Emre Çift is a cinephile/street photographer whose love for cinema has significantly impacted his street photography style. His shots are incredibly dramatic and do in fact, make you feel like you are looking at a movie frame. His photos tell stories, giving your imagination plenty of space to run wild.
I asked Emre a few questions about how his love for street photography and cinema have come to be intertwined and how he achieves that cinematic look with his images. Read on to enjoy our conversation and a few of Emre’s always beautiful and powerful images.
What drew you to street photography initially?
My passion for photography was sparked by the visit I made to a darkroom for a course assignment when I was around 10. I picked up a camera straight away and learned the basics while photographing family and friends. Yet it took another 15 years for me to come across some of the inspirational street photography groups on Flickr. I was thrilled and decided to explore the streets through the lens of a camera. Since then, I try to spare more time for street photography as a temporary escape from the corporate world.
How does your love of cinema affect your street photography? And what filmmakers are a source of inspiration to your photography?
As a cinephile wandering around the streets, I convert the world I see into a movie playing in my head. When I see that exact scene or the moment I want to capture, I instantly assess the exposure, contrast and story; press the shutter-release button in my mind first then with my camera within seconds.
I’m genuinely inspired by so many great filmmakers but I always name the cinematography of Wong Kar-Wai / Christopher Doyle for this question, which I find breathtaking. When I saw ‘In the Mood for Love’ for the first time, I was amazed by the cinematography. Then, I went through the entire filmography of WKW and I definitely recommend any photographer to watch his movies over and over. His framing, his colors, how he uses light among scenes are really inspirational, not only for a cinematographer but also for a photographer.
What kind of post processing do you do to achieve that cinematic look?
I play with the tone curve in Lightroom to process RAW images when I shoot digital. Each photo needs different treatment as they are exposed in different lighting conditions. Generally speaking for the cinematic look, I usually de-saturate my photos and try to find a balance between complementary colors amplified in the shadows and highlights. Depending on the emotion I want to create in the photo, I usually add blue-cyan tones in the shadows and red-yellow tones in the highlights. I finally crop the picture for anamorphic format and add the black bars for a widescreen cinematic look.How’s it going with film? So far, what have you preferred for street photography, film or digital?
I’ve been practicing street photography for a while now, and have used various brands of cameras in different formats. Of course I love the convenience that digital brings. However film does have its own advantages. First of all, it gives a consistent look and feel throughout the same roll, unlike digital, where you need to process every photo to get the feeling you want. Moreover with film, the feeling of getting the perfect shot is priceless. With digital, you shoot as many as you want, you chimp and end up choosing one from your shots. But with film, you have to plan very carefully in order to get the perfect composition and moment on your first shot as you only have a limited number of exposures.
In a way, film forces you to improve your skills and get a better sense of how it could be the best shot at any condition. Eventually – and ideally – when you catch the perfect moment that you want to capture, you know right away what to do. At the end, there is the added excitement and surprise element due to not knowing exactly how your photo will turn out, which I enjoy very much.
A lot of people argue you should use a 50mm and get up close to your subject. I noticed you sometimes use 85mm or 135mm lenses. What would you say are the pros and cons to using telephoto lenses?
I use 50mm standard lens quite often as it offers a natural field of view similar to the human eye. In street photography, I often want to catch people in their most natural state. But it is not always possible to get close up to the subject with standard or wide-angle lenses as you would have to intrude on your subject. At this point, telephoto lenses come in handy and enable you to take photos without bothering your subject, from a distance.
You can also get more detail and better isolate the subject you want to draw the viewer’s attention to. I think this also adds a cinematic effect to the photo. After all, most telephoto lenses are big and heavy. Besides, you are going to need faster shutter speeds to take sharp pictures.
Be sure to visit Emre’s Flickr photostream to see more of his cinema-inspired street photography.