Clicking vs Seeing in Street Photography

There are two mindsets I have when I go out to photograph the streets. Having one or the other mindset really dictates how I go about my photography, how much fun I’ll be having and possibly the type of photos I’ll end up with. Both of these approaches are based on feeling and state of mind at that particular moment in time.

Clicking vs Seeing are two totally different approaches to photography. Both require different set of skills and mind set. I make the analogy that “Clicking” is like “Hunting” and “Seeing” is like “Fishing”. Here is why.

What is Clicking?

In my opinion, clicking means you’re just snapping away. Clicking the shutter without much pre-determine processing other than what your natural instinct tells you (following your gut). You see something and you go ahead and press your shutter. Basically the “Shut up and Shoot” mentality. You are not worried whether or not it’s worthy of making a photo. You saw something interesting and your instincts took over any analytical pre-judgement.

You shoot, shoot, shoot, over shoot, continue to shoot, until you finally hit something. You are on the move quickly on the streets. Referencing to the hunter mentality, you adapt to your environment. Your surroundings. You discreetly follow your subject waiting or finding that perfect candid moment. You’re in full attack mode!

That’s how I felt in my last vlog “Photographer’s Block”

By adding flash to my photo walk it actually helped me click away, I stopped worrying about what looks interesting or what doesn’t since flash helps enhance images. By clicking you let your initial instincts takeover and not do what I normally do and that’s overthink things. I tend to have the most fun on my photo walks when I have the “Clicking/Hunter” mentality, I guess the less I click the more frustrated I get. Now clicking more photos doesn’t mean you’ll get better photos…however, I do believe in getting into a groove, a rhythm, when you’re out in public. For me what helps is making ten photographs, getting comfortable bringing the camera to my eye, clicking the shutter in public, and maneuvering along the crowd.


What is Seeing?

I think seeing has less to do with feeling and more with anticipation. How to see what’s to come or evolve in front of your eyes. It takes a different skill set to see, analyze, and make a photograph. The analogy and comparison to “Fishing” is that the number one quality of a fisherman is patience. By “Seeing”, you are also visualizing of the many possibilities. You see a backdrop or billboard and visualize someone or something to fall perfectly in place to complement or amplify both the foreground (the person/subject) and the background (the billboard advertisement or solid backdrop/wall). This not only requires quite an imagination but patience. How long are you able to wait for the right pieces to fall into place. This Fisherman Photographer will analyze, scope the location and situation. Perhaps, it may be better to revisit the spot during sunset if lighting is your main concern or lunch hour with more foot traffic.

With time in your favor, you’re able to take in the entire scenery, architecture, lines, geometry, lighting, shadows, and so in that case you’re able to sculpt the photograph a lot more. It just requires a lot more patience and perhaps technical skills.

Fishing is not for everyone. For me, my patience level are very short. The max I can stay in one particular area is about ten minutes then I move along. I especially take joy in walking and absorbing the moment.


So are you a hunter or fisherman on the streets ? If you are more aggressive (Bruce Gilden comes to mine) you are probably more of a hunter. You grab life by the throat and make life happen. You don’t believe in waiting as time is not favorable to you. However, if you are a hunter give it a try to fish every now and then to mix things up. Challenge yourself. Or are you a fisherman? Are you more analytical, do you do your homework before you head out and after visiting the same location? Do you enjoy seeing things, people, elements on the street fall into place creating that perfect image? When you know what type of photographer you are, try the other and see what kind of images you come out with. Always try new things and challenge yourself in your street photography endeavors.

Published by timhuynhphotos

Streetphotographer from Oahu, HI

%d bloggers like this: