went with a vertical orientation to match the construction lines. The sliders on the right change the intensity and appearance of the blur, and you can simply adjust them to your liking once your blue direction line is set correctly. Once you are satisfied with the blur, click OK to return to the main screen and the blur will be applied. Next, we’ll make sure that only the desired areas of the image have received the path blur.

This is done with a layer mask, which you want to invert after applying, so instead of painting the blur, we’ll paint it where we want by applying white to the layer mask. After creating the layer mask on your top layer and inverting it, the blur will disappear, hidden by the mask. Then I take a brush, and leaving the opacity and flow at 100%, I started painting the blur on the tops of the tallest building in the scene. After adding some blur at the top, I reduce the brush flow by 50% and start painting the blur even lower. I repeat this process another time or as many times as necessary in order to create the effect of a gradual phase between the blurred and unblurred areas of the image.

After all, the creative effect of intentional blurring for scenes like this is clear, but be careful not to go overboard with the effect, lest you fall into the trap of simply using techniques as a trend instead as the appropriate tool it may be.

This is just one example of how you can broaden your perspective on how to shoot a genre of photography and create in the way you think is best for your art.

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