So lately after I published an article about the benefits of having your own blog I started to do some research about becoming a better writer. Apparently a lot of the suggestions that I read also translate into photography and probably a lot more creative professions. Thinking outside the box is always advised to get some new kind of input and reading tips about photography written by photographer’s all the time can get a bit stale. Therefore I took the tips that are directed at writers and transferred them into street photography.
1 Shoot Anything
Starting with a blank page and overcoming the fear of the first few sentences can be the worst, but once you got started it becomes easier and more fun with every word you write. In the same way it can be hard for a photographer when you start with an empty roll of film (or SD-Card) and want to fill it with wonderful images. If you just arrived at your favorite location and can’t get over taking the first picture because you don’t think to find something worthy enough to capture, you should just start out by shooting anything. It doesn’t even have to be in the context of Street Photography, instead starting with architecture or urban landscapes can bring you in the right mood and get the ball going.
2 Photograph Anytime
Carrying a big DSLR can be a hassle at times and I understand you don’t want to carry this big and heavy equipment all the time with you. The benefit of ever improving technology is, that you are able to take wonderful pictures with your smartphone or a small compact camera like the RicohGR. If you didn’t think about buying a smaller camera yet, because you are satisfied with your favorite go-to DSLR think about the benefits of being able to shoot anytime, whether in the transit to work, during pauses or at any places where a big camera would be too noticeable to get candid photos. Taking pictures anytime allows you to invest more time in your hobby and getting better a lot faster, plus you aren’t contemplating about all the shots you already missed because you hadn’t your camera with you.
3 Study the masters
You can either try to invent the wheel yourself or learn the easy way from more experienced photographers. Internalize their work and take it as inspiration. Don’t try to simply copy the style of certain photographers. Study and understand their art and implement it in your work. Additionally don’t be too narrow minded by only looking for other Street Photographers. Stimulate your creativity with different genres, styles and stay open minded.
4 Stay focused
Before you go out and shoot make sure that you have handled every important business and don’t have to worry about anything other than your shots. Ideally you can even turn off your phone to try and reach the maximum state of street zen. Street Photography can be like meditation and getting distracted can make any progress in vain. Personally I need some “warm-up” time before I feel in the zone and at my highest potential. Depending on the regularity of my street walks this can range from 30 minutes to over an hour. If I had any other work to do in that time that would mean I have to start over again. So make sure you create the best environment for yourself beforehand.
5 Plan your walks
In Street Photography you can’t plan the final images in detail because every setting is different, people behave differently and the lighting may vary. Planning in this case means that you can challenge yourself with certain tasks you want to fulfill in order to become a better photographer. Maybe you want to get closer to people, or have other areas you want to focus on. Plan ahead by getting inspired from your favorite photographers and figuring out how they might have shot their beautiful pictures. The next time you hit the street you can try to embrace their style and over the course of multiple attempts you are able to try out photography style from many different photographers. In the end you can choose which abilities are helpful and keep them, while throwing away features that don’t fit to you. By working on specific areas that you want to improve you also use your time more efficiently than trying to enhance every aspect of your photography just a little bit.
6 Keep it simple
Stories are probably the most important property of photographs. Often times we think we only can create powerful stories by displaying complex scenes that include twists and get stronger the longer we glare at them. The problem with this approach is that instead of having one strong composition it becomes an entangled mess that can’t be unraveled by a neutral observer. Therefore keep it simple and focus on fewer subjects that tell a cohesive story. This is also the driving force behind the famous quote “if your pictures aren’t good enough you aren’t close enough”. Only include what is important to you and and tell your story straight.
7 Be controversial
It is easy to only present photos that appease to everybody. The problem is that you won’t invoke strong emotions with “conform” images. I rather have 10 people that absolutely love my pictures and my style than 1000 likes that are shortly forgotten. You will only be remembered if you stand out, or as a saying goes you can try to follow in one another’s footsteps, or leave a trail yourself. Therefore don’t be intimidated if other people don’t like your style and give in to their lovely advice. On the other hand don’t sit on a high horse and justify everything with your personal flavor. Listen to the people you look up to and go your own way. Eventually after years of hard work you will find your audience, while all the rivals are indistinguishable in the mainstream boredom.