Useful Photography Tip #61: Shoot from the Hip to Get a New Perspective

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Gone are the days of TLR-style photography, at least for the most part. By that, I mean holding the camera at your waist, looking down at the screen, and composing your image that way. It seems that most hold their camera to their eyes, or their phone about six inches to a foot away from their squinting eyes. Within the past several months, I’ve taken to lowering my camera from my eye and shooting from the hip. It is, at first, a tad bit jarring not knowing what’s in the viewfinder. There’s as much chance as there is technique involved in getting images from your midsection. Herein lies a few pointers for getting used to holding your camera down under.

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Trust Your Camera’s Autofocus

Hopefully you’ve spent enough time with your camera that you can trust it to work on its own. For most of my photographic life, I’ve been inclined to manually focus as I like to have total control over my image. With shooting from the hip, however, I had to let that side of me go in favor of getting an image that I couldn’t get with the viewfinder pressed to my eye. If you find that most of your subjects are on the left side, set your autofocus point to that side of the frame. Let go of your inhibitions as you walk down the street and make the photograph.

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Pace Yourself

A huge part of getting the image from the hip is how you walk. I’m hard-pressed to believe anyone will get an image while running. Not even Photoshop CC can fix that kind of shake. Since you won’t have to worry about your view being limited by you camera, take in your surroundings and walk leisurely. When I see an image take shape, I slow my pace, draw in my breath, and take the shot when my foot as is at the apex of its arc midair. Half-press to focus, full-press to shoot. You won’t always get the image for myriad reasons, but if you pace yourself, you’ll have better odds.

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If You Can, Make Full Use of Your Camera’s LCD

I shoot with a Sony a580, and that, like all of Sony’s alpha line in recent years, has a tilting LCD which does wonders for the hip-shooter. I set the LCD at a 45 degree angle facing up, and I use it to see how the image is composed from that level. It also gives you a better sense of how to angle the lens because if you try to photograph people with the lens perpendicular to your body, you’ll find that you’ll cut off a limb or two.

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Let Go

This is a difficult thing to do when you’re inclined towards control. They don’t make those buttons for nothing, but shooting from the hip calls for a different approach, one that’s unobstructed by a lens, a reflecting mirror, a pentaprism, and a viewfinder. If your LCD doesn’t tilt, you’ll have to compose the image with a mental frame, and you’ll always have to remember that what you see and what your camera sees from down low are not the same. Even if your LCD does tilt, you can’t constantly look at it because you’ll run the risk of walking into something and damaging your camera. Learn to let go and trust your camera’s ability to capture images that are fine examples of your photographic vision. It isn’t easy, but the results are often exhilarating.

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