Urban Photographs and Stories by Kevin OConnell

A black and white street photography image of a man sitting on a chair with snow all around.

First of all, a little about me and why I love street photography. 

 *The Short & Sweet Version* 

40 years experience working with both film and digital photography, an endless supply of creativity with a big dose of “are you sure you should do that” HELL YES!!

*Best Street Photographers of 2019*

Why Street Photography 

 Street Portraits and one of a kind Urban Scenes will always be new and fresh and the most interesting. Fine art street photography is a newly recognized style that has become more popular than just regular street. Even though regular street photography is the ability to use a quick trigger, while understanding composition in the blink of an eye, fine art street seems to be a new movement that combines snapping with conceptual idea planning. Although this is really nothing new. its just more recognized now, because of the invention of digital photography and the influx of people that can use cameras now.

If you have ever tried it, you will realize it’s probably the hardest photography to learn. Let’s face it; 30 years from now, when you look at pictures online, in a photo book, or wherever, landscapes and architecture start to get boring. How many times do you want to see the same image, shot by thousands upon thousands of imagers. When you shoot street photography, your getting a once in a lifetime image that will never be duplicated. I’m not talking about a stationary front of a building, but being able to tell a story about the image your shooting, in many different situations.

In this article, I’m going to give you a few street photography tips and techniques that do very well for myself, but with photography, you will need to find your own way eventually, or it won’t be satisfying. The mistakes you will make in the beginning will be many, believe me. When I started street photography in 2000, it took me six months of continuous work until I finally got it. Once you figure that out, it’s gravy.

Chicago Street Photography Image Fine Art Street Photography Image of a couple with there dogs

*A Couple Tips*

Should You Bring A Tripod?

a street photography image of daily life in chicago's chinatown
Chicago Chinatown

Yes – Yes -Yes – A tripod can be a very valuable part of your process that should never be overlooked. It’s not that this is needed for long exposure, or to keep things steady, it’s all about having the right tool at the right time. I use a tripod in many situations in street photography, to take the focus away from myself.

If you’re walking around with a camera around your neck, or holding it up to your peepers, everyone will turn away. If it’s set up on your tripod, you can have a remote or cable release to shoot without anyone knowing. Also, it can give you a chance to look someone dead in the eye and them back at you, before you shoot. This isn’t the only way to shoot street photography however, but another excellent proven method I use.  Not needed all the time, but try it for certain things. 

Camera Equipment

A fine art street black and white picture of a homeless young man and his dog.
Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Anything that you know how to use the right way. When I say the right way, here is what I mean. You should know what composition and lighting mean, even if you’re using your phone. Yes, with modern technology anyone can snap a picture and even get lucky with a couple great pics, but that wont last and you will be yet another self called (photographer) taking up space on the net. Learn your trade guys!!

As far as cameras go, it doesn’t matter much, as long as you can get the right lenses to go with that camera. In the beginning, I used a Fuji S1 Pro 3meg, yes 3 megs. I also used a 1961 medium format Bronica film camera.

What Lens is Best for Street Photography

I see this question everywhere, and I have to tell you, I thought it was so important until I started using what I had. You can use anything you like! In fact why not try a portrait lens for everything, or a wide angle whatever. Once you learn what street images look best with that lens, you will have more interesting shots. A different look that may even become the (LOOK).

At this time, I use a Tamron 90mm macro lens and love it. I may go to an 85mm or a 105mm next. Then I am thinking of getting a 24-70mm. Give whatever you have a try and see what it looks like before you spend tons of money getting what everyone else tells you to get.

A few pics from the 3meg Fuji from the Chicago Street Photography Collection

90mm Macro Lens

Talk To People

If I didn’t talk to these homeless men and women, I would have never known that one was a very accomplished painter, another living on the streets  with two cancers and the other trying to save his money for a prostheses leg.

There is nothing worse than taking street photography with a zoom lens. It may work in some cases, but don’t walk around hiding behind your lens. Mingle a little with people that look interesting and that don’t look interesting. Remember, Street Photography is about telling a story threw your images. When you know someones story, it is easier to photograph them in the right way. It also brings emotions out of your subject that you would never have gotten. Some images are best when you just catch the moment at the right time and those are the special ones. No need to talk to anyone or ask for permission.

Check and double check

When I am in my city of Chicago, walking around, looking for that special image, I am always checking the lighting and re-setting my camera. You may just keep your camera on aperture priority, shutter priority or auto. Just make sure you are ready to get that shot quickly. Also make sure you have the right focus settings. Nothing worse that shooting a once in a lifetime scene, that is not usable because your lens didn’t focus right. This is also when a good lens is worth every extra penny you spend.

In conclusion, just have fun, learn the most you can, mostly by making mistakes. Also if you can help out your community in any way, or someone in need – Please Do It!! It doesn’t take much to give a buck or ask a person in need if they are okay. A smile goes a long way.

Newest Fine Art Street Photos

Don’t miss these controversial images by Kevin O’Connell. He leans more towards the wholesome funny side of street photography that will have you in stitches (laughing) or thinking about what in the hell is going on here.

A fake monk on a cell phone ordering a pizza
Pizza Delivery
A weekend tourist with tons of gear around her neck reading a city attractions book
Weekend Warrior – Tourist

If you want to keep updated on my work, follow me on Instagram @chitown_storyteller

or Book a Chicago Photography Workshop ( Here )


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