Tips to 'Shoot From the Hip' With Street Photography

When I was a young photo student studying in college, my professor gave us a scavenger hunt for photography of sorts. One of the categories was "shoot from the hip." I thought it was strange, but in hindsight, it was prescient advice.

Today, it sounds a bit silly to "shoot from the hip." After all, most cameras have large, articulating screens. Such a concept is not only easy, but more accurate and precise than it ever was before. You can see exactly what you're shooting, and it's essentially no different than shooting through the viewfinder.

But it's the spirit of that command - shoot from the hip - that resonates with me to this day. Cameras of that era didn't have flipping screens, or at least most of them didn't. Live view wasn't even a thing in most cases for DSLRs. Autofocus only really worked well through a TTL viewfinder. It was that act of faith, of letting go and letting the composition gods decide what gets in the frame and what's in focus, that made the image. What did I produce with my lowly Rebel XTi? About what you'd expect from a first semester photo student:

I cruised the state fair and literally shot from the hip and ... that's it. That's the entire photo.
Uninspiring, to say the least.

But how can you take this sort of "assignment" and make it inspiring? England-based photographer Jeff Ascough of Walk Like Alice on YouTube has plenty of answers to take this particular style of photography to the next level.

He talks about how he often uses this method in street photography primarily because it affords him an element of stealth. People don't often know he's taken the shot, and for a shy photographer, that may be exactly the desire.

Beyond this, the style offers the potential for more interesting compositions. Everyone sees the world at eye level. Shooting from the hip avoids this photographic trope.

He also talks about why people may sometimes frown upon this particular type of shooting street photography.

There's a lot more ground that Ascough covers in his video, in particular, some tips on picking the right lens (and sticking with it) for street photography, as well as how to set up your aperture, shutter speed, and focusing system to more consistently get things in focus than if you're just spraying and praying as I was with the camera's ancient autofocus system.

Check out the video above to see Ascough's additional advice on shooting from the hip.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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