Giuseppe taking a photo of a shop window, showing passers by in the reflection.


Everyday Magic: Giuseppe Esposito-Rodrigues' tips for street photography

Photography is in Giuseppe Esposito-Rodrigues' DNA. He was born in Venezuela to an Italian father who loved shooting landscapes and a Portuguese mother with a passion for travel photography. It was only natural for Giuseppe to follow in his parents' photographic footsteps.
Since 2013, he's been based in Dublin, walking its riverside avenues and lamp-lit lanes to capture his cinematically striking yet quietly intimate street photography, which has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet and Culture Trip. In the past Giuseppe has favoured his Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) teamed with either a Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L II USM lens, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens or a Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM lens. Recently, though, he has been exploring the very portable Canon EOS M6 Mark II.
"The Canon EOS M6 Mark II is a great all-rounder for street photographers because it combines high resolution (32.5 megapixels), burst shooting (14fps) and great video (4K without a crop) with a sturdy grip, which makes it very comfortable to hold when shooting on the streets for longer periods." Like other Canon EOS M cameras, the EOS M6 Mark II can be used with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS M to enable you to use a huge choice of over 80 EF-S and EF lenses, including specialist lenses such as macro and fisheye.
Here Giuseppe shares his approach, techniques and tips for creative street photography.

1. Be sensitive to the public

Photographing crowds is a way of keeping the subject anonymous and creating a shot that conveys the busy atmosphere of a city street.

It's always advisable to check the legalities of street photography where you plan to shoot – but generally speaking most countries permit photography in public places unless otherwise specified, and that includes photography of pedestrians on the street and people in public places such as parks. Not everyone will take kindly to having their picture taken, though. Giuseppe says: "What I do is quickly show them the pictures, and hopefully they see I am coming at it from an artistic point of view. Sometimes I'll pull up my Instagram so they can see that I'm not doing this for any other reason than for the love of the art, and they normally appreciate that and relax."

2. Position yourself in one spot

A man walking past a row of houses covered in autumnal foliage (left).Three people crossing the road next to a bus on the streets of Dublin (right).
Compose your image by choosing a background first and wait for the final shot to fall into place.

Busy environments are one of the biggest challenges of the genre. "Everything is constantly moving," Giuseppe says. "The light, the subject, the environment. Go back tomorrow, and you won't see the same thing. You have to accept that you can't control anything. All you can do is have an idea and try to predict when you can make that idea happen. It's about taking advantage of the scenario that's around you."

Giuseppe gives himself the best chance of success by first finding a backdrop he likes, then a corner he can seclude himself in. "Basically when it's a busy street I find a corner and wait patiently for the right person to get into the picture. I may move slightly to try and get something from a different angle or perspective, but most of the time I set up myself in a place where I believe the background will work with a subject, and I wait."

3. Choose the right shooting mode to tell your story

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The large grip and light, portable nature of the Canon EOS M6 Mark II makes it the perfect tool for long shoots on the street.

From his long experience, Giuseppe says the best mode for shooting on the street is Av mode. "You don't have to control everything, just your aperture and maybe the ISO. You may need to raise the ISO setting if you're shooting at night, and during the day it allows you to use faster speeds with a small aperture, improving your chances of capturing a moving subject in focus."

Giuseppe typically uses wide apertures (low f-numbers), which help him to create his trademark cinematic effect. "Shooting at f/1.4, f/1.8 or f/2.8 helps me to isolate the subject while making the background blurry. It's still there, to help me to tell the story, but we don't need to see every single detail."

4. Select the best lens for the scene

A tram on the tracks in Dublin city centre (left). An old man reading the newspaper on the top level of a double-decker bus (right).
Giuseppe has used the city structure in his composition, the tram lines lead the eye to the focal point in this image (left). Taken on: Canon EOS M6 Mark II + EF-M32mm f/1.4 STM. Giuseppe has composed this shot (right) by capturing the matching colours of the inside of the bus and the foliage visible through the window.

"People will tell you that for street photography you should use a focal length of 28-55mm, because this is closest to what the human eye sees and therefore gives a natural perspective," Giuseppe says. "But for me, the backdrop is just as important as the subject, so I tend to shoot at 24mm or 28mm." When out with the Canon EOS M6 Mark II, he used the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens to create the wide, open scenes he enjoys. "The lens was so versatile in almost every situation I found myself in," he says. "I particularly like the way it allowed me to capture atmospheric scenes by focusing on the whole scene, instead of just a particular subject."

As well as shooting wide, Giuseppe has recently developed a preference for photographing from a distance. "Lately I've found it more comfortable shooting with telephoto lenses, which many pros say not to do. I believe this opinion is very old fashioned. Shooting with an 85mm lens or a telephoto zoom such as the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens allows me to keep some distance between me and the subject, so I don't invade their privacy, helps me to isolate my subject, and causes the background to become very blurry, which I like."

5. Focus on your subject

Focusing on one subject in a wider shot is a way of creating a focal point and framing the scene. This is Giuseppe's trademark technique to get that cinematic feel.

For Giuseppe, the Canon EOS M6 Mark II has been a game-changer. "The autofocus is reliable and fast, and the face and eye tracking are so accurate." That said, Giuseppe also urges street photographers to try switching to manual focus for extra creativity. "Say I want to focus on somebody in the middle of the scene, but I want all the people crossing the frame to be blurry in order to convey a sense of movement, manual focus would be the better option."

6. Find ways to be creative

Shooting with a focus on artificial light can add atmosphere to your images. Experimenting with reflective surfaces in street photography can add another creative layer.

To create distinctive images, Giuseppe suggests shooting from an unusual angle or unconventional viewpoint. One of his favourite techniques is looking for reflections in windows or other shiny surfaces. "What I do is find people behind glass, whether it's a bus window or café etc, and I'll find an interesting subject that's being reflected, which could be a building, a car or person," he says. "This layers the mood within the image."

As well as windows, Giuseppe suggests experimenting with puddles and rivers to create interesting compositions.

He also recommends being willing to shoot into the light, and embracing artificial lighting. "Light is everything in photography, we all know that, but it's how we play with the light that helps to create impact," he says. If the light is harsh or direct, he suggests this is an opportunity to experiment with silhouettes. "I'll find a background I like which is backlit, then wait for someone to come into the frame at the right point. This is particularly good if you don't want to include the subject's face.

"Other times I love to use artificial light, from street signs or lamp posts, because it creates a mood and helps to guide the focus of the viewer."

Freezing the movement in a scene like this gives the viewer a sense of the busy, vibrant atmosphere of the city street.

If you want to try street photography, Giuseppe has some simple advice: "Practise and practise and practise," he says. "If you are passionate, eventually you will become better at whatever it is you want to achieve and you will find your own style. I am still doing that today. I'm always practising. The best advice I can give you is to just pick up a camera, go out there, and do it."

Nervous about shooting in public, or worried about people's reactions? "Photographing people in the streets is a line you have to cross," Giuseppe adds. "The more you do it, the quicker you will feel more comfortable when you are out there shooting, allowing you to concentrate on what actually matters – getting that magical shot."

Written by Natalie Denton

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