Hunting – vs – Fishing in Street Photography

Street Photography can be approached from two very different ends – by spotting an interesting subject and “hunting” it down for interesting shots, or by finding an interesting frame with great lighting conditions and then waiting or “fishing” for an appropriate subject to walk into the frame before pressing the shutter release button.

As Anna Tropniko explains: “They’re exactly what they sound like — running around town/countryside at a rapid pace to chase after interesting prey (subjects), or finding the perfect setting and waiting for the right fish (person) to swim by.” Anna even explains the nuances of each of these types of street photographers.

Nuances of “Hunter” Street Photographers:

Photograph by Vivian Maier – Hunter type Photographer
  1. Changing pace to match that of the crowd (and blend into your surroundings better).
  2. Discreetly stalking an interesting subject to find the perfect moment of capture (creepy, but technically feasible).
  3. Emerging from camouflage to photograph fast and catch a subject unawares (and hence, hopefully with the most candid expression).
  4. Approaching a person and talking to them at length. This takes some courage, but if done right, can result in an incredible, up-close shot.

Nuances of “Fisher” Street Photographer:

Photograph by Henri Cartier Bresson – Fisher type Photographer
  1. Looking for the best scenery/setting before considering its subjects.
  2. Assessing a potential photograph based on a group of people, rather than seeking out individuals.
  3. Paying attention to architecture, lines, patterns, and geometry.
  4. Making the people in your surroundings become accustomed to your constant presence in that space.

The fishing technique is thus the exact opposite of the hunting technique. In the fishing technique, we stand in one spot we like very patiently and then wait for the apparently right subject to walk into the scene. In the hunting technique, we are constantly walking and constantly searching for moments while on the way. Nico Harold is another street photographer who gives a ton of tips to both hunter-type and fisher-type street photographers to optimize their approaches and make the best shots they can.

Tips for “Hunter” Street Photographers:

Photograph by Vivian Maier – Hunter type Photographer
  1. Aperture f5.6 at APSC sensor (depth of field like f8 at full frame equivalent), Shutter speed 1/1000, ISO Auto (from ISO 200 to ISO 6400) and Autofocus.
  2. Mostly using Aperture priority mode: keep camera’s setting as simple as possible so you can invest energy in hunting moments instead fiddling around with camera setting.
  3. When hunting while walking (literally keep walking, not even stop a single step), let yourself see things with gut (feeling) more than logical sense. You do not need to care whether it is an artistic moment or not, as long as it attracts you and I like it then I will snap first and decide later whether it was good moment or not.
  4. Walk inside a crowd place (like inside traditional market in busy hour), raise camera like we want to shoot video, and start pointing our camera to any subject that attract us. Do not put down your camera after took shots, just keep your hand steady and move it right-left or up-down like someone who documenting things in video mode.
  5. Hunt unique looking subject while they are in the middle of  having conversation or interaction with other people. Hunting Technique means we capture photos rapidly in short time, perhaps 2-3 shoots max. People who are busy with something will not recognize or care about us. This way we can freely capture their candid moment without interrupting them.
  6. Always have your camera with you, be ready to shoot anywhere and everywhere.
  7. Always pay more attention to unique subjects. Unique subject means person who stand out or simply different than the others.
  8. Do not only pay attention to only people surround us, but also other people that still in distance. Look for subject that “different” than the others, then walk toward them and shoot.

Tips for “Fisher” Street Photographers:

Photograph by Henri Cartier Bresson – Fisher type Photographer
  1. Shooting street is not always about speed (speed of  camera’s autofocus, speed of camera’s turn-on time, speed of our eyes look for interesting subject, and speed of how fast we point out camera to subject). They are exactly what you need if you are use Hunting Technique. In Fishing Technique the most important role is: Being a patient person.
  2. Use high shutter speed (minimum is 1/500s, or 1/1000s for faster action), programable ISO setting (ISO 200 – ISO 6400), and adjust aperture setting depend on the scene. Use AF-Lock feature.
  3. Make use of the golden hour. Sky colours are usually more beautiful (great for background), and lower angle of sun’s position means easier to create silhouette effect.
  4. Any conditions that create silhouette, shadow, or reflection effect usually are good places to start with. Looks for strong light sources like sun, advertising board, bright street lamp, etc. Strong light is the main thing to create strong contrast.
  5. Search a spot that “confusing” or weird to look. The weirder the scene, usually lead to create more creative result. Let the viewers think and use their imagination to interpret our artistic photos.
  6. Be patient with action you want to capture, let it becomes a tense moment before take the shoot.
  7. Always try to not pay attention only people around you, but also people from further away that we can predict if there is a chance they will passed our frame. Visualize it before the moment itself happen in front of us.
  8. When you do the fishing technique, and you feel you already got a good photo, do not just leave the site immediately. Wait more and try to capture more. Give at least a little extra time there, just in case something (or subject) with even more unique looks will appear. Also, if you have chance to go back to that place at the next day, you can give a try to shoot there again to get even better moment.

Keep experimenting with both of these approaches and pick one which suits best with your personality.