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Shoot from the Hip

The modern definition of the term ‘Shoot from the Hip’ means to react quickly or speak quickly without thought. Of course, it originated from the time people would shoot a firearm quickly without looking, directly from the holster. At some point in between, a photographer chanced upon a new technique and stole the expression to describe it.

One area of Photography that I occasionally feature but rarely talk about is Street  and Urban photography. I love it! There’s something particularly satisfying about getting a powerful image from a casual stroll around a city centre location, whether that’s one that includes people or just a street scene.

It's not easy getting a candid shot of people. Well known Irish Photographer, Eamonn Doyle, by his own admission, finds pointing a camera in people's faces quite intrusive. I feel the same, it also makes it very difficult to get people to look natural. One technique that I love to try is ‘shooting from the hip’ As the name would suggest it’s holding the camera by your side and discretely pressing the shutter button as you pass by a subject or doing the same as they pass you. It's a technique that I have tried frequently but have never mastered but once you do get a good shot it feeds a desire to keep practising until you get better.

Since the inception of Digital Photography, the element of surprise has been removed from our profession. With instant results available on the back of the camera you can immediately see what you shot. Shooting from the hip is a little different. Of course, you can immediately look at the camera after you’ve taken the shot but that sort of gives away the fact that you’re doing what you’re doing so I prefer to keep looking around as I continue to fire off the shutter and then checking out the results as I upload to Lightroom. In all honesty, I probably bin 90% of all I’ve shot but then I discover I caught one just right and that's the money shot.

The technique itself takes a lot of practice. Firstly, learning just how to hold the camera without it looking obvious what you’re doing. Next trying to make sure it’s as level as possible. You also have to figure out how to press the shutter button down without causing too much movement. After factoring in things like shutter speeds, aperture settings etc, you can see it’s quite a minefield. But the fun is in the trying…and believe me, as soon as you get one great shot, you’ll want to keep trying the technique. The beauty is getting those candid shots of unsuspecting people that look perfectly natural.

When starting out, I’d be inclined to use your kit lens or something like a 24-70mm zoom, opened to the widest angle. That way, you get as much of the scene in as possible. I tend to use my 50mm Prime lens now as I’m fairly confident I know the right distance and angle I need to be standing at to get the subject in the shot but 50mm is fairly close so until you master the technique it’s probably best to start at 24mm. I would set a fast shutter speed too. When you start out, the camera will be moving all over the place so you’ll need to ensure everything is pin sharp by setting a shutter speed of at least 1/200s. Don’t go near the aperture until you’ve mastered the above, let the camera do the rest.

Don’t be put off if you get home after your first effort and find you have to delete everything, I still do, although, occasionally, you might get images like this...

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