Dragon Phoenix
Dragon Phoenix

For today I’m going to focus on getting good photos of street art, namely murals and graffiti.

There’s a couple nasty pitfalls here that aren’t, in my experience, always avoidable.  Meaning, you just have to  work with them the best you can.

Item the first: stuff in the way.  This ranges from mild (pedestrians, who you can wait for to walk past or take long exposures) to medium (trash cans at the curb) to downright crapola (parked cars or delivery trucks).  The workaround, such as it is, often involves taking the shot at an angle or some degree.  This can give fun results sometimes, as here:

Blue Dragon
Blue Dragon

Or it can yield annoyingly (to me) distorted results, as here:


One other thing that I suspect can help this is a tilt-shift lens.  These are used to correct perspective, typically vertical for shooting tall things, but I see no reason it can’t apply horizontally as well.  I intend to try it when I can scrounge up enough money to buy one.

Item the second: location.  Not all street art is in “friendly” places.  Especially with graffiti, it can often be in dodgy areas.  Best to go with as many people as possible – one person alone can be a target.  And if you can get a local guide/fixer, that’s ideal.

But it can yield great results, as seen here at an abandoned railyard:

Abadoned Railyard
Abadoned Railyard
Street Art
Street Art

But above all, whether in a sketchy area or dodging traffic, be careful!  The commission on a sale will not cover a medical bill for getting nailed by a car, unless you make TONS of money, in which case hire an assistant to do the dangerous stuff for you.

On a more mundane level … shooting technique.

For murals in daylight, I tend to go handheld with ISO 400, aperture of f/5.6 to f/11 (as small as I can get away with), and shutter speeds of around 1/120 – 1/200.  If you have a tripod of course this can change dramatically, to your taste.

Nighttime, of course, a tripod is no longer optional, nor is a remote release.  But as seen in the night railyard shot above, it can be fun, especially if folks are wandering about with flashlights and glow sticks.

So be safe, have fun, and happy shooting!

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