If I thought for one minute that I was a successful photographer slash street photographer I might be a bit more confident in offering you my top tips for better street photography. You’ll find lots of other websites and street photography blogs offering similar advice with maybe a proven track record in the genre; publications, sales etc etc. Nevertheless what you’re about to read I hope you’ll get something from. These are just my thoughts and feelings on the subject based on over 30 years of using a camera.
- As Winogrand said something like ‘When you put four edges around a set of facts you change those facts’. It really is as simple as that. Don’t make photography hard for yourself.
2. Know your camera. We had an acronym in the iT world RTFM … ‘Read the F**** Manual !’, the same applies to photography. Know your camera and get to a point like driving a car where you operate it without thinking.
3. Follow your intuition and instinct. If something catches your eye it’s probably good for a photograph. Shoot first, think later.
4. Anticipate the moment. Keep looking !
5. Make lists of what to look out for when out with your camera. Make notes. Carry a notebook.
6. Study the work of other photographers and in particular the recognised Masters. know and acknowledge your influences.
7. Put the miles in. The more you practise the better you’ll get. Photography is like fishing. You have to be patient.
8. Know what’s going on in the world. Yes that means politics. Politics gets played out on the street everyday and everywhere. Sometimes in grand eloquent gestures and sometimes very subtly.
9. Study human behaviour. Psychology and Sociology are good starting points but don’t forget there’s Anthropology !
10 Educate yourself. You never stop learning. Read books. Don’t just read about photography. Read about life. Read the critically acclaimed books about your own country and people. Read the classics of literature. I read John Steinbeck because I like his style of writing but read anything.
11. Photography and especially street photography puts you in a unique position. Some would say a powerful position because you see people in a way they do not necessarily see themselves. Be aware of this ! Think about this.
12. You’re never going to survive unless you’re a little crazy !
Strictly speaking we photographers don’t tend to show our failures. Why should we ? What would the point of that ? I’m going to break with that because I want to share with you why the image below fails. We learn from our failures don’t we ? It’s obvious really and it was a damn shame because it would have been a good image for me. The reason this image fails is quite simply because the lady on the left is not looking at us the viewer. I asked her politely to look directly at the camera but she refused and continued to look out and down. This was taken at our town’s annual May Day March and these ladies were protesting about the pollution of the oceans. A noble and worthwhile cause you might say and I admire these ladies for taking their stance but the irony is that by refusing to look into the camera as directed, this lady she unwittingly made herself look a bit silly and thus unsure of her motives and personal political viewpoint. Had she looked into the camera as requested she would have presented herself as confident of her opinions and confrontation with us the viewer. This lady thus looks almost embarrassed to be there, unlike the lady on the right who is confronting us with an opinion and thus asking us to question this political protest. We are left in somewhat confusion and by that the image does not work as it should. The disappointment for me was that this lady did not put her trust in me to make the right kind of image even though I acknowledge she might not have wanted me to take a picture in the first place. The other disappointment for is that this lady was not sufficiently visually literate to know this. Compare the above to the image below and see how it works much better in this instance with the protestor looking directly out at us the viewer.