When it comes to street photography techniques, hip shooting is probably one of the most popular. When most people use this technique, most have no idea of the outcome because their viewfinder or the screen is obstructed. But just because you can't see where you are shooting, doesn't mean that you have to shoot blindly: Enter the floating viewfinder technique.
Why photograph without looking
When I am in Street Photography mode, I usually go out with my Ricoh GRD IV, and I sometimes shoot without looking at the screen. Here's a few reason for doing so:
– If your screen doesn't flip.
– You rely less on luck and more on your skills.
– You can be looking in a direction yet shooting another direction. Helps not to disturb the scene.
– It saves precious time. Sometimes things happen so fast that you don't even have time to look at the screen. This puts more odds in your favor.
– You anticipate shots better and avoid surprises when you are ready to shoot. When you have an image in your mind's eye, and when you put the camera up and you see a completely different image, you will loose time by trying to reframe and recompose.
– You will be able to previsualize more accurately
I'm not saying that I shoot 100% without looking, I just shoot by looking and not looking seamlessly. It's a helpful skill to have.
The Floating viewfinder
The trick to photograph without looking at the screen, in essence is easy. Wherever you point your camera, you have to mentally form a point from your camera's lens to the part where the framelines are. Here's what I mean:
On paper, this is easy. On the practical side of things…there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that it can a year to develop. The good new is that it can take a year to develop passively or intuitively. If you do the things below to train yourself so see the viewfinder floating, you will be able to do it in no time.
Step1 : Choose your focal length
The first thing to do is to choose your focal length. For my camera, it's easy, it's 28mm, for something like the Fuji x100s, it's 35mm, if you have a zoom, you have to select the focal length you want to work with. You also have to select what aspect ratio you want to work with 16:9? 3:2? It's all up to you.
Step 2: Learning your focal length
Now it's time to hit the streets with your camera in your hand, but this time, it's not about shooting, it's about learning your focal length. So go ahead an go someplace, look and take a guess, how your frame will be if you put the camera up to your eye.
Make note of the corners, where you think your frame will be. And then put your camera up to your eye. Was your frame bigger or smaller than expected? Make a mental note of all that. Do this for multiple scenes until you get the hang of it. I would recommend you do that a few days because when you sleep your mind plays back the day so that it can learn from it. This exercice helps you be consciously aware of your framelines when you don't have a camera at hand.
Step 3: Frameline-hand coordination
Congrats! Now you know your framelines! But you are not out of the water yet, you still have to lean how the movements of your hands impact the frame. So when you know where your frameline hits, go out again and do the same thing, look at the scene and anticipate your framelines. But this time around, take your camera and put it at an angle without looking at the screen and anticipate your new framelines.
Then look at your screen to see how far or close you were. Do this multiple times and sleep on it, you will eventually be able to move your camera and anticipate where the framelines will hit. This exercise builds upon the first, and helps you brain associate your hand movements to your frameline.
Step 4: Removing the camera
At some point, after the exercises, you will be able to anticipate your framelines 90-95% of the time. Then and there you will not need the help of a camera to anticipate a frame, you will be able to walk into a scene and successfully anticipate your shot with no surprises when you put your camera up. I find it useful to always “calibrate” myself and check to see if I can hit my framelines from time to time.
Once you get the hang of it, you can get pretty cool shots when your view is obsctructed like when hip shooting or shooting with the camera dangling on your neck. Now go out and do great things 🙂 Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.