Street Photography in Ecuador

Photographers will all tell you that nothing is more satisfying than capturing an emotion, a feeling or a story in their minds when they lift the camera up to their eyes. Every photographer will tell the same story about their passion for photography: landscapes, portraiture, and so on. My passion for street photography grew out of daily experiences in Guayaquil (Ecuador) and the emotion, passion, and nobility of its people.

Ecuador is, in general, a fascinating country with many wonders of nature that rival any other country in South America or perhaps the world. The rich natural beauty of Ecuador is often overlooked by the people and their stories. I started street photography to tell stories. As a photographer, I hope my photos tell a story about the people in each photo. Guayaquil is the best place to begin this journey. It is the largest and most diverse city in Ecuador, and it is also arguably the most dangerous in South America.

How can a street photographer in Guayaquil or any other city safely approach this challenging environment with subjects and situations that could pose a danger to your safety or property? When I’m out on the streets, there are some rules that I follow.

1. Planning, Planning, Planning.

Planning is more than deciding on a theme or a concept for the day. It (especially in Guayaquil) must include planning for movement (where I will be, where I will go, which routes I will take), safety (both property and personal), and the backup plan (if something goes wrong, how do I get out).

2. Teamwork.

After you have the details sorted out, the next step is to organize your team. Team? In many cases, it is important to have another person, someone to keep an eye on you and sometimes act as a distraction. The tourist technique is a technique I often use. Once you have found your opportunity, pretend you are photographing your second while keeping them out. You then capture the shot you want. I suggest taking many photos of your team, even silly shots, to try to blend in.

3. Participant Observant.

Don’t rush to take photos. You can sit and observe the surrounding area, people, layouts, interesting locations, etc. Sometimes I have sat for hours watching people before snapping the first photo. While you might miss some amazing photos, it is easier to blend in and be noticed in “dangerous” environments. Don’t hang a $1500 camera around your neck as a sign of disrespect. You will have plenty of shooting opportunities if you keep your equipment in your backpack.

Okay, now you have your photos. Processing. Processing. I don’t like over-processing photos. There is a place in the world for everything photos, but photos that look like someone spent hours adding effects and twists to them do not appeal to me. They have lost their meaning to me. Street photography is done in colour and then converted to B&W during the processing. Each photo takes me less than five minutes to complete. I only spend about 2-3 minutes sharpening and straightening each one. If the photo absolutely requires it, I rarely keep the photo in colour. Why? Personal preference. I prefer B&W images. They convey more emotion and keep the viewer’s attention on the story, not the details of the image. It is always interesting to me when great photos elicit comments like “oh, I love her eye color” or “his red cap is so beautiful”, rather than comments about the emotional impact of the image.