Night street photography workshop

On Saturday night, I decided to skip watching Eurovision and get myself over to Bristol to attend a night street photography workshop with Edo Zollo (organised by Wex Photo Video). I’ve not shot a massive amount at night and this seemed like a good opportunity to get some hints and tips from someone who is making some great work in the dark (I’d recommend checking out his work

There were 13 of us in the group, all with varying experience in terms of how long we’d been shooting and also what kind of work we’d been producing. There were landscape photographers wanting to try something different, someone who was just beginning with their photography (although from what I saw they did have an eye for a good shot), motorsport enthusiasts used to working with long lenses, and a couple of us who were already used to more street-orientated work. So it made for a mixed bag of people.

After introductions and a natter over our kit and a drink, it was time to head out into the night.

Edo had been scouting out locations already and had found some dark alleyways around the Lewins Mead/Christmas Steps area. We were looking for capturing shadows and light - usually one light source and seeing what that gave us.

From the outset we were to try and get all our shots manually. No cheating with auto ISO, exposure and aperture. We were testing ourselves to get these shots old-skool. I did go a bit overboard and thought we were meant to be manually focusing everything too… and after finding out I was in the minority doing so, I thought I’d carry on just to make life interesting.

So I was shooting completely manually - ISO, exposure, aperture (which was pretty much on f1.7 throughout the whole shoot) and focus. It was pretty hard work in a couple of places to nail the focus in the dark, but generally speaking I got there.

One thing that surprised me was Edo saying to set our ISO at 400, maybe pushing up to 800. This wasn’t what I was expecting in such low light - I was just expecting to be at 1600 and possibly getting grainy at 3200. But I’m glad I went with his suggestion. Although some shots had a bit of motion blur, they did end up a lot cleaner and had more punch. Besides, most of my favourite photographers were shooting on film when the fast ISO that we’re now used to wasn’t available - and they somehow managed it!

I was using my trust Oly OMD EM10ii with the Panasonic 25mm f1.7. I did have my Pany 14mm f2.5 and Zuiko 50mm f1.8 in my bag but found they probably wouldn’t have been practical for how we were working. Thirteen of us in tight alleys meant I’d be further back getting heads in the way with the longer lens, and having to get up too close with the wider lens… which would mean getting in every one else’s shots constantly. Now, I’m probably guilty of getting to the front to get my shot quite often and am usually pretty mindful not to get in the way too much… but that wide lens would not have made me popular!

It was a fun evening, added to with some unexpected interaction from a lass from a nearby bar who came over to see what we were up to and then became our model for the next 5 minutes. Edo was excellent - very personable and making sure he went and chatted to everyone as we walked between locations. And I certainly learnt a few things, probably mainly on a technical level; shooting with a lower ISO for example is going to give me cleaner shots with more punch but is also obviously affects what I take a shot of. So if I’m doing that then I want a subject which is more static.

At the end of the evening we were to look through and find our five favourite shots to share. We didn’t actually get around to all sharing five, but I think I’ve narrowed mine down to these…