Street Photography in San Francisco using film By Dirk Dom

Street Photography in San Francisco using film

By Dirk Dom


My wife and son live in San Francisco, I live in Antwerp, Belgium.

I ‘m in love with S.F. and as a lifetime project I want to make a really great photo book about it. One can only do a few things perfectly in a lifetime and for that reason I’d rather go to S.F. as much as I can and really get to know it instead of going to several places only once. I’ve been to S.F. for photography three times now, doing serious shooting, I’m gradually getting a feel of the city and in April ’17 I’m going back for five weeks. I ‘m 58 and I think I can get to S.F. about ten more times. Ten times ten really good shots printed very high quality is a hundred good shots, almost a book.

I’m very much a flower and landscape and cityscape and panoramic and abstract photographer. These things don’t react when I shoot them. I don’t feel at ease photographing people I don’t know. My wife says that’s a huge gap in my photographic portfolio. She’s right, I have to get over it. I usually ask and talk before shooting and street musicians I listen to, talk with and if possible buy their music. Shooting people on the streets I’m very much a beginner.

For good portraits I need to take hundreds of shots in often very fast succession. So far, I don’t see myself doing that on film, not because the film cost, but because of the hassle putting new film in, developing, scanning and post processing. I use my digital PEN and so far Canon FD manual focus lenses. I long for an autofocus lens with large opening in the 85mm range, which I’ll probably buy soon, when I’ve made up my mind doing people shots digitally. With my manual focus lenses I miss lots of opportunities.

I’ll see if I make the switch to film doing people on the streets, too; maybe I shouldn’t take the easy way out and be content with making far fewer photo’s.

During my six week 2012 stay in S.F. I made four people shots which were good:

This guy was at a barbecue of my wife’s neighbors. He wore this sort of ultimate American shirt.


I was listening to this guy’s music when another listener started to dance to it. I took some fifteen shots in rapid succession. The musician gave me a free Cd.


No lack of interesting, fun people in S.F.


I took perhaps 200 shots of this drummer. One came out good.


In 2015 I did two people-I-don’t-know shots. I only had my Mamiya 7 and Xpan with me.


I liked this lady’s green sunglasses.


This English guy had wonderful tattoos. I told him so and asked him to pose holding his cap. I took two shots. You can see it wasn’t very warm on the Sausalito ferry.


Mamiya 7

Of course the ultimate camera, but only ten shots a film. I hesitate to take it out for people shooting. The images would be great in grain and texture, I guess, but compositions and portrait beauty? I need much more experience with street shooting, putting people at ease, before I try the Mamiya.

My son Geert, he’s a rock hound (inherited that from me) and here he’s inspecting a piece of rock. It makes a nice, different shot of the Golden Gate. It’s not a selfie!


That was people shots in S.F.

Thanks for reading and looking,




  1. Cant see the gap you are talking about, these shots are excellent, just like all your inputs on this site. Love film but can’t print myself, no room in house, so my stuff is mainly digital. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Very beautiful. I find the second shot (musician and danser) telling the best story. Thanks to the hyperfocusing, I can place the “action” in the right environment. The perspective and composition is simply perfect, IMO. This is an absolutely great Street shot!

  3. Dirk, the portrait of your son is a beautiful, moody photograph.
    Also, looking at those hands I now completely understand your preference for large camera’s!

  4. Wow. Soon I’ll visit San Francisco maybe early October for 3 days. I hope to shoot not film due to the hassle in the airport but digital. I hope I get some good shots like you did. With my very neophyte skills – I hope am not just dreaming.

  5. shooting street with film is very challenging. i’ve just about given up on it. you did great, man!

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