Thirdeyemom

La Paz: A Lesson in Street Photography

La Paz is one of the most colorful, vibrant places I have ever been. Ranking high on the list with such photogenic darlings as India and Cuba, the endless opportunities to take pictures makes you never once put your camera away for fear that you will miss something great. You could seriously spend a week just walking around the winding, lively streets of the city taking thousands of photos. Unfortunately I only had a few days meaning I had to take as many as possible without the correct lighting or framing of the shot. Nevertheless, I am happy with the colorful captures I was able to get despite my hasty, rushed approach.

It took me weeks to sort through and edit my collection of photos. When I finally edited the very last photo, I was elated. However, at first glance I was also a tad bit disappointed. Looking back now, I realize that La Paz taught me a hard lesson in street photography. It is not as easy or simple as it seems.

Trying to capture random pictures of everyday life without attracting too much attention is difficult. I love to photograph every day people yet there is often a fine line between asking for their permission to get a shot or just taking it on the sly. It can feel like an invasion of privacy and if you are caught you may get an angry stare or worse.

My general rule of thumb when photographing people is that if they are only a part of the scene I am taking, then I generally don’t ask. I take the photo from far away and get the entire scene.  If I want a closer view of the subject, I crop it later when I am editing in Lightroom. If the photo is exclusively of a person and I need a close up shot, then I always ask their permission. The unfortunate part is that sometimes a shot that is not candid just doesn’t turn out as well. But I’d rather be respectful and ask permission than chance upsetting someone.

Another lesson I learned about street photography on this trip is that timing is everything. I may see the perfect photo but if my camera is not ready at that exact moment in time or if a bus or car drive through the photo, then it is ruined. La Paz is a very busy place with people, cars, buses, and tourists everywhere.  Oftentimes I would try my best to get a shot when all the sudden a pedestrian would walk right past my camera as I snap. If I was traveling on my own, I could try again but I’m usually always with an impatient non-blogger who doesn’t want to spend the entire day stopping every step to take pictures!

Timing is also important when it comes to the location of the sun. When you are only in a destination for a couple of days, you just have to take your chances on the photos. The sun may be in the worst spot possible but if I really like something than I take the photo anyway knowing even if it is not the best, at least I got it.

The last lesson I learned is that to be a true street photographer takes incredible talent. I’m just an amateur photographer who loves to capture the world through my eyes. Sometimes I get lucky and a photo I take turns out really great. But I acknowledge the fact that I am no expert. If my photos aren’t perfect that is ok. As long as they show the world through my eyes and help me share what I have seen, then I’ve done my job.

The next series of my Bolivia posts will all revolve around street photography. Here is a preview of the different subjects:

Street Art

Street Art in La Paz, Bolivia

People

People in La Paz, Bolivia

Daily Life

Street Music in La Paz, Bolivia

Street Vendors

Street Vendors La Paz, Bolivia

Colors

Colorful Building in La Paz, Bolivia

Markets

Black Market in La Paz, Bolivia

 

I am excited to share with you my upcoming posts from La Paz. They are bound to be bright and colorful. Stay tuned….

40 comments

  1. The colors are wonderful! I agree with your street photo tips, I certainly agree with your tips on getting permission for close up shots. I too have had less spontaneous pictures after I ask permission, but it is still the right thing to do. Most of my pics are taken as a street scene from a distance. I have yet to find such colorful pics here in the midwest. Our colors just seem a bit drab!

    • Thanks Carol for the comment! For some reason, my street photos from Cuba turned out way better than in La Paz. Not sure exactly why. Could have just been luck. Yes, living here in MN covered in snow I am longing for color so I have enjoyed working on these photos a lot! More color coming soon!

  2. Amy

    Street shot is not as easy as it looks on the picture. I don’t take street shot at all, I’m too slow. 🙂 Love these photos, Nicole!

  3. J

    Wow…these colors are extraordinary….I wish my neighborhood was this colorfully lit…..everything where I am is so grey even though I live in California. :-/

  4. Nicole, I am so glad you posted about the lessons you have learned with street photography. I often think the same thoughts…should I ask permission? But, if I do, it will spoil the spontaneity of the shot? And the most important thing is…you are exactly right…the timing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a perfect shot by a millisecond. Sometimes you get lucky, though. More often than not, I don’t…but the great thing about digital photography is that we don’t have to go through that laborious process of getting the film developed. 🙂

    • Very true! I love that we can take as many pictures as possible and just delete the bad ones! It is so much better! If I am alone I can do much better at taking pictures on the street as I’m not as hurried or rushed. But normally when I travel I’m not alone so who ever is with me gets the annoyance of having to stop and wait a zillion times. oh well!

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