So far, so good, but I already knew a lot of this. What was most interesting was to see how Jardin executes these ideas. Once we started shooting, I saw how she was able to improvise a plan, then put it into action as quickly, and stealthily, as possible.
Beginners can make things easy for themselves by selecting the right locations and lighting conditions. Shoot in busy areas, so you'll blend in with tourists taking pictures, for instance. You can also choose spots you know have interesting backdrops with dramatic angles, interesting lighting or saturated colors.
"There are times where you go 'fishing,' rather than 'hunting,'" she said. "Where you will find a great backdrop, and you know what time the light will be dramatic at that spot, and then you just wait for the right subject." Hunting, on the other hand, is just walking and looking for something interesting, then trying to capture it.
There are tricks to reducing your visibility. Jardin recommends shooting using the rear display rather than the electronic viewfinder. She often shoots "from the hip," stealing minimal glances at the rear display or not looking at all. That's why using the same angle of view is key. "Because I know my camera, because I know my focal lengths so well, I don't need to look at the LCD," she explained. "I can pretty much shoot blind and get my subject in the frame pretty accurately."
If possible, wear sunglasses so people can't see where you're looking. A clever trick is to act like you're shooting above or around your subjects, then pretend to "chimp," or review the photos while the camera is pointed at them. That's when you actually take the photo (in silent mode, of course), with your subject none the wiser.
If you're sitting right next to someone in a cafe, for instance, pretend to be texting while holding the camera in the other hand. Then, you discretely snap the shot. You can also use your smartphone to control the camera, if it has that function. The silent shutter and sunglasses help with these techniques. Again, you're not trying to be sneaky; you're simply trying to capture a scene without disturbing it. These techniques take practice, so don't expect to get them right the first time.
If someone does notice and asks if you just took a photo, Jardin doesn't get defensive, but just explains what she's doing. "I'll just say, 'I'm documenting life in the streets of Paris,' or New York or wherever I am, and then because I can actually show them the picture on the back of the camera, I do, and I said, 'Look, the light was so beautiful, or look how beautiful the silhouette of you walking away.'"
"There is no bad light. There is easy light and there is hard light."
If you'd rather take non-candid portraits, then you might have to polish your social skills. Jardin recommends first chatting with folks before brandishing a camera, then asking for a photo once they're more comfortable with you.
Time of day is key as well. You're more likely to get beautiful photos in the morning and evening, when the sun is warmer and more dramatic. "There is no bad light. There is easy light and there is hard light," said Jardin. "So if you're shooting in the morning and evening, it's easy. If you shoot at noon, it's going to be a little harder. But it's not impossible. You just have to find those right subjects to fit that light."
Finally, you need to change your mindset to be very picky about what makes a good shot. "If you come home with one shot you're really happy with, that's actually excellent. And that's one thing I always remind my students, that it's not going to be like anything else they've ever tried before," Jardin said. "In a year, if you get four pictures that are worth printing, that's actually pretty good."