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The Pre-Grasp Moment: Portrait or Candid?
Copenhagen 2016

Copenhagen 2016

If you ever photograph on the streets, you may find yourself split between doing portrait and candid photography. Obviously, street photography can fall into either category, but in my view there's also a very interesting intersection between the two where magic truly can happen.

The golden intersection

Some of my best shots are taken in the crucial moment which I call the pre-grasp moment (yes, I just did that). Look at the image above - the woman has only just seen me but she hasn't completely figured out what's happening - and she hasn't reacted yet. Had I taken the shot a little earlier or a little later she would either have looked away or presented me with a more considered reaction.

Capturing moments like these can give you some wonderfully intimate and honest shots of people in the streets but it does take some practice and you have to be prepared to handle your subject's reaction. Do smile and offer to show your photo, unless the initial reaction is very hostile. Then you run ;)

See you out there.

 

Thomas SondergaardComment
Is Colour the New Monochrome?
Copenhagen 2016

Copenhagen 2016

All the masters used black and white for their street photography. Partly because there wasn't any colour film available (doh!), but later on when colour became a viable option, black and white was still considered the only real choice for this genre of photography.

The black and white crutch

I flip-flop between liking and loathing colour for street photography. I love how monochrome accentuates lines, structures and certain moods. It also gives the advantage of being more forgiving in low-light situations - the added grain only adds character to the image, whereas colour really suffers with ugly artifacts (digital and film) when light is limited. At the same time, the absence of colour forces you to focus on fewer elements and work with the basic elements of the scene.

Simplifying is a difficult art to master and I find that monochrome often emphasises bad composition. But somehow we've become used to perceiving grainy black and white photographs as more arty than colour images. Slapping on a black and white filter on a mediocre shot-from-the-hip photo, doesn't turn you into our generation's HCB. We've all tried it. I've done more times than I'd like to admit.

Dare to embrace colour

If you know me, you're well aware of my affinity for monochrome photography but I've decided to be more open to using colour in my images. I'm inspired by the likes of Moritz Möller and Eric Kim who've both embraced colour street photography and actively use its special characteristics to produce wonderful street shots.

Becoming a better photographer is all about challenging yourself and never becoming complacent or too comfortable in your process.

I'm going out looking for striking colours in Copenhagen right now. Are you?

    Copenhagen 2016

    Copenhagen 2016

    Thomas SondergaardComment
    The Street Photographer's Curse
    Copenhagen 2016

    Copenhagen 2016

    I hate street photography. But it's the best thing in world.

    Sometimes I wonder why I keep doing it - especially if a 3 hour street session in Copenhagen only yields something like the photo you see at the top of this post. Not really a street shot, is it? It may be pretty and everything, but it's very far from what I call street photography.

    Get your 10K somewhere else

    As street photographers, one of the biggest mistakes we make, is thinking that the more ground we cover, the more great shots we're going to make. Not true. It does do wonders for your fitness, though.

    My best cure for the street photographer's curse is simply staying put. Find a busy location in the city where the light is interesting and the background isn't too messy - and then own that place. Take some time to identify how the light falls in the area and which angles will work for your shots.

    And then get to work.

    Just do it

    Street photography can be super intimidating but getting comfortable in a specific location can alleviate some of the tension and anxiety connected with photographing strangers.

    It will make the process that little bit easier for you and eventually boost your confidence. So, instead of covering 10K around the city, you should commit to photographing 10 different people during your session.

    See you out there.

     

    Thomas SondergaardComment
    Do You Want to Become a Better Photographer?

    I'm never completely satisfied with my pictures but I've learned to appreciate this silliness and use it to keep me on my toes. Complacency indeed is the enemy of progress. 

    I believe, as a photographer you're never really done. Bettering your skills and finding your own characteristic style is a life-long process. But sometimes you need outside input to take yourself to the next level - or get out of the creative rut we all find ourselves in from time to time.

    That's my I decided to start my Street Photo Masterclass series.

    During my career I've had jobs in various lines of business and teaching has often been an integral part. I enjoy teaching subjects that I care about and to be honest, teaching other people is the absolute best way of honing your own skills, too.

    Why join my masterclass?

    if you're looking for inspiration or new skills for your street photography or, indeed, photography in general, then you should consider joining one of my classes.

    Read more about the classes here and do drop me a line (sondergaard@gmail.com) if you have any questions.

    I'm coming to your city

    Currently, I've classes planned in Berlin, London, Barcelona and Copenhagen - and more cities are coming up. Basically, I travel anywhere in world where there's enough interest for a masterclass, so please let me know if you'd like me to visit your city.

     

     

    Why the Long, Dark Winter is Worth it
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    Around this time of the year, I'm usually so desperate for sunlight that I come up with ideas about how I can move abroad during the darkest months. I know people who go and spend a couple of months in South Africa during the winter. It seems like the perfect place for Norhtern Europeans with a location-independent job to spend December to February. There's no time difference so just it's just a matter of BYOD and you're good to go.

    If only it was that simple.

    I once spent almost a year in Guatemala, one of the most beautiful places on earth. The land of eternal spring, some say. It was great. T-shirt weather every day, hardly any rain and certainly no blizzards. But honestly, after six months I started to miss putting on a jumper before going outside. I missed the smells of the changing seasons and the changes in the ambient light. And I longed for the 11 pm sunsets of the Scandinavian summer nights. I dare say I even thought I missed the darkness of the long winters.
     

    Keeping things fresh

    I recently spoke to a friend from Dubai who's visiting Copenhagen soon. He's hoping for snow or rain when he gets here, not sunshine and blue skies like in Dubai. That's what 300+ sunny days a year do that to you.

    Another friend lives in Bergen which averages more than 200 days of rain each year. That would finish me off.

    Even though I find the winters too long and too dark, it's the time in between seasons - the changes - that I wouldn't want to be without. These changes are what keep me from complacency in my photography. They keep things fresh.

    And oh, officially there's only two weeks left of winter!

     

    Forgetting the Important Stuff?
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    This is my mother. She's not smoking a spliff but one of her beloved cigarettes. The photo was taken last summer and although she doesn't normally like being photographed, she didn't seem to mind on this particular day. Here, I caught her in a rare moment where her guards were down. No make-up, relaxed and with a smile on her face. It was a good day.

    It's my favourite picture of my mother. Photography-wise it may not be anything special but it puts a smile on my face every day when I see it on my wall. And really, that's what it's all about: How the photograph makes you feel. The mood it conveys or the story it tells.

    We all know our rule of thirds and how to use leading lines - and all the other tried-and-true guidelines of great photography, but all this matters exactly nothing if the photo doesn't move anything inside you.
     

    When did you last photograph your family?

    As photographers we're always busy pointing our cameras at new, interesting subjects. Going places, collecting new experiences. We tend to forget what's right in front of us every day.

    I recently went through an old backup of my iPhone camera roll and I realised how few photos I have taken of my family during the past 2-3 years. I made a conscious decision to shoot more at home, even if my kids complain and hide from the camera - they'll just have to live with it.

     

    4 Reasons Why You Need to Take Instagram Seriously

    I've been on Instagram for 5 years, posting more than 2,000 photos. Not to mention the countless hours I've spent viewing photos and interacting with other users.

    What a waste of time, right?

    And unlike a few of my friends, I haven't made Instagram my way of living. Those who have, make a decent salary while travelling the world.

    So yes, I'm basically wasting my time on Instagram, wouldn't you agree?

    You shouldn't.

    Instagram has given me so much in terms of inspiration, photographic sparring and even friendships. If all that doesn't appeal to you, Instagram is still worth considering, whatever kind of photography you practice, professionally or otherwise.

    Here's why:

    1) Go where your audience is

    In spite of what you may think of Instagram, there's no denying that this is where the users are. And no, you won't be inundated with LOLCats and Japanese tourists with selfie sticks if you don't want to. You decide what you want to use Instagram for.

    Gone are the days where Instagram was considered uncool for serious photographers. Flickr, on the other hand, is dead. Or at the very least on life support. Its owners, Yahoo, have openly expressed that Flickr is no longer a core part of its services. Get out while you can.

    Instagram has reached critical mass so it won't go away anytime soon. And if it does, maybe in a few years' time, your Instagram journey will not have been in vain.
     

    2) Instagram has matured as a photography platform

    Square-only photography is a thing of the past on Instagram. It was an integral part of the original Instagram experience but with this restriction gone there really is no excuse not to post your portrait and landscape images on the platform. Well, I would like a feature that enables better viewing of landscape-oriented photos by rotating my phone, just like on EyeEm.

    Serious, professional and art photographers have turned to Instagram and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for you and me.
     

    3) Get your practice on

    Nobody I know take the "insta" part of Instagram seriously anymore, i.e. they rarely shoot their photos within the app itself. It's become acceptable to post shots from any camera you may own. I even know someone who shoots with his DSLR, edits in Photoshop and then posts straight from his PC via an Android emulator. No phone involved.

    I do recommend that you use your phone for shooting or at the very least for editing. Keeping the workflow fast is what's important to leverage your training potential of Instagram. If you shoot, edit and publish every day, you will become a better photographer faster than if you only spend an hour in front of Lightroom every Sunday afternoon. So get out there and shoot!
     

    4) Be social

    Instagram's huge user base combined with the sheer accessibility of being a prominent app on most people's phones, makes the potential level of interaction very high.

    Granted, a like is worth next to nothing these days but in my experience, Instagram users seem more inclined to enter into a constructive dialogue than users on other photo sharing platforms. If you put in the effort by interacting with other users and by using relevant (not spammy) hashtags, you can get a good conversation going.

    For instance, if you use the hashtag #streetphotography on your street shots, other people with the same interest will see your images and start interacting with you.

    I'm not advocating using spammy hashtags just to attract a few extra eyeballs :)
     

    It's all good, but

    There's one inherent feature of Instagram that I'm not too happy about. It's just too damn easy to scroll past a great photo without giving it a second thought. Most users spend less than a second considering if my hard-fought pixels are worth the effort of a double-tap. That makes me sad.

     

    The Only Non-Cyclist in Copenhagen
    Copenhagen 2016

    Copenhagen 2016

    Hard work is more important than talent. If only Nicklas Bendtner had been blessed with a little less talent, perhaps he would have been one of the world's greatest strikers by now.

    Photography isn't football but roughly the same rules apply here. Fortunately, I acknowledged my limited photographic talent at a young age so I'm no stranger to hard work behind the lens. Sure, on numerous occasions I've resorted to upgrading my gear in a mostly futile effort to better my photography. I love new gear and gadgets and I'm currently in a complicated relationship with my local Leica dealer. I really want the Leica Q but I also realise that it'll only be a gateway drug to the M or SL.

    So, hard work then.

    About four years ago I stopped cycling to work every day. And I was the only one - all Copenhageners use their bike daily. Instead I started shooting street life with my iPhone, and later with my Ricoh GR, on my may to and from work. I'm well on my way to accumulating my 10,000 hours and becoming a good photographer. Who needs talent anyway?

     

    Do slow things

    Basically, walking every day has enabled me to slow things down. Instead of zipping past on my bike, I'm the one everybody rushes by, I'm the slow mover in the eye of the storm. In a world where everything moves faster and faster, walking around the city with my camera has become a necessary oasis for me, my daily dose of catharsis.

    I'm no anti-digital analogue preacher, as my friends and family can attest to, but in recent years I've found that doing simple, on-track actions is the perfect counter-balance to a busy and very digital lifestyle.

    Now, where did I put my very analogue copy of To Have and Have not?