I’m sure you’ve heard of this phrase…”Less is More”. In street photography less is MORE! Here’s Why.
Before I go any further let me start off with a personal story, my background work is in video production. My day/night job is working at a non-profit public access television station in Honolulu, as well as picking up freelance video work from time to time. I had a mindset that I’m sure many of my colleagues can relate to is that the more and better equipment you have, then the higher quality of work you’ll be able to produce. Let me tell you, I would have anxiety over this and have difficulty sleeping because I would day dream about getting all the canon L glass, zacuto gear, and newest highest megapixel camera body. It stressed me out would be an understatement.
I became envious when I would hear friends or colleagues purchase all the latest video equipment gear, lenses, rigs, sliders, drones, etc. Simply, I couldn’t afford all of those toys, I always had to make the most with what I got. Sometime last year I finally gave in, I made a few bulky purchases but no matter what new gear I bought, I always felt the need to buy more, want more, consume more equipment. I was never satisfied, once I got a tripod I told myself I needed a monopod, then a camera rig, and a wide angle lens and then a a tele-photo lens, the list kept going. Even though I wasn’t able to purchase all on my list I kept fantasizing about it. I was obsessed with buying more shit, thinking I would be hired for more shit and produce excellent shit.
First thing first, I finally came to my senses that having all the gear in the world was not a priority in my life. I barely had any money in the bank and should not be spending any savings on more gear, that’s just stupid. My priority was taking care of my family with what I had and what I was making. I told myself well If I did pick up a gig I’ll just rent out equipment. In actuality, I didn’t need all of that for personal projects, street photography and for occasional video work. So I decided to sell majority of my video production kit, my Sony A7s, A7s Cage, Canon Adapter, Lenses, filters, etc.
I still needed a camera for my street photography endeavors, so I bought an Olympus M5-ii along with a 25mm lens (Second hand Craigslist). Which was a fraction compared to what I had spent on my a7s setup. By simplifying my desires I was able to remove a brick of stress off of my shoulders.
During this time, I was able to just go out and shoot and not make any excuses or think my photos wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have a particular lens. It’s kind of how most street photographers (myself included) desire for a Leica M camera. Believing that having a Leica will help you produce better pictures.
That’s what we do as human beings, we are victims to advertising and have a belief that if we buy more shit, expensive high end stuff then that’s what defines you as a person.
My advice is to work within your means and to remind yourselves that a camera, lenses, etc, are all tools to do what you want. Ask yourself what is your objective with your photography… is it to better connect with society? Show disadvantaged areas in your city? Get as many likes on social media? Make others happy? Make yourself happy? Do you need the highest end camera with the most expensive lens to do any of that?
“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!” – Ted Grant
How does “Less is More” applied in street photography? Sometimes having too much in a frame can be less appealing than a shot with one strong emotional subject. My personal view is that having a busy photo would only work if it adds to your subject matter.
For example, Color street photography in my opinion is one of the most difficult genres, rule of thumb if the color doesn’t enhance your photo then it may seem ordinary or people may just focus on something else rather than character or action within the frame. With Black and white photos you’re already taking one huge component (Color) away from your photo, with this format you can draw your viewers attention towards the subject matter without having the distractions or observation of colors.
So simplify your life along with your photos and enjoy the journey instead of the end results. Stop worrying about what you want or need, and do things that make you happy.