3rd and 4th Street Photography Workshops in Aid of The Hope Foundation, Kolkata — 3rd November 2014 and the 2nd Feb 2015

3rd and 4th Street Photography Workshops in Aid of The Hope Foundation, Kolkata.

3rd November 2014 and the 2nd Feb 2015


I am really happy to announce two upcoming  street photography workshops based in Kolkata, India.  These workshops are being run to raise money for The Hope Foundation and are the 3rd and 4th workshops that I shall have run in Kolkata. The last two were well attended, informative and a lot of fun. More importantly they raised a great deal of money for HOPE, an NGO that is doing amazing work with street  and slum children in Kolkata. Please see below for details.



About me.

My name is Mark Carey and I am a professional photographer based in London.  In the spring and summer I  shoot documentary weddings in the UK and  in the winter I  shoot street, travel and documentary photographs abroad. I have photographed all over Europe and South East Asia but the last couple of years I have been drawn strongly to India in particular and have been pleased to have developed an association with The Hope Foundation and have been privileged to photographically document many of their fascinating projects in Kolkata. I am proud to be a member of the Indian street photography collective ‘Thats life’ and you can see an interview about shooting in India and my attitude to street photography in general here: Interview with Eric Kim.  Please also feel free to flick through my travel and documentary  galleries  on this site to get an idea of my shooting style.  You can also find me on Facebook for my latest work.



Hope Foundation administer primary health care at Solo Bigha slum.


About The Hope Foundation. 

Over 250,000 children are forced to exist on the streets of Kolkata (Calcutta). Around five million people live in horrific conditions in slums. They do not have clean water; children are often hungry and diahorrea and skin diseases are common.

To survive, children scavenge in rubbish dumps to find scraps to sell or beg on the streets. Most are not in school and have poor health. Many children are abandoned and are at high risk of abuse, exploitation and child trafficking.

We work with committed people and organisations to change these children’s lives. We fund and support projects in health, nutrition, child protection and education. We also advocate for better services and seek ways to support access to Government programmes.

HOPE believes in sustainable development. We partner with 14 local Indian NGOs and currently fund over 60 projects for street and slum children and their families in: education, healthcare, child protection, nutrition, drug rehabilitation and vocational training.

As well as these front line projects, HOPE has created innovative programmes to highlight and tackle complex cultural issues, such as child labour and child trafficking.

For more information please see The Hope Foundation’s website:





So, what is Street photography?  

Street photography for me is about shooting engaging images, usually candidly, on the streets and in other public places.  In most instances we shall be trying to document street life where people are not posing for the camera and we shall  thinking about our backgrounds and environments to use as strong compositional elements. Some examples can be seen at the end of this article.



About the workshop.

I shall be running this these  two workshops in aid of The Hope Foundation from the 3rd November  2014  and from the 2nd of Feb 2015. Both workshops run for 7 days.  I have conducted two previous workshops in aid of HOPE in Kolkata and they were attended by six photographers, on both occasions  from Ireland, France, Belgium, Portugal, Australia and the UK.  Both were great successes.

The cost of attending the upcoming workshops will be £550/Euro645  per person and this fee will go entirely to The Hope Foundation to help fund the amazing work they carry out in Kolkata, changing the lives of children and adolescents. The fee is for the cost of the workshop only and does not include any other costs. Accommodation, food, travel expenses are not included and should be paid directly to the provider of that service. I shall not be receiving any funds for myself or to pass on to any third party for any service and payment for the workshop will be made directly to HOPE.

As this fee is a donation to HOPE to support their many projects then this amount can be fundraised by you e.g. by holding a coffee morning, a table quiz, bagpack etc.  HOPE would be happy to help you with a fundraising plan if you chose this option.

Participants must make sure they make proper arrangements for travel and health insurance and have have the appropriate inoculations for travelling in this area of the world. HOPE will provide an advice sheet on such matters.

These are 7 day workshops.  Each day after a swift breakfast we will be getting out and about on the streets reasonably early  to make the best of the morning light. The days are very hot and long and we will need to pace ourselves to get the best out of our days photographically. We will also get out some evenings to do a bit of night shooting as well. Realistically though I have found mid to late afternoon and evenings will be our most rewarding times —  but basically we shall find an itinerary that suits the group as a whole. There are also plenty of shaded areas to shoot in during the heat of the day as well as visiting HOPE projects. Whilst shooting  we may be accompanied by photographers who have local knowledge of the area and the local language, Bengali.

The morning shoots will be followed by lunch  and then we  can have an informal critique session back at our accommodation or when we are out and about. In this critique and general discussion time we shall examine techniques of composition, timing and exposure whilst reviewing images  on our laptops.  Our group will be relatively small  - I am aiming for 6–8 of us including me and perhaps a local guide. I will have plenty of one to one time with attendees and this will largely be in the evening. At times, depending on the area we are in, we can split up into smaller groups of 3’s and 4’s so that we don’t all crowd our subjects and come over like a herd of ‘snap-happy’ tourists. We will always be safe and always fix a meeting point. Our occasional local guides will be invaluable to get us to the places that regular tourists would perhaps find difficult to navigate.  A maximum number of 8 will also make getting around in taxis ( which are already cheap)  more economical since a taxi will seat 4 passengers.

The evenings will be a time to relax, download our memory cards and do as we wish and I will critique images then and suggest changes that you may wish to implement the following day.

I will help photographers with technical issues with their cameras ( if they need it) and show them how to get the best out of their SLR’s  particularly if they have been shooting in Auto or priority modes eg Aperture Priority. I believe shooting manual may be scary but is a must if you are going to get the exact exposure you want — not the one exposure the camera guesses that you want. Perhaps learning to shoot fully manual exposure will be a little slow at first but it is my belief that with discipline one quickly becomes quicker and the need for speed in street photography is usually unnecessary. Contrary to popular belief good street photography is not necessarily about snatching that moment. I will demonstrate the importance of being quiet, being sensitive to your surroundings, being patient and thinking ahead. There will however be time when shooting in priority modes may be more effective and I shall advise you how and when to shoot like this.

Importantly, I will only be acting only as a guide for your photography — we must each find our own style that is within us. I will not be prescriptive about how you shoot but more suggest from time to time that you may wish to try something you haven’t considered. It is not my intention to help people shoot like me but try and find the best version  of their own photographic self that they can. This will come  by sharpening up some  of your shooting techniques and encouraging you to look at things in a different way.  I am sure that by the end of the  day we will have all have learned something new from each other since that is usually the way of these things — I shall just be the person to facilitate this.


During the course we shall be looking that the following sorts of topics:

  • How to shoot engaging images whilst remaining unobtrusive.
  • Shooting in low light.
  • Composition and framing.
  • Different exposures for different kinds of lighting conditions.
  • Workflow — getting the best out of your images. Dealing with raw files.
  • Focusing tips and tricks, exposure and general camera tuition if needed.


Attendees should have with them the following:

  • A digital SLR and manual for that camera if they are unfamiliar with the settings or something of reasonable quality like a Fuji x100 or similar.
  • A lens or lenses, preferably wide angle. 24-50mm is encouraged. I rarely shoot above 50mm and discourage longer lenses than this for street photography.
  • A laptop and software — I use Adobe Lightroom and this software will be the basis of dealing with all our processing.
  • A memory card reader.


Where shall we stay? 

Accommodation is presently being arranged. We are looking at places to stay where we we will be in the heart of the community rather than at an expensive hotel. The place we are currently looking at has clean rooms and is a family run hotel previously used for HOPE volunteers. A typical tariff is INR 2800/ (Aprox 30 sterling and 30 Euro) for per night double occupancy  and INR 2200/ for single occupancy  including breakfast.  We have presently blocked out 6 rooms that can be used as either singles or doubles.


Visiting  HOPE Centres and Projects.

During the course of the 7 days we will make a 2 or 3 of visits to The Hope Foundation projects so attendees of the workshop can see where their money is going. These are some of the most interesting parts of the workshop and we will have unique access to slums , the HOPE hospital and other projects. We may  possibly also be able to go out with the HOPE  ‘Night ambulance’ visiting and picking up people in distress on the streets of Kolkata.

If we are shooting anyone involved in any HOPE  projects we must adhere to the code of images & messages reference Dochas,


Who should you be?

This workshop is open to all. The only criteria it that you love photography and are prepared to be courteous to the people we are shooting in our host nation, India. We will be shooting sensitively and not making a big hullabaloo where ever we go, not acting like a herd of tourists snapping and moving on. We won’t be marching down the streets and descending upon some ‘interesting character, sticking our cameras in his or her  face. I hope we shall be treading softly in our environment and this is how we will get the best images.

In terms of camera expertise your passion for photography will be more important than your technical knowledge. I will endeavour to help people with their technical problems if they need it but if you are a complete beginner please be aware that I will be having to divide my time fairly between participants. Ideally you will have some form of SLR and a laptop. If you dont have Adobe Lightroom on your laptop that is not absolutely necessary but it will be very helpful.



The accommodation, travel arrangements, appropriate inoculations, and visas will be the responsibility of the participants but HOPE and I will liaise with you to endeavour that this goes smoothly.  Your accommodation will be paid directly to the place we stay.  I will try and help in whatever way I can but please be aware that Kolkata is not my home town. I have shot in India many times and will assist as much as I can, but people need to be comfortable getting around in India. My personal responsibility extends only as far as going out with the participants each day and helping them improve their photography. Once the hotel is booked then our daily arrangements shouldn’t be too complicated though. India is an immensely friendly place and Im sure we will have plenty of people to assist us should we need it. I personally know many people in Kolkata who can help us if we need them and have never worried for my safety.

Many thanks for reading and anyone interested in joining this workshop should  please send me an email to: 



A few images now from my last trip to Kolkata: 

Making shapes with elements of your pictures is very important to your compositions. We will be talking alot about using strong shapes and lines in our images.


We will be stopping at plenty of chai shops — They are often a great place to relax and shoot.


Looking for clean frames can be a challenge in Kolkata.


street photography India

The lanes of North Kolkata are street photographers dream. Shooting fully manual will allow you to shoot ‘low key’ images like this one.


Night shooting near Rabindra Sadan.


Everyone is interesting — even cinema ticket vendors!


Composing simple scenes can be very rewarding.


Ill be sharing some techniques to get close to your subjects sometimes without getting cheesy smiles or upsetting anyone.


Expressions are everything! There are techniques to get expressions like this without posing your subjects. Its not all about ‘snap and run’ much more about ‘settle in and wait’!



 Attendees of the 11 November 2013 workshop.

Photographing the infamous Tollygunge bus stop chicken on our way out to eat at a local restaurant.


Kevin and Tina with our friend and local guide Manjit.


Stuart at Kiddipur slum school.


Marcia shooting at the HOPE hospital.



The local curd is always a favourite. Stuart showing off his ‘leaf’ spoon here.


Tina and Julie have obviously photographed something hilarious.


Days are fuelled by regular chai breaks. The two Kevins here in an uncharacteristic posed image.


This guy was running around scaring all the girls with his rubber snake. I like it — keeping it old school.


The full crew with Maureen, HOPE’s director and founder at Chetla slum.


Attendees of the previous Kolkata workshop, February 2013.


Kelly entertaining the children at Chetla Slum on our first day out.


This little girls face was priceless!


Magali and Barry shooting down at the Ghats.


Margaret wandering the lanes of Kurmatuli, a potters quarter in norther Kolkata.


Jenny takes a break to review her images in Chetla Slum.


Showing Barry how to shoot successfully in very, very low light…


Street photography Workshop India.

This man rewarded us with such a gentle expression.


Mike and Barry visiting of the boys homes. Please remember we must all sign up to the ‘Dochas’ code of conduct, which are principles that protect the human dignity of our subjects particularly when we are shooting images of underprivileged people.




Images of the Hope Foundation projects.

The images below are some pictures that I have taken whilst visiting some of the HOPE centres in Kolkata which I hope give a flavour of the kind of projects HOPE carry out in the community.


Maureen Forest — Founder of the Hope Foundation.


Feeding children at a Hope drop-in feeding centre by Howrah train station many of these survive by collecting plastic bottles from the trains and some are unfortunately addicted to sniffing glue. Hope staff can keep an eye on these children to see if they need further help, taking them into Hope rehabilitation projects if necessary.


Street children, India.

These children will often sleep on the platforms at night.


Collecting plastic bottles from the trains.


HOPE’s school in the heart of Kalighat, one of Kolkata’s main red light area. Here children of sex workers are educated in safety.


Howrah Dump slum one of many slums where HOPE offer protection to those without a family and provide education within the communities.


Howrah Dump.



People living cheek by jowl with animals at Howrah’s municipal dump. These pigs scavenge on the dump all day long.


Out with the ‘Night ambulance’ to collect a lady living in a car park. Her broken leg was poorly re-set in a government hospital and now a severe infection has set in.


Radya, the lady with the infected leg, is taken back to the Hope hospital for emergency treatment.


Arriving at the HOPE hospital.


Radya is settled in for the night. The following day she will have surgery.


HOPE have a well equipped operating theatre at the hospital.


A full team of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses attend to Radya. This hospital costs a great deal of money to function and maintain. Donations are always needed to fund such a large organisation.


The extent of Radyas injuries are clear to see.


The following day Samiran, the man who helped rescue Radya from the car park visits her. She is clearly much happier and pain free.


The same evening as Radya was rescued I came across Ganesh at the hospital. Severely malnourished and weak he was admitted weighing only 8 kg and was 4  years old.


Ganesh’s tiny hand.


Hope arrive at Solo Bigha slum for a primary health care visit. They will spend all day here administering essential medicines in this slum that has very recently suffered extensive fire damage.


Primary health care at Solo Bigha slum


Back at the HOPE cafe and Life-skills centre. It seems like an all day Irish breakfast is always on the menu!



  1. Robert Sail - Looks like a great workshop and you guys had loads of fun.

  2. Peter Majdan - Amazing images, brought back lot of nice memories from my visit, Kolkata is one of the best places for street photography, true cultural capital of India.

  3. Tina Cleary - Best experience, highly recommend if Mark is running anymore of these brilliant workshops.

  4. Damien - Our fellow human beings.

  5. Interview with Travel & Street Photographer Mark Carey | Photo Instinct - [...] run street photography workshops in Kolkata in aid of The Hope Foundation. HOPE is a Kolkata based NGO that exists to change underprivileged [...]

  6. Linus Moran - Inspiring cause with very sympathetic coverage. Great work & best of luck with raising the profile of the Hope Foundation!

  7. Lewis - Beautiful images, sounds like an amazing workshop!

  8. Martin Price - Great images! Really like the low key shot in the lanes of North Kolkata. Good luck with the workshop!

  9. Joseph Hall - Really lovely images Mark. A completely different world. Thanks for sharing : )

  10. Jason - Inspiring work Mark, well done!

  11. Rajesh - Nicely represented. Great Cause !

Leave a Comment

Street Photography technique and psychology. Post number 5. The ‘second look’ — and ‘Neutral zones’ in your picture.


For an explanation of this series and the the conventions used in these posts please see post number 1.

Post number 1. Introduction and Primary and secondary subjects.

Post number 2. My street photography kit.

Post number 3. Clean backgrounds.

Post number 4. Looking for interesting light — backlighting and silhouettes.


Bluel Lane, Jodphur.

                                                                                Blue Lane, Jodphur.


Background to this image.

Jodphur is the 2nd largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan and these blue lanes  are world famous not least because  the amazing travel photographer Steve McCurry returned many times photographing the city and its blue houses. I love Jodhpur too because it’s a really pleasing mixture of being a vibrant, bustling city whilst still retaining a lot of old world charm. No high rises here — just  beautiful old buildings and plenty of cows wandering the streets. Personally I like cows  and other animals in the street and unlike some other Indian cities Jodphur has them in abundance. And, of course, there are the famous blue walls which are easily found,  particularly in the old sector. It is because of these indigo walls are why Jodphur is known Blue city’.





I was walking around this particular area of Jodhpur with a local chap showing me around. He was taking me to the heart of the blue city. The main reason I had a guide on this occasion was because the lanes can be so labyrinthine it is said to be relatively easy to get lost and start wandering around in circles.

So here we were just turning a corner and I was greeted with this lovely vision, indigo blue walls on one side with a strong shaft of light cutting through the pavement. The light was perfect, strong enough to cast defined shadows of the roof tops but gentle enough for the dynamic range of my camera to capture all the detail in the scene. 

The lane was empty and I realised that all I needed was an interesting character to be in that lane at particular place and I will call that place my ‘neutral zone’. I was looking for this area to have two characteristics. It would be a place that was neither in the strong light nor deeper shadow because I want to be able to show subject detail when it reached that spot. Secondly it would have to be an uncluttered space in the frame, typically at an intersection of image thirds or even dead centre for the composition to be pleasing to me. A the neutral zone needs ideally be a place where that subject is in clear space, not having anything in the background or elsewhere that would interfere with showing its shape cleanly. My having a strong line appear to cut through the back of his head, like a window, for example would not be good, in fact it is usually terrible. Let me put it another way – Put your subject in clear space! Put your subject in clear space! Put your subject in clear space!


So to recap – I have an empty scene and I want a subject in my preferred neutral zone and a neutral zone is:

a/somewhere they will neither be to dark or too bright and balanced nicely in the scene composition.

b/somewhere with clear space that frames them without anything cutting across their shape and form.



2/Technical considerations.

There were two main technical considerations for me here in this shot and they were Exposure and Depth of Field. (DOF)

Exposure. I wanted to capture as much detail in highlight and shadow ares as I could and I say that mainly because there was a big, strong shaft of light piercing the scene. Had I allowed this area to burn out because I was exposing for the shadows areas it would have become a great big ugly shaft of ‘no digital information’. Pure white — no detail on the pavement. Because that light is such a broad area, right in the middle of the scene I I knew it would have been pretty hideous. Moreover, even though this scene was pretty contrasty I knew it was late enough in the day for the level of this light to be within my cameras dynamic range and had the possibility looking very nice. If your camera has a huge dynamic range, thats all very good but the image can tend to look a little like an HDR image which is not style I like particularly. My camera has a pretty average dynamic range of about 11.5 EV and if it is possible to capture a fairly contrasty image within that range I know from experience it can be quite pleasing. To give you an idea of dynamic range — my camera, a  Canon 5dmk3 covers a pretty average 11.5 stops and a Nikon d800 will cover 14.5 stops which is a pretty big difference.

So for the exposure I concentrated on not burning out the highlights and I did this by dropping the exposure down and down until the blinking highlights on my camera were no longer blinking. Yes, turn on your blinking highlights. They may look daft on the back of your screen when you show people an image but, oh boy, are they a useful tool. Once I had tweaked down the exposure I just needed to double check that I am not blocking up the blacks on my histogram. I know Im going to have a heavy black side on my histogram but I don’t want throw that digital information away either. Balance out these highlight and shadows and you will have probably a exactly the right exposure and you will have all the digital information to work with in your raw file when you are post processing.


Depth of field. DOF. This shot was taken at f20 which I now realise is probably un unnecessarily high aperture for the depth of field I actually needed. By shooting at f20 I was trying to give myself a huge range of depth of field so that where ever my subject was in the frame, they would be in focus. I pre focused on an area about 3 meters from me and left my focus there. My depth of field at F20 would be 1.8 meters in front of the subject (3m away) to infinity. At F8 my DOF would have been 1.9 m in front and 4.16m behind. F20 was more than I needed and F8 probably not quite enough so F11 would have been about right. The problem is that shooting at higher apertures can give you more DOF but it drives up your ISO because you need to get more light into the camera and also importantly, you lens will not be at its sharpest.

Lens sharpness at various apertures. Generally speaking your lens will be at its sharpest from F8 to F11. If you don’t need a an extremely large DOF then don’t drive it up higher than that. I use this resource for looking at various DOF tables — its the best I have found and makes a very nice iPhone ap too. Ken Rockwell seem to think it doesn’t actually matter and he may well be right. Im sure he knows more than me about this kind of thing. In any case a couple of useful links here.



Histogram for this image.

Histogram for this image.


Prefocusing. So, the general idea of pre focusing is this. If you focus on a place where you think your subject is likely to be walking through, you do you do not then need to keep refocusing or tracking your subject with a focus mode like AI servo or Continuous focusing (Nikon). In this instance, the image above, I could have moved over to some tracking focus mode but since I liked the frame I had, I didn’t really want have to track every subject who came in and out of the scene because that would have meant adjusting my camera position as they moved through the frame. Because of the nature of someone walking slightly diagonally across your frame, a continuous focus mode my not be the best mode to employ because you either need to adjust your focus point position in the viewfinder or keep slightly moving your camera, changing the framing of your each time you moved, albeit slightly. So, you can solve all this by simply working out that if you focus say, 3 m in front of you with a 35mm lens, at F11 more or less everything in your frame a couple of meters in front of you and a lot more behind that will be in acceptable focus. Its a quick and dirty way of focusing that works particularly well with wide lenses because they have a lot more DOF than a more telephoto lens. Remember — Wide lenses (16mm to 35mm) offer a lot of DOF and the longer lenses decrease DOF at the same aperture. So your DOF at 85mm for example will be very small, even at F8. At 200mm it will be tiny.


Wide angle lenses and DOF.

Let me say a little more about wide lenses and this relationship with DOF. I like the 35mm because it offers a frame that I feel very comfortable with. I feel the shots look about the same as I would see with the my own eye in terms of the width of the frame, what I see from edge to edge. There is quite a lot of debate about what lens mimics the human eye best and I hear contrary viewpoints — suffice to say I like the 35mm and I would hazard a guess that it is the most preferred street photography lens, generally speaking. Famously though Cartier Bresson nearly always shot with a 50mm and did so extremely well. When I put a 50mm on and I feel like someone has tied one hand behind my back because I find it so difficult to frame with. Just the addition of the 15mm makes me feel like I am twice as far away!

So, not only do I really love the frame that a 35mm offers but it has added bonus of offering a comparatively large amount of DOF because it is a wide angle lens. It is the  the least wide of the wide angle lenses but nevertheless it is wide angle. This property of offering more DOF for a given aperture can be very useful because it means you often don’t have to worry too much about your whether your subject is in focus — because they probably are, even if you missed focusing on them correctly. This will not be the case of course if you start shooting at say F2.8 and you need to be careful at F4 but, the higher your aperture, the more likely you are going to have good crisp focus with many of your elements in your frame. Imagine 1 man you focus on and another is standing 4 feet behind him, perhaps a dog standing 2 feet in front of the first man — at F10, as long as you are not standing too close to them, they will all be in reasonable focus. If you miss the exact spot you wanted to focus on then it may not be the end of the world, they may still all be within your field of focus because you are using wide angle lens at a high aperture.




So, where is their a psychological element to taking this image? There is a very simple but strong one! As various people walked in and out of my frame and I was shooting quietly away ( remember my camera is always on silent mode) many were looking at me with a look that suggested to me that they were wondering what an earth I was shooting? As usaul I made no eye contact with them that would have suggested I was shooting them or indeed seeking their tacit permission to shoot them. To have such an interaction may have been a nice thing to do but I do not need the distraction of that conversation, I really just want to get the shot and move on. Engaging with your subjects for me is generally something I do after I have shot them, not before.

The first part of this psychology is ask yourself what these people walking into your frame might think you are shooting? For a start, they probably think they have walked into your shot. They may think they have walked into your shot of this lovely lane and spoiled it! They almost certainly have no idea that actually you were actually waiting for them to complete the image.  Sometimes people even hurry past me or they apologise because they think they have ruined  my picture by their presence. Mostly though, they don’t even realise that you are shooting them because I am using  my silent shutter and they are completely lost in thought, too preoccupied to be concerned by what I am doing.

The second instance of a psychological element to this situation is that people walking from behind you into the frame will often be very curious and want to turn around and look again. This is particularly true I believe of younger people, children and adolescents. Why? Because younger people in India mostly love being photographed and they are often as curious ass cats! Ive heard it said that in India if you go and mind your own business and  stand on a remote hilltop,  it wont be long before someone will come all the way up the hill to see what you are doing there. From my experience this is true. Indian people are generally curious, interested folk and I like that very much.

I had a strong idea that after these two boys walked ahead of me, one or both of them would look back to see if I was still shooting this scene while they were in it. I was indeed rewarded with that ‘look back’ — great I thought! Im not a big fan of shooting people backs, I think it usually an un-engaging shot that although works sometimes, but if you do it too often it becomes a rather tired cliché. Like shooting obliquely from the side, I think it can be also be a shot that demonstrates your unwillingness to shoot people from the front. My point is I would not have kept shooting if it wasn’t for the gamble that they would turn around and the gamble obviously paid off. I gambled on my suspicion that they would conform to a particular trait of human nature – curiosity. I have many shots where I have relied on curiosity to provide me with a strong expression in an image and I shall share more of those later in this series of shots.


Tip – if someone is either looking away from you and you know they have already seen you be aware that they may well take another look and it is this ‘look’ that will often become your most rewarding shot. Either keep shooting or be prepared to shoot as soon as they turn to look. The look may quickly turn into a smile that will look like a pose so you have a split second to nail that more ‘natural’ expression.



3/Taking the Shot.

Pretty straight forward once I had framed it up there wasnt much to do other than keep shooting. I simply photographed various characters coming in and out of the scene and once I had got the look back from the boy I was happy I had got a shot I would be happy with. I had other characters appear earlier who had already made reasonably strong image but the boys gesture clinched it for me. The main thing I did was to keep shooting while they were moving, my focus was already locked in one place and then the eventual content is entirely down to luck. Work the scene, don’t give up until you have got the shot.



4/Picture analysis.

Light - pleasantly soft late afternoon light casting quite strong shadows but not so strong as to make the scene beyond the dynamic range of my camera. (5dmk3)

Composition – 1/A leading line — both the strong shadows of the roof on the pavement and the lane in general act as a leading line to what might be considered a secondary subject, that being the pretty blue house details at the end of the lane 

2/It is­ a central composition. The boys, my primary subjects are centred in the frame.

Gesture – the ‘look back’ from the boys, the way they walk and their mirrored body shapes, the fact they are jointly carrying a bag is interesting, the unusual vibrant blue walls.


5/What could I have done better?

The shot is pretty much as I would have liked it. I was careful and had plenty of time to get my exposure just as I wanted it. However, I shot this at F20 which was an error for two reasons. I didn’t need that much depth of field so it forced me to drive my ISO higher than I needed. Shooting at F20 also meant my image might not be as sharp as it could have been because my lens will be sharpest around F8-F11.

It would have been nice to have both boys look back. There wasn’t really anything I could do about this other than wait for a completely different shot which is a consideration. Always a good idea to zoom in and check expressions and eyes being open on your image, you may choose to discard it and wait for a better one.



Thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this post Id love to hear them. You can of course find me on Facebook for my latest work.

© Mark Carey and 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mark Carey and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Mark - Talat - Im humbled by your comments, I really am. I have been very slow in producing more posts in this series but they are very much in the pipeline. I write them when I am travelling but once back in the UK shooting weddings I find it hard to make the time. Soon I will travel again and hopefully find the time to finish it. A book? Who knows? If it were viable I would certainly consider that. All the best. Mark.

  2. Talat Hussain - Mark, I have to concur with all of the positive comments that have come before mine, especially Anurag's comments with respect to your honesty in disclosing where you feel you went wrong and what you could have done better. I'm a huge fan of your work, and like Anurag, I can't quite remember how I stumbled upon your work but I'm so glad I did. Your wedding work is stunning, and in my opinion better than some of the recognised greats in the UK, as you are consistently producing and showcasing new work, and as they are always rotating some of their past best works which made them famous. Your street work echoes some of the greats that you admire, Mccurry, Webb and HCB. To copy or emulate is a form of flattery, but to execute it, get it right technically and make the work your own, which you very clearly do, is another matter. I really appreciate your insight into your own photos, have you considered maybe a few words regarding your post processing techniques, I know you don't like the HDR look, the processing on your street work reminds me of a cross between Webb & Mccurry's work, which really lends well to your pictures. It seems to me you have put a lot of effort into getting the look you desire, and again I really like it, the black and white processing is exemplary, and I'm left admiring each photograph for what seems an age. I for one am grateful to you for your blog, I'm engrossed in your writing, but admittedly more so in the photos...when's the book due? I know you are working alongside a worthy cause in India and run workshops out there, have you considered workshops/mentoring people on UK soil? If you ever have the time I for one would love to meet with you and listen to you over a coffee for a few hours, I'll provide the coffee :D

  3. Mark - Thanks Adam - Im very happy to hear you say that. ;)

  4. Adam Riley - Another great post Mark, I'mr really enjoying this series of posts!

  5. Mark - Thanks Doug - I appreciate your comments.

  6. Mark - Thanks Krish - I really enjoyed shooting with you too ;)

  7. Krishnendu Saha - Superb analysis Mark :) I am proud that I got an opportunity to spend some time with a photographer like you in our city :) God bless...

  8. Doug Foss - I've really enjoyed reading this. and seeing the photo of course. Your preparations and pre-vis made this picture possible. I've had a few lucky grab shots in my life, but most of the photos I've made have required work beforehand. I'm a fan of 35mm lens myself. It is only 15mm to a 50 as you say but that is 42% longer! It is rare to find someone that communicate with both pictures and words. I hope to see more of your works. Thanks!

  9. Margaret Swan - An interesting read Mark - great tip about turning on the blinking highlights - noted, thank you!

  10. Mark - Anurag, yes, there is a lot of work goes into writing these but I find them interesting to do because they make me analyse my own approach which is how hopefully I improve. We learn more from our errors than our successes I think. Thanks for your thoughtful comments it would be great to see your work. Mark.

  11. Anurag Sharma - Mark, I'm not sure how I discovered your work. Probably through the myriad of possible 6 degree separations through some social media platform. I'm glad I did. You know what I like about you, other than some great work, is the fact that you are willing to acknowledge the mistakes. That other than technicals, previsualisation, composition, timing and light, mistakes and failures are as important. Important in learning to produce a better photograph, next time. I've done it myself, mistakenly shot at F18 at ISO 12000 when really a much wider aperture would been sufficient....but I was too busy looking at the great picture I was about to take and not paying attention to the technicals. A mistake though one learns from. I'm a wedding and portrait photographer who is pretty much doused in the ideals of photojournalism and portraiture in producing my work. Very soon, I am going to be showcasing my Nepal project. Nepal, a country similar to India, is full of colour and tradition. There is the soft, blossoming yellows and blues from the sunrises and sunsets and the hard midday sun. I love the sun...any time of the day. In terms of dynamic range and for the sake of art, I feel one can willingly sacrifice shadow or highlight details to achieve a photograph. Content is king. It's a personal thing, of course, and that is what makes each photographer's style that little bit different....and we all learn ideas we can utilise from each other. Looking forward to more of your work and analysis. I personally know how much time one must invest in writing these types of posts, so thank you very much for taking the time and sharing your thoughts. best wishes and kind regards, Anurag.

  12. Bob Owen - Terrific article Mark and it goes without saying, a superlative photograph. A really good remind for me, especially about DOF. I sometimes fall into the trap of shooting wide open and spoiling a good image by missing the focus point, especially in a pacy street scene. Always good to be re-focused on the basics, so thank you, a thoughtful and helpful post.

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Street Photography technique and psychology. Post number 4. Looking for interesting light — strong back-lighting and silhouettes.

For an explanation of this series and the the conventions used in these posts please see post number 1.

Post number 1. Introduction and Primary and secondary subjects.

Post number 2. My street photography kit.

Post number 3. Clean backgrounds.

Street photography technique.

People boarding ferries at Shyambazar pier, Kolkata.


1/Background to this image.

I had been wandering up and down the Kolkata Ghats and took a wander onto Shyambazar pier. This was one of many piers that services the ferries going up and down the Ganges in Kolkata. I liked this particular area because it benefited from lovely evening light and it had quite a lot of what I will call ‘structure’ about. By this I mean shapes and lines that I could use for my compositions and framing. I could see whilst squinting into the sun, that this late afternoon was becoming very low and directional, casting long shadows and so the potential for silhouettes was obvious. I wandered slowly around and around the pier while some people were waiting to board the next ferry. I squinted, crouched and looked through things. The direction of this light was acting like a very strong modelling lamp to so many objects and textures, providing dimension, highlight and shadow.


2/Pre visualisation

So, I had in mind that there would be some sort of silhouette but since I find silhouettes can be a little over sentimental when they are the main focus of the image, I wanted a little more. I had noticed obviously that the light I was working with would produce effective silhouettes but also noticed that it was falling on other surfaces in interesting ways and I was particularly taken with the the way it was falling on this concrete structure in the left of the frame. The structure was showing a lot of highlight and shadow giving it a powerful 3 dimensional feel. In the middle of it was a metal grille that was really catching the light, and below that there was a poster with a face on it. It was this ‘structure’ these strong shapes and also knowing that whatever be in that heavily backlit area of the frame would become ‘silhouetted’, that became the embryo of my pre visualised image.

So, what did I have that I liked in the frame — what components were there that were interesting me.  There was the isolated figure on the right of the frame — a man waiting for the boat. There was also a bollard for tethering the ferry to and other strong shapes that would silhouette, like some structural items sticking into the air.  I love lines in my photography because they can compartmentalise your frame and can sometimes make frames within frames. All these shapes were  helping to give this image interest but they did not really make a decent picture yet. It wasn’t enough– there was no ‘life’ to it.

So I started thinking well, it’s a ferry pier — a ferry is going to come along and when that happens this scene will come alive. I had concerns about how much other people entering the scene might kill my lovely light falling on this concrete structure and obscure the silhouettes that I already had. Ideally  what I needed was isolated characters to come into the scene because a crowd of people would just become a big mass of shapeless black and probably spoil the light I had.  Obviously the sensible thing to do was to  just watch and wait so I waited 5 minutes or so until the ferry came.

I knew this much –my pre-visualised image would contain the ferry, people getting off it, the character silhouetted in the background and this structure to my left which was interestingly lit and would also act as a framing device. Anything else was open to chance.

3/Technical considerations.

One thing I haven’t said about this light is that it was falling on the water and when light hits an expanse of water at a particular angle it reflects strongly  and can become incredibly intense. You find it hard to even look in that general direction. Its little bit like when you were a really naughty child you used to shine the sun into other children’s eyes with a little mirror or bit of reflective plastic. You all did that right? Ok, just me then.

I digress. So, this light was amplified by hitting the water, so it wasn’t any old backlit situation we had here —  it was very, very strong. I could only look in the general direction of the light for a second or so without the refection hurting my eyes. Im a little nervy about taking shots into this kind of light because I understand it may be possible to harm your sensor, but hey, I like to live life on the edge and so I took a risk.

Technically I feel like my settings were more ‘considered’ than previous shots I have shown you in this series of posts, those shots were taken about a year or so before this. For me  considered settings are where you are not being wasteful of your cameras ability to render the best image it can. Because higher end cameras have come on such a long way in terms of delivering clean images at higher ISO’s, there can be a tendancy to get a bit lazy and think that the high ISO shot will be fine so you dont need to bother adjusting your other settings. Although at say 800 ISO, a camera like mine  (  a Canon 5dmk3) is going to be very clean and absolutely usable, it is not however  not going to be as clean and resolve an image as well as shooting at 100 ISO. An image shot at 100 ISO is going to give you the very best colour, contrast, detail, lack of grain and importantly dynamic range. Higher ISO images conversely will give less contrast and detail because the more noise (graininess) you have in your image, the less detail and definition you will have in that image. You will not get that same ‘tack sharp’ look at high ISO’s.

How do I keep my ISO low? I do this by not choosing a faster shutter speed than I need nor a higher aperture than I need. Simple as that.

So, the setting chosen for this image were:

Shutter — 125th — sufficient to freeze someone walking across my frame, at a moderate pace as long as they are not too close to me.

Aperture — F8. As much depth of field as I need if I am focusing a couple of meters from me using my 35mm lens.

If the far background and immediate foreground go a little to blur this will probably be quite nice I feel. My lens will also be at around its sharpest point at F8.

ISO — this low iso will render the cleanest image and is kept low by my shutter and aperture not going any higher than they need to.

Street photography technique

Histogram for this image.



Not much psychology going on here but there was a little. Because this is a wide scene and more often than not people most people will ignore you if they do not see themselves as being an intrinsic part of your picture. They will feel this however if you put on what appears to be a big and point it directly at them. It would be clear from my body language, where I am looking and because I have a little lens, that nobody in particular is being featured. In these instances people pretty will much ignore you naturally I would suggest because nobody thinks they are being isolated in your picture.

When Im scoping out different angles to shoot I do wander close to people, taking different viwpoints to see what works what doesnt. Tying to work out also if someone in the scene could be a primary or secondary suubject. In this instance I would probably just get quite close to people but look beyond them. Looking beyond people is a powerful tool for making them think that they are not an important element in your image. If however you make even the smallest eye contact with them then they are often alerted to the fact that you intend for them to be in your picture and make them a little unsettled so dont make that eye contact — you will show your hand and that person may move or become someone that is constantly now keeping an eye on you!

Tip – If you are going to feature someone in your candid image and you dont want to alert or unsettle them, look beyond where they are standing, you can already prefocus on something that is the same distance as them from you — that way they will be sharp in your photograph.


5/Taking the Shot.

So, I find myself waiting for the ferry to arrive and when it did obviously a lot of people got off and on it. I looked at the people getting off en-masse and realised they were were very poorly lit and the boat had also stolen any light that might fall on them.  The best light was still coming across the pier. Even if you have your idea set on one thing, go and take a look at what else might present itself to you when the scene changes — sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised.

So, I go back to my original spot and start shooting as people walk down the pier to try and make the ferry before it leaves. I was really looking for and isolated figure because they would make the best silhouette or semi silhouette. There were a couple but their body shapes and gait was not all that interesting — the lady walking past was the one that I was most pleased with. This was one of those situations that was time critical — this was not and ongoing event, it would happen for a few minutes and then it would be over, the ferry would leave. Sometimes you will have shots like this, unique events happening for a pretty limited period of time. Unlike say in an area quite close to here where they are making holy idols out of clay and straw — this they would be doing more or less all day so you can just stick with scenes for much longer.


6/Picture analysis.

Light – Very strong backlighting creating dimension and opportunity for strong silhouettes.

Composition – Follows broadly a rule of thirds composition with elements at third points. Strong shapes being used to frame subjects. The man at the back is put deliberately in clear space. The image shows lines going in various directions that I think help the picture along — lines are always good.

Gesture – The interesting texture and dimensionality of the left hand structure, the man in the background is leaning in an interesting way, the woman’s hair and the fact that the light is quite unusual — its an almost blinding light if you look at if from a certain angle — this I would argue gives this image an unusual punchy quality that qualifies it for me to call it part of gesture.


7/What could I have done better?

Well, the image is fatally flawed by the lady not being in clear space. Her shape is ill defined because she has someone to her right who interrupts her body shape dramatically. Perhaps I could have moved to the right a little but I would have affected my frame in a way that I didn’t like. Really this was one of those situations where you just wish someone wasnt there because they are killing your image.

The solution as much as I hate this particular solution was probably to put the camera in a burst mode and shot severa frames per second as she passed. In doing this I would have a better opportunity to catch her in-between they guy on the right and the pole sticking up on the left. I never put the camera on burst mode — somehow I just cant bring myself to do it. If I want to take successful shots like this I should probably consider doing that but for now Im happy to just take my chances.

The key is to try and put these elements in clear space and I failed at doing this.

Thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this post Id love to hear them. You can of course find me on Facebook for my latest work.

© Mark Carey and 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mark Carey and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. Tony - Thanks you for sharing your technical information, very informative.

  2. Mark - Nis Daniel - I have shots that Im more or less happy with and could show these but then I wouldnt really have much to critique. Im glad you see the importance of examining what you could have done better. I think only by constantly thinking this way will we really take our photography to the next level. As you get better in your photography their is a temptation to start 'coasting' and I do it quite a lot. When I do - I can see that my laziness has affected the quality of my images - they become ok but essentially mediocre. Only when you really start 'working the scene' and paying attention to all the components of taking that picture do you get your really best shots I personally think. All my favourite shots have been taken when Im thinking really clearly and paying a lot of attention to what I need to do. Its a nice thought that we can just all get so good that even if we get sloppy we will still get great images but I don't think thats the case. Keep examining your work, identify small or large flaws, make lists of what you can do better and try and put that into practice next time you shoot.

  3. Mark - Thankyou Bess.

  4. Nis Daniel - Love your article, especially item no. 7 (What could I have done better), bring a lesson for me as beginner, thank you.....

  5. Bess - Really enjoyed reading your post. Very inspiring and informative. Love the strong loghts and darks. Makes for a dramitic image. Thank you!

  6. Name - Love this shot despite the flaw.

  7. Mark - Hi Paul - In this split second yes moving to the right wouldnt have affected the light but would have improved the image but remember the lady was walking, reasonably quickly, through the frame so all I really needed do to was catch her a split second earlier. Thanks for your kind comments Paul.

  8. Paul's Pictures - Don't worry about not being informative. Such insight and depth and intellectual honesty as I see here is very rare, especially amongst those who call themselves street photographers. One thought I had to clarify for myself: you said the image is fatally flawed with the lady and another person muddling that part of the frame. True indeed!! (sorry LOL) but if you had moved just say a foot or two to the right, do you think this would have worked? That strong light at the back would have been lessened or not? Thank you for the fascinating post!!

  9. Andrea Taurisano - Your articles are very pleasant to read and inspiring, Mark. Nicely balanced focus between the technical and the human sides of photography, in your analyses. Keep'em coming!

  10. Damien Rogers - Nope far from ramblings Mark. Very interesting reads. Am only new to photography since I learnt it in college. So I love to read others experiences and opinions. Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading your blog on the 35mm. I hope to invest in one soon.

  11. Mark - Damien - sorry missed the second part of your comment. I am indeed going to write a blog post about these humble little 35's. Both the Canon and the Nikon variant are much overlooked lenses.

  12. Mark - Ha Ha - thanks Shounak. It has crossed my mind ;)

  13. Shounak Roy - I hope you are making this a book.......a big fat one!!

  14. Mark - Thanks Damien - that really means a lot to me. Im not sure if folk find these informative or not really..I think they may just be taken as my own mad ramblings! Glad you find it useful in some way.

  15. Damien Rogers - Your blogs are a great help to understanding photography and how to improve oneself. Please keep up the great work. A super photographer. Do you think you'll write a blog about the 35mm lens that you love so much?

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Street Photography technique and psychology. Post number 3, Clean backgrounds, distracted subjects and the challenge of photographing children candidly.

For an explanation of this series and the the conventions used in these posts please see post number 1.

Post number 1. Introduction and Primary and secondary subjects.

Post number 2. My street photography kit.

Post number 4. Looking for interesting light — backlighting and silhouettes.



Boys flying kites, Main Ghat, Varanasi.



1/Background to this image.

Varanasi, somewhere near Main Ghat. Every night children assemble and fly their battered kites, arms poking skywards with fixed gazes. It was beginning to get a little dark, the sun was setting and light had softened. The sky was becoming less bright was now at point where I wouldn’t have to ‘fight’ the sun and everything was becoming more evenly lit. I might have to raise my overall exposure in order to see the boys faces, but this soft, even light would would mean that I could shoot from different directions and not have to worry about severe backlighting that would force me into creating silhouettes. Nor was it harsh front lighting that would have caused me to drop my exposure so as not to burn out the boys faces, which would have had the effect of making he background rather dull.

With this kind of light I was able to retain good detail more or less wherever I wanted it. This light was nice light, even though I was going to expose it and make the scene look a little brighter than it was in reality. I approached the boys and they  looked at me for a few moments, I just watched them without bringing my camera to my eye and within a few seconds they  got bored and went back to their kite flying. All they had seen from me was a general curiosity in what they were doing, nothing more than that. I wasn’t acting in a way to hold there interest.


2/Pre visualisation

The scene with the boys flying their kites allowed me to find a clean frame and clean, uncluttered frames are hard to come by, particlarly in India, where you can generally be assured of a busy background in most places you look. This scene however presented the possibility of a very clean background and you can often get this by simply shooting against the sky. Normally with a scene like this the problem is that you are on the same level as you subjects so you are forced to bring many other things into the frame which clutter the picture. In this instance however I knew I was going to benefit from the fact that these boys were on a concrete platform above me. This meant that I could shoot with my camera at a similar plane to these boys which I felt would be more pleasing camera angle than my having to get on my belly and shoot up. I wanted a shot that would put these boys in clear space (the sky) and also clear space in relation to each other (not overlapping). The interesting graphic shape of the broken bamboo parasol was a secondary element that I wanted in this image. I also wanted gesture from the boys — they had to be doing something interesting, ideally all looking up engaged with their kite flying in some way.


3/Technical considerations.

If shooting against a bright background where you wish to see peoples faces clearly you are generally going to end up with a ‘high-key’ image. That is to say an image that is dominated by light tones. You can see from the histogram that this image, this high-key image shows a histogram backed up on the white side. You will notice that there is a small space between the big shaft of light tones on the right but it is not hard up against the right had side of the histogram. That little gap shows that even though this is a  bright image, nothing is actually burnt out — all the detail has been captured by the camera. You will also notice that I am trailing off the blacks because they are not quite touching the left hand side of the histogram. These blacks, these most dark tones, I find are much easier to recover in post processing by just pulling the blacks back a little. I find if I have to pull your exposure up in post processing your overall image and skin tones will suffer.  Don’t fall into the trap that shooting in RAW mode is going to allow you to be sloppy with your exposures. To an extent it will, but it you have to pull your exposures around too much in post processing I guarantee you your  final image will not be as nice as if you had exposed it properly in the first place.


Histogram and exif information for this image.



Ok, lets look at this exif, this horrible exif, that had I realised I was going to be writing a blog post about this image two years later, I would probably have spared myself the embarrassment of explaining how badly I chose my settings. No, I would have chosen them more correctly at the time of shooing!

Here is an example of lazy, poor, wasteful settings on my part — why? This is because I allowed my ISO to rise unnecessarily high. I drove my ISO up high because my shutter speed was high and my shutter didnt need to be high! My shutter speed could have been significantly slower for what was happening in this scene. High shutters are required for freezing only if your subjects are big in your frame or, if they are not big in your frame, moving quickly. The subjects in this scene are neither big in the frame nor moving quickly and a so shutter speed of 125th of a second would have been more than fine. Many photographers will say that they shoot much lower shutters, I prefer to keep it moderately high to allow for scene changes.

Lets look at some very rough maths to explain this in more detail and sorry if is very obvious to experienced photographers. If I had used a shutter speed of 125th instead of 640th I would have reduced amount of light hitting my sensor by approximately 3 full stops of light. That is 125th — 250th– 500th. Each time you double that number it’s one full stop. (125th to 640th is actually closer to 3 1/3 stops but lets just round it up to the nearest stop for simplicity.)

This means if I had shot at 125th, my ISO could then have reduced 3 full stops and that would be from 4000 — 2000 — 1000 for the same exposure. So, I could have shot exactly the same scene at 1000 ISO and this would have given me a significantly different result. The image would have been a cleaner image (less noisy), sharper, had better contrast and better colour rendition. I took this shot a couple of years ago and I was lazy about my ISO because my camera at the time, a Nikon D3s is a very clean at high ISO’s — I would now however consider this bad practice. Even thought its pretty clean its not going to be as clean as 1000 ISO and there is a huge difference between and image shot at 1000 and 4000 ISO, even on the high ISO monster that is the D3s. Shoot at the lowest ISO’s you can — its a good discipline that makes you think about being really in touch with your camera by making you consider your camera settings in all light conditions. When you then come to shoot in really low light you will be then so at ease with all these settings you will be much more fluid in choosing the correct ones.

Aperture. So, why an aperture of F11? This image is shot at F11 because I want I wanted image sharpness in the primary and secondary subjects, those being the boys and the broken parasol. The very far background in an image is always going to go to blur at anything but extremely high apertures, e.g. f22, when you focus relatively close to you, and that background is a long way away. You can achieve wanted and unwanted blur even at high apertures, it is not simply a property of shooting at low apertures  (shooting wide open). You just have to be aware of your distance to subject and the effect that has on your depth of field. The closer you focus, the more background blur you will achieve, the further away the more overall DOF you will have. I warn you now, this is not the first time I shall harp on about DOF and camera to subject distance, it will be a element of almost every post in one way or another.

This is why when you photograph down on the beach for example, even at pretty high apertures like F11, if you focus on something relatively close to you, the background will often end up being a pleasing blur — This is because its so far away, it is then not contained with in that smaller depth of field.

For example Focus on something, with a 35mm lens 3m away at f11 — look at the depth of field in this depth of field table. The total depth of field is only 15.2 m and because the far end of the DOF is not ‘infinity’ the far background will blur.

Subject distance 

3 m

Depth of field 

Near limit  1.65 m

Far limit  16.8 m

Total  15.2 m



So, to recap, settings for this image:

Shutter — 640th, faster than it needed to be, 125th or even lower would have sufficed.

Aperture — F11 to achieve sharpness in my primary and secondary subjects.

ISO — 4000, a consequence of shooting at a higher shutter than necessary.


 Tip — experiment with shooting relatively close to your subject  at high apertures and see how much sharpness you get in your subject and how dramatically that background will blur.  High apertures do not always mean no background blur. You just need to get a bit closer to your subject and make sure you have a background that is very distant.



A psychological element to this photograph is understanding something that might sound obvious. That is that it is a lot easier to photograph people candidly when they are engaged in doing something — in other words, when they are distracted. Here the distraction is is a pretty evident, the boys are busy flying their kites. Children in India, generally speaking, quite like being photographed. The big problem and I mean a really big problem is that they want to pose for every shot. Anyone who has shot in India will be probably be aware that the usual scenario is this.  The children see you and your camera, one of them asks for a photo, his friend joins him and before you know it you have 30 of them in front of you, eyes following your every move, jostling for position for photo after photo after photo. Sure, pictures of smiling children can be very endearing but thats not the kind of photography we are talking about here.

So, the basic psychology is that if you are going to photograph children, keep an eye out for children who are distracted. Either they are playing, working or  just being more interested in something other than you. It might sound like the most obvious thing in the world to take pictures of people when they are distracted but what happens in reality is we fight the situation, really trying to get those candid shots when those children, or indeed adults in some instances, are acutely aware of us and interested in our presence. I suggest ‚that in those instances we walk away and look for another scene, unless and this is important, we have a lot of time to wait it out. By staying and fighting that situation we make ourselves frustrated that we were unable to get the shot we wanted where  actually we should  have probably just understood that we were battling against human nature, banging our head against a brick wall. We were  trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole.

Ill give you two examples. I photographed in boys homes in Calcutta where the lads were almost impossible to shoot, jumping in front of my camera, egging each other on to try and get in every single shot. It almost became a game to them. Let me re-phrase that, it did most definitely become a game to them, and the game they were playing was ‘not letting the photographer get a single candid image’. I tried what would be my usual method, which would be to politely ignore them and wait. I would not shoot when they wanted to me to shoot, even though they were constantly asking me to shoot or jumping in front of my lens. I, on the other hand planned to bore them to death with my presence by not engaging with them and waiting for them to calm down. They remained resolute  however, acutely interested in my every movement and as soon as I tentatively brought that camera anywhere near my eyes, they went right back to  jumping in front of me all over again, kidding around, determined to be photographed. They were winning.

Luckily this was soon to change because miraculously as soon as they sat down together and watched tv or started flicking through comic books, ah, that was a different story. Not only could I shoot them candidly, I could get all kinds of shots, wide shots, go close and get tight shots, keep moving my position — it was like they were in a trance. They were more interested in something else than me. In reality I believe that groups of children are not really all that interested in you when you are shooting, you just happen to be a bit of sport for them until something more interesting comes along!

The second instance was a slum in Calcutta. It was completely impossible to candidly shoot here. It consisted of  one long narrow street and when we arrived, our guide and us two photographers we were like three enormous ‘sore thumbs’ walking down the road.

The nature of this particular slum meant it was really hard to blend in and disappear. There were no little lanes and alleys you could wander down out of site of the masses — it was pretty much one road. The consequence of this was that everyone knew we were there and every child could see what we were doing. We soon became a primary source of interest and were in everybody’s view no matter where we went. After a short while I think we must have been surrounded by 100 children, who as soon as I tried to take any form of candid picture, would alert the person I was trying to shoot ( always helpful)  and try and jump directly in front of the lens at every opportunity. Once more, not letting the photographer get a candid shot had become the game.

I think I got only one usable image from that visit. Some girls were skipping and I pre-focused on something on the same plane as them and then crouched down very quickly and fired off a few shots. The girls were distracted and this gave me about a 4 second window to get an image before they noticed me and started to pose and before I was mobbed my children again.  Another small example of the power of distraction.

For what its worth I do take picture of happy, smiling groups of children. I do this on a few different occasions. Sometimes when they ask me, when I feel they have  completely beaten me and Im not going to get any candids anyway, when their parents ask and sometimes when I feel like it. Mostly thought I will try and get my candids first and get the shots that the children want me to get afterwards. If you have a limited amount of time then I think its quicker to operate this way around. Once you have started taking the shots that the children want you to take, more and more can come along and it can be a long time before they get bored of you and allow you to shoot candidly. If however you have a lot of time you might be better off the other way round — shoot for the kids first and then go for your candids when they have lost interest in you.

Tip – be on the look out for already distracted subjects particularly when dealing with children.

Tip — when shooting children and you have limited time, politely ignore them and take your candid shots first. After that you can be more playful and shoot the shots they want.


5/Taking the Shot.

Once I had framed the shot with the clean background I wanted there wasn’t much more  to it really. I simply kept shooting as the children moved this way and that, looking for pleasing body shapes. I made small adjustments to my own physical position, moving from side to side to compensate for overlapping subjects as they moved. I reviewed my image and once I was happy with the composition, expressions and gesture I moved on to shoot from a completely different angle. I ended up taking a second shot I was also happy with, this time shooting with the parasol in the foreground, shooting the boys from behind which also allowed me to show the kite they were flying.

Tip — once you have taken a shot from one position, even if you are happy with your picture, before you go look at the other possible positions, you might find a stronger image.


6/Picture analysis.

Light – Soft, even, late afternoon light which in reality was a darker scene than appears here.

Composition – Lots of negative space by use of a clean background. Primary and secondary subjects.

Gesture –

The distraction and interest of the boys and what we imagine they are engaged in.

The unusual but graphic shape of the broken parasol.

The general nature of the clean background isolating our subjects.

The unusual angle this shot is taken at, allowed for my being on a platform lower than the boys not having to angle the camera upwards.

The boys looking in three different directions — a lucky accident.



7/What could I have done better

The ISO was way to high caused by poor shutter selection.

Boys feet are overlapping, if I had moved to the left slightly I would have eliminated this small problem.



Thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this post Id love to hear them. You can of course find me on Facebook for my latest work.

© Mark Carey and 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mark Carey and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. Mark - Fair point Shounak, Yes I think you are right, there could be more space below the boys feet.

  2. Shounak Roy - i just have one point mark, dont you think you could have taken the ground just a little bit more below there feet!! would be more balanced i guess.

  3. Muthe - Again, really helpful and informative article from you. A lot of tips and things I learn from this article, I can't wait for another article :)

  4. Adam Riley - Another really great post Mark, I think your tips of "patience" and "distractions" are wonderful for both street photography, and reportsge wedding photography!

  5. Margaret Swan - Hi Mark, I feel like you're talking directly to me here, I can practically hear your voice! I understand when I read it but in real life I need more practise... a lot more!

  6. Anurag - Distraction - what a wonderful tool. I find if I play with children....and then slowly leave them to their own devices....their natural behaviour comes to the fore. I like to belong to a group of people (in generally whatever scenario) and let them accept me as one of "them"....that trust very much aids my photography. Sure there is the obviousness of the camera....but distracting the subject with talk or actions away from the camera.....generally makes them forget about you and your purpose. Get close to the subjects and belong is what I've learnt. The technicalities of the camera are really secondary. A great noisey even blurry photograph with a story easily outshines a mediocre technically perfect image most if not all of the time. Beautifully written article. Re-enforces what I have come to know. Thank you.

  7. Paul - excellent! I sometimes find that if I photograph a family for example it is often only the baby or small child who will see me. Can make for interesting image. sometimes if they have dog, the dog sees me but not often the adults...i love that..very good post..thank you

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