Cities are vibrant, colorful and multi-textured, and a good way to capture this colour and texture is to seek out and photograph street art…
Approaching the shot
Finding suitable subjects is half the battle when looking for signs and graffiti, but once you’ve found them the viewpoint is the main decision you have to make.
The main factor in this is the background – if there is a suitable backdrop you can shoot along the street, to include the surroundings.
The alternative approach, especially if the surroundings aren’t photogenic, is to shoot the subject head-on.
A standard 35mm or 50mm lens is great for shooting signs and graffiti. These tend to offer a wide maximum aperture for isolating different areas of the image (by blurring out foreground and background) and also have very little distortion, so that areas at the edges of the image remain straight, rather than curved.
When including the street as a backdrop you will need to decide whether to blur the background or keep it sharp, so as with portraits, the aperture is the key setting you need to control when shooting signs and graffiti.
You should choose a wide aperture to blur out the foreground and background, but remember that you’ll usually need to keep most of the main subject sharp, too.
A setting like f/4 or f/5.6 is usually a good compromise.
Things to watch out for…
Graffiti is often located in areas that aren’t the safest to walk around, so you need to keep a close watch on your surroundings and your gear.
It’s all too easy to become engrossed in what you’re shooting, so if possible take a friend along, as it’s usually safer if another person can watch out for any likely issues, and avoid them before they become problems.
In terms of the subject itself, keep an eye out for complimentary colours – in our shot, the bright whites and yellows work well against the deep, vibrant blues of the door.
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