Photography might be easy to learn but is very hard to master. The learning curve is steep and not a straight line but filled with swerve. Everyone undergoes different phases accompanied with success stories or overshadowed by failure. As we make our way to the top, the experiences are often very similar. To become a better Street Photographer the following stages are representative for your personal development.
How does the Camera work
We got our first camera and it has all those tempting buttons that are determined to make our pictures look great – at least the marketing team said so. The biggest button is probably for the shutter and all we need in the beginning. Pressing it only leaves a black screen after all. Strangely enough, since we research in different online-forums for countless hours, but haven’t got told that we need to remove the lens cap.
Now we see our first image through the viewfinder. This is exactly what we fantasized about and it can’t be so hard to be a photographer after all. We take our first set of images and come home to look curiously at our results.
Sadly, most of the images are out of focus. Due to the auto-mode at least most of them are exposed rather okay. What we haven’t thought about yet are the different focus modes and how we can get a steady image.
The camera is already very intelligent. I can give her one input factor and the exposure will be adjusted accordingly. Of course, only ISO 100 was what I chose, since it is guaranteed to create the best images. As a location to shoot my first test images I chose a dark alley way. My camera set the shutter speed to 1/5th of a second, but what do I know, I trust the camera to take good images.
I guess the shutter speed wasn’t really viable for hand held shooting, so I take this as a learning experience. In my
In my mind, I know that I am a good photographer, but my camera is holding me back.
My last camera wasn’t able to take good images. Therefore I have to replace that recently acquired baby and swap it for a professional rig. A big DSLR is what I am going for now. It got a full frame sensor, the best mega pixels and hopefully will assist me to capture great images.
Together with the camera I also bought some really good glass. A 70-200 to cover a wide range, a 50mm 1.2 because an open aperture is always good for that sweet bokeh. What works for other professional photographers must also work on the street.
I am super excited to start my Street Photography journey now. With all the equipment there will be nothing that comes into my way.
Going for the first time on the street – not taking a picture
So, I have all the right tools and watched a Youtube Video on how to do Street Photography. It can’t be that hard to actually take pictures in public and get all the great shots I dreamed about.
Heading to downtown now to capture the life in this great city, with my newly bought DSLR and a few lenses that I want to try out in real situations.
After arriving at the train station I quickly setup my camera. “P-Mode” for exposure and the auto focus mode, will assist me on my first journey. Wandering through the streets with a camera in my hand makes me feel like I am a real photographer now.
Although I admire this city, it seems that there is nothing interesting enough to photograph. Should I take a picture in front of the graffiti background? Or the two guys with the funny hat? Nah, it wouldn’t make great pictures I imagine.
But then there is that great elderly couple having a good laugh. That surely would make a great picture. Just going a little closer to compose the image and then… they saw me. As I looked through my viewfinder, they directly stared into my lens. I just couldn’t help it to overcome my fear to photograph them.
Taking candid pictures of strangers isn’t so easy after all, I noticed. But what were the masters I saw in videos doing differently? The Street Photographers on Everybody Street just walk around the city taking pictures as if nobody minds. Why is everyone around me staring at my camera now?
Street Photography isn’t that easy I guess. There must be more to it than simply taking a walk and doing a few snapshots here and there. I feel like I am having my camera under control now, but it’s me who isn’t working properly. Me – after buying all this gear
Me – after buying all this gear I arrive at home devasted. After hours of wandering through the city, I at least was able to take two pictures. Of a blank wall and a door, just because I wanted to see if my camera is still working.
I wasn’t able to photograph any people while on the street. What a waste of time I thought. Even asking for permission didn’t work out and I passed the “5-No” challenge in a record time.
Is Street Photography really what I wanted to pursue after this negative experience?
Taking the first pictures – I am the greatest
After throwing my camera bag in the corner, I guess after a whole week of recovery I am finally motivated again to try Street Photography. I know that my place isn’t the most photography welcomed place on earth, but there must be a way to do Street Photography.
Heading to downtown again, I join a protest march. There are a lot of other photographers here, so there can’t be a problem with me taking pictures as well. As long as I keep my cover up to look like a professional photographer it will work.
This isn’t the Street Photography I dreamed about, but at least there are people willing to take their photos here, so it is a start. Some I did take candidly and for others, I ask for permission.
It also feels great to have exclusive permission to walk where protesters aren’t allowed. The march wants their message to be spread, so they rely on us – the photographers to share their images.
Coming home again, out of the 100 photos I took, there are some that are quite good. After the devasting first experience, there is a glimmer of hope. Actually, Photography might not be that hard and I see myself already hanging my pictures on art gallery walls.
The Social Media Gratification
I am so proud of my first images that I create accounts at all the image sharing websites that I heard of. Flickr, Instagram & Facebook – they all just wait for my images to be shared. Of course, it is hard to start from the bottom with absolutely zero audience and followers. So I engage and spent a lot of time on these platforms.
After a while, I sort of know how each medium works, which images get me the most likes and what I have to do in order to get them. It feels great to showcase my work and earn all the recognition that I felt my images deserved. I even got so lucky to get my pictures “explored” on Flickr or shared by great hubs on Instagram. Thousands of people were giving thumbs up and commenting on these images.
I must be one of the best photographers out there, all these people can not be wrong I guess? In between all the praise are some critical voices. Those must be haters, so I quickly dismiss these comments and ignore them.
Actually, I am the worst
The next weeks I am spending my time on the street taking pictures with a huge portion of self-confidence. People recognize my work, write nice comments and the images I take fulfill me with joy.
Alongside my online activities, I enjoy buying photo books even more. There I can find pictures that I wouldn’t discover in all the social media feeds, although I follow thousands of photographers. As I delve deeper into this world of artists I find that my pictures are missing a lot.
Somehow the atmosphere is totally different and I am not able to re-create what I am seeing in these pictures. Is it the different time? The equipment? The photographer? I have no idea what I could do differently but realize that I am far from where I want to belong.
Studying Street Photography
Taking a picture is easy. I know how to control the buttons to capture a well-exposed image, as well as focussing correctly. What I realize now is that photography goes way beyond cameras or buttons. Composition, Creativity and finding your own style is much more important to create a collection that will be remembered by others than having the most up-to date camera.
At first, photography felt easy, almost too easy. Digital cameras can produce excellent images in no time. Combined with some luck on the street you can get a few lucky shots here and there very early on.
Understanding the essence of Street Photography takes a lot of time. Developing a personal style probably takes a lifetime.
Reaching your maximum potential requires a lot of hard work. Both on the street taking pictures, as well as learning from actual photographic idols, instead of believing internet preachers blindly.
Looking back after more than two years of shooting Street Photography I guess everyone has its ups and downs. One day we are feeling like the next photography god himself and then there are days where we are crushed by self-doubts.
Development is not a straight road uphill but filled with peaks and valleys.
The previous stages were how I felt as a Street Photographer, especially when I started. I guess sooner or later everyone undergoes different phases.
What is more interesting is what still lies in front of me. Finding my personal style, completing a series, while still preserving the fun in photography will hopefully my next stages.
Wherever you can find yourself in these stages of a Street Photography, I wish you all the best to reach your goals.