Here are some female street photographers you should look to for inspiration.
1. Vivian Maier
One of my favorite photo’s from my own collection is RED. This series of photographs were taken in Tenderloin last year (2016) during Jack Simon‘s workshop in San Francisco. Tenderloin is not a particular area you would typically roam around for street photos but surprisingly there was a block party so we went ahead and joined in.
As I was roaming around the area waiting for those interesting moments to happen, I for one did not notice the red wall. Probably at the time I was not as aware or experienced at seeing vibrant colors on the street as I am now. It wasn’t until I noticed how Jack and the other students were photographing the man in the red sweater that I went ahead and joined in. (You can watch here how I photographed RED at 5:45)
First, I love the vibrant red and how his sweater blended in with the red wall. The man’s hat, white sunglasses and the white graffiti on the wall pointing to the right makes it more interesting. I probably should have worked the scene until a lot more but at the time I didn’t know any better.
I feel photo eight is the best photo on the entire contact sheet. I like the simplicity of it with just him against the wall. The special moment in my opinion is when he opened his pizza box and bit into his pepperoni pizza…MORE RED COLORS!
Do you think I selected the right image? What would you have liked to see happen in the frame? How would you have shot it differently?
Criticism is negative feedback and I’ve had a very small handful of them on my photography through peers and folks on social media. I’m human, sometimes it gets to me but I try my best not to let it. Criticism is negative feedback without any guidance or suggestive improvements. For example, if someone saw your photo and said “It’s crap” and not explain why the photo is crap then it’s all deaf ears to me.
However, saying that the photo is crap but yet explaining why, is constructive feedback. There’s opportunity to learn and grow knowing why your photo just doesn’t work. I had one person say (and I won’t give any clues) that one of my photo essays was pretty good but that’s because they edited the photos down and cropped some of the images. Or said (same person) it sucks without further explanation.
I’m open for constructive feedback and I think I take it pretty well, I’m all ears and open to a discussion. I also believe in defending your work if you truly love the image and regardless what others think, if you like the photo stand by it. I actually appreciate when someone gives me their constructive feedback, to take time to either type a message or waste their breath on me, I feel appreciative to an extent. I have always believed if the person didn’t care then they wouldn’t waste their time saying anything.
Also remember to keep in mind, everyone has the right to their own opinion. That’s the beauty of this country, the freedom of speech. So that we can have dialogue and come to an mutual or better yet…a better understanding of both perspectives.
The way I see constructive feedback is 1. What would make the image work better instead or 2. From the perspective of the viewer, how it’d be a better image. There is no right or wrong in street photography but there is good, better, and just not there. I think most people don’t know how to give good constructive feedback, for photography good constructive feedback is saying this doesn’t work but I’d be curious to see if a particular subject passed back or if you got lower it’d add more emotion or mystery to it.
For me even if I receive good constructive feedback I won’t always adjust to their liking’s or to use less words…agree. But I am appreciative of their feedback and thoughts (never know you may learn something new). You got to remember even if Bruce Gilden gave you feedback on a photo you truly liked and he chewed it up to pieces (like he did to mines in San Francisco) and he pointed out why it’s a weak photo, etc, and with over five decades of experience, a Magnum photographer, the list goes on…Even he has a particular style he likes or prefers (plus I don’t think Bruce Gilden ever complimented anyone’s photos besides his very own).
Imagine if someone asked you to review and critique their photo and there’s parts of the image that you do or don’t like about it. You’re giving your opinion based on your own experience, personal fondness of what type of photos you cater towards. If photographed a scene that included vibrant colors and had a very minimalist aesthetic to it and you ask a fellow photographer that loves black and white photos, that tends to incorporate layers and lots of people in their frame…they probably won’t appreciate your photo compared if another photographer presented photos that shared the same ideas and have similar taste in style.
That’s why I believe in not having a style. Lots of photographers talk about having a style to call your own, to separate from the pack, or to use less words…branding. For me I just shoot what I like, what catches my attention and keeps me curious. I don’t want to be pigeon hold to one style or one way of shooting…I’d get bored too quickly.
Be open to other opinions. Take what you can learn and filter the rest. People giving criticism online and social media are likely to be more harsh with their feedback because they can hide behind a screen. They’re not dealing with an actual person right in front of them. Think of customer service, when someone calls and make a complaint versus making a complaint in person at the store. Nobody wants to cause a scene at the store and go viral on Facebook. Even if it’s someone you know, their critique online will be much different in person.
ultimately, my advice is to always follow your gut, be true to yourself, you can’t please everyone the only person you should be pleasing is yourself. Life is about taking the bumps and bruises and just picking yourself back up and keep on keeping on.
Defend your work, stand up for it if it’s something you like. Don’t let the opinion of others demoralize you. And don’t change because society tells you to or the feeling of pressure from your peers. Change when you’re ready to change, when you’re ready to take that leap of faith whether that’s in your photography by changing up your approach and style…or if that’s in life where you need to subtract old friends that are nothing but toxic or if you need to move to another country for a change in scenery. Do it by your own terms, create your own destiny, write your own narrative.
I wanted to create a contact sheet to share with you folks on how I capture and process my images. This one titled “Legs” is one of three photos that will be published in this year’s World Street Photography 4 book (you can purchase book here).
I saw this giant advertising board at the new Waikiki International Market Place and it caught my attention because of how simple it was, a giant sexy leg of a woman (I assume) and the fact that it was in black and white. I knew I could create something out of this with a lot of mixed reactions of people walking by. This is when visualization and the use of imagination comes in handy when you are able to juxtapose or visualize what may come about. I usually don’t hang out in a particular area for more than 10 minutes, I don’t have the patience. Below are the contact sheets.
I didn’t get the overly dramatic moment that I had wanted to get. I was using flash so it helped draw attention to me as people were walking by and were curious as to what I was photographing. No person or animal was harmed in this event, there was no altercation, people kept on walking and didn’t say a word.
I chose photo #10 because that was the best reaction I got out of the 23 attempts. The couple did not make eye contact with me as I clicked the shutter which was good but also they seem more effected by the giant leg. It almost looks like the man is sort of closing his eyes or not trying to look at the giant leg that’s flashing the couple. The framing of attempt number 10 is the best too. I tried many variations as far as framing, shoot it with no foot, shoot it off to the side, eye level, play around with the actual heel hitting or aligning with someone’s head like in photo number 2. I tried as much as I could within my ten minute patient bar. I also think converting the photo into black and white helped elevate the images it almost looks like the couple blends in and are a part of the advertising display.
Well, if you guys think another attempt was a better shot or if I should have tried a different way to work the scene, please let me know.
Thanks for reading and keep shooting!
When I first started shooting street photography I thought my images needed to be in black and white. I discovered street photography through Vivian Maier which a lot of her iconic images are in black and white and whenever I would google search the term “street photography” most of the time black and white images would appear (HCB, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, etc). Now that was in 2010. Street photography within the last decade or so has really been revolutionized, a big part of that is social media, it’s easier to share your work with the world. You don’t need to have photos exhibited at a physical location, plus having it online reaches more people (I still love the exhibit or festival component, more prestigious and it’s nice to see quality printed work displayed). Cameras are now accessible, you can get a pretty cheap point and shoot for $500 or so, or you can use your smartphone (Samsung S8 quality is awesome).
Going off topic, anyways, yeah so there’s black and white or color approach to making your photos. Now there’s no rules in photography but my own bias opinion is to stick with one or the other, try both and see which flavor resonates with you more, but ultimately try to stick with one for a particular project you are working on or body of work. I don’t think turning a photo black and white for the sake of the photo being black and white is a much of an argument. I rarely post process a photo to black and white unless I think it helps elevate the photo. Whether it adds to the story, elevates the image and the narrative then I will convert the photo to black and white (keep reading I’ll show an example soon).
I think if you want to challenge yourself, ask yourself “Why am I turning this photo black and white” or “why am I keeping this photo in color”. It’s not to put any barriers in your photography but more of a self reflection or to better understand your own photos or maybe to just better understand yourself. Why do you like color more than black and white or vice versa.
I think both color and black an white has it’s advantages. My opinion on black and white photos is that it has more soul, one less element (no-color) so there’s potentially less distraction and with that you can draw your viewer in closer to what you want them to focus on. If you’re starting off in street photography and your don’t have a lot of direction, I would suggest shooting in black and white or post processing in black and white. This way you have one less element to focus on or distract you from. Black and white photos tend to have more soul or nostalgic feel to it. Takes us back to a place and time. You are not worried about color combinations (Blue-Yellow, Red-Green, Red Yellow, etc), rather you are more concern about capturing raw emotion at a fraction of a section (facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, sad, happy, mad faces.
I would say to make a very good black and white photo is hard, it’s its own art form. But to make a decent black and white photo is easy, the lighting, shadows, or primary subject can be “Okay” or nothing really has to align together and it may still work. The best black and white photographers “IMO” (Daido Maroyama, HCB, Bruce Gilden, Tatsyo Suzuki, Chris Suspect, Argus Paul-Estabrook) they either have a clean image all around the edges, it’s simple, or a lot of soul and emotion in there images, or all three.
For instance, my photo above “Hair Extension” was shot in color and converted to black and white. I photographed this woman because of her unique Afro, (crazy hair catches my eye). There were no intentions or preconceived awareness of subtly aligning her hair with the tree in the background. It wasn’t until I uploaded the photo onto my computer then realized that it created a humorous moment for me. I recognized it in color but with the bushes of the tree being green I wouldn’t think the story in the image would fully portray itself. So in that instance, turning it to black and white in my opinion helped sor of elevate the narrative I wanted to get across.
When I first learned about William Eggleston and his color work, it opened a new can of worms for me. It opened up my eyes that street photography doesn’t have to be in black and white, and doesn’t always need to be of people. Eggleston reinvented the wheel and reminded us that there are no rules in photography, just your own self-limitations. Then I discovered Martin Parr, Alex Webb, Jack Simon, Jesse Marlow, Harry Gruyaert, Constantine Manos, etc). There’s also photos I come across and think to myself “that would have been more effective in black and white” or “I wonder how this photo would look in color”.
For me I’ve found color to be more challenging (I like a challenge) and most importantly more fun to shoot. You got to consider all aspect of the environment you’re shooting in. The light, shadows, color, patterns, complimentary color patterns and how these elements effect your overall frame. There’s a sense of more excitement with color and you can play around with depth a lot more (check out Alex Webb’s work or Harry Gruyaert). You can use color to evoke a different expression or feeling, color takes into account of not just people but again…the environment. The little details in a color photo can help elevate the image too.
My photo above is obviously vibrant with slight subject to the left with contrasting blue. It’s simple, no faces, there’s not a lot or if any “SOUL” but there is a mystery to it. And with mystery that alone can make us feel a certain way. In this case, had I converted this photo into black and white, it just wouldn’t work in my opinion. The vibrant and strong color of red is the obvious attention grabber but the blue hand and umbrella on the left is not only the perfect color to counteract the red, there’s perfect portion of blue in the frame. The colors is what makes this photo, it adds to the narrative in my opinion. There’s also not a lot of other distracting colors competing with the red and blue. It just so happens to be a red wall, a person walking by with a red umbrella, and a slight arm with a blue sleeve and blue umbrella. You can call it lucky or letting experience and instincts kick in…or all three to get the shot.
I notice color helps with humorous or more playful situation whereas black and white is more serious situations….and yes color can trigger an emotional sensory and can definitely enhance a mood if the main subject is the prominent hue in my opinion…color can also be distracting and take away focus if the colors aren’t prominent enough.
Experimenting with black and white, forms and shapes seem to work more effective that I’ve seen and create a timeless photo…playing with shapes and form with color is achievable but a lot hard to come by from my experience.
I don’t think one is better than the other, it’s just a different aesthetic. Personally, I currently enjoy shooting and post processing in color. I like the challenge and the extra element of color. One of my fall backs when I’m out on the street and not really coming across anything is being able to recognize vibrant colors which catches my attention immediately. Shoot what resonates with you and what you like. Who cares if color is popular thing to shoot or if black and white is more hip, just do what you appreciate and defend your work and purpose.
Two very different styles and approaches to street photography, Jesse’s work in color, shapes, visualization, and leading lines, while Aaron’s work with “people happening”, character driven, action in the streets approach was great to watch and learn as well. They also reiterated that there are no rules in street photography, which I thought was great to echoe because a lot of the students were new to this and it’s also great for me to hear because often times I put these barriers up that a photo should be this or look like that or have such and such…
Aaron is the slickest photographer I’ve ever seen work…he slitters like a snack, through and in-between people and no one ever does notice that he’s making a picture of them. He has it down like clockwork, it’s quite awesome to witness in person. We were out in the LA area for close to 10 hours of shooting. Aaron has a lot of energy and is relentless, his approach to shooting the streets is hitting it up everyday for hours and be on full offensive attack. I admire that of Aaron.
He also anticipates the shot coming from 30 feet away. While walking through a crowd down Hollywood Blvd, he’s not scanning through the crowd that’s five or ten feet from him, he’s looking at twenty five, thirty feet away and visualizing if there’s an opportunity to pair up couples or notice if there’s potentially anything interesting may come about. Learning about dead space and how heads sticking out of other people’s heads in a photo can make or break your images.
I think we all can learn from Aaron by pushing ourselves daily. Go out and make those opportunities happen. Don’t just sit around and expect things to come at you, go out and grab life by the throat. Find what works for you, what visually intrigues you, and get it.
Jesse Marlow is great at recognizing a scene and shooting the scene until it dissolves or until he no longer cannot. I shot with Jesse for most of the day and learned a lot from him, about challenging yourself, finding your unique style and sticking with it, and not giving a shit what others think…if you like the photo, defend it, fight for it.
Jesse has more of a calculated approach I would say. Recognize a scene that’s simple and shoot many times of it, go low, go high, get close, take a step back…be patient, as some of the best photos just unfold itself right in front of you. Drop the f-stop to darken a particular area in the frame to isolate your subject. Look for vibrant color, shadows, leading lines and geometry and be creative with it. Avoid the cliche’s and instead think outside the box. Ultimately don’t worry about awards and prizes, remind yourself to shoot for yourself and because you enjoy doing it. Things will fall into place.
Even the photo does have a story or drama within the frame, something within the image that doesn’t support the photo can turn it into a bad photo. If a shadow or a giant tree is in the frame and doesn’t add to the narrative then it really loses it soul. It’ll draws people attention away from the main focus.
Bring your camera everywhere. Jesse is the opposite of Aaron, he doesn’t allocate time each day and go out and shoot. Rather Jesse just brings his camera wherever with him. This allows more free time with his family and also doesn’t add any pressure or disappointments to photography. If he see’s something while he’s driving or on his way to the grocery, he’ll have his camera ready and loaded. But if he didn’t capture anything while on the road or on errands then no big deal. There’s no expectations and I think we all can learn from Jesse’s approach.
I highly recommend beginners or advance street photographers to learn from both Jesse and Aaron. Even if your style or what you’d like to be your style is opposite from either one of them, it’s great to learn and absorb new techniques and knowledge on street photography. Listen and see what makes a photograph work out on the field and in the classroom.
I want to thank the class, Aaron, Jesse, Tom Smith of Leica Akadmie North America, my family for allowing me to go on this adventure, and the staff at Leica LA for an awesome experience.
Met Bruce Gilden at this past year’s Streetfoto. Had the opportunity to hear him critique photos and give a lecture on his projects and experience of nearly 5 decades in photography. I also enjoyed hearing him chew out my photo from the Streetfoto Cagematch. Bruce has that presence about him, when he speaks, you listen. Here’s what I learned from Bruce Gilden.
A lot of Gilden’s photos are gritty and some would say unpleasant close-ups of people in today’s society. Specifically his most recent works like FACE, where he photographs prostitutes and drug addicts around the globe. These photos resonates with him because his mother was of similar situation and feels it’s his personal obligation to keep the people he photograph’s legacy to carry on through his images.
If you’re photographing homeless people for instance…but you personally have no connection with the subject, it’ll easily show in your photos. If something resonates with you, you’ll be willing to push yourself because of the connection to the subject, time or place.
For me, I love photographing in Waikiki. It’s a sentimental place for me, I grew up in the area, have lots of memories. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 21 years old but that didn’t stop me from going out into the ocean as a kid. I enjoy seeing the blend of tourist with locals. I love the Aloha spirit, it reminds me of my childhood, just care free.
During the Cagematch, Gilden was big on framing. He didn’t like partially cropped out body parts. For a good photo to happen, framing is number 1 for him. A clean photo all around the edges with no dead space. Dead space can make or break a photo. Gilden’s critique was consistently grilling the photos on their framing and cropping. First, I belive there are no rules in street photography…and once you put those rules, it’s like putting up barriers or an analogy locking yourself behind bars. The best approach to street photography is to have an open mind and to shoot first ask questions later…Gilden had great points about many photos on framing and spacing but i would argue against a few…but who am I…
Sometimes we add too much in a photo and there’s no strong focal point. Keep it simple…less is more.
Many shooters think if their photos have people in them it’s a street photograph…but really if nothing interesting or dramatic is happening or is about to happen then you just have a photo of people…which anyone can do and is overly done these days. Find the details in your particular subject, maybe they have a crooked tie, or broken now, or a subtle band-aid near their eye. Something that throws off the photo and makes it interesting.
You gotta shoot what you like. Shoot who you are. Or else nothing will come out of it. Shoot what has you curious in wanting to know more.
It was obvious Bruce had his belief and approach to photography…however, street photography has evolve so much since, especially in recent years. Bruce’s approach is just one of many…there is no right or wrong…or rules in street photography. If we all approached it the same way then it becomes a science and not an art form. We shoot street for the challenge and as our creative outlet…just keep shooting and keep pushing yourself.
Street photography is always a challenge. It requires skills such as timing, reaction, awareness, being able to anticipate, visualizing a scene, being brave, being sly, a little luck, and so many more to make a photo.
I always make the analogy that street photography is like fishing…some days you’ll catch a fish…but rarely you’ll catch the fish you want. Fishing requires a lot of patience and time too, just like with street photography, it takes time and patience to come across a scene on the streets and being at the right place at the right time. But once you finally see a scene you like and make a photo of it, it makes you appreciate everything that goes into street photography. The walking (sort of like a hunter on the streets), going on days, weeks, or even months without anything self satisfying.
If I were to make a good photo every time I went out, I would lose interest real quickly. I need to be challenged in everything that I do or else I get…bored.
I was always a creative person. I just felt like I was another being from another planet. I always saw things in a real weird or strange way. Most of the time I would interpret things in a more comical sense because humor and laughter makes me feel good. So I try to find those moments when I’m out shooting.
My background is in Film/Video, I earned my Bachelor’s in Film at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I’ve always been intrigued with what art could do and in sharing stories through the lens. I don’t pursue any narration avenues anymore through film/video, it’s too stressful, you end up being more of a manager/baby sitter, especially when you have a low budget to produce films or when you’re working with a client (usually small local businesses) with little to no budget. It’s fun and a challenge to an extent but not as much as street photography.
Street photography is only up to you. How much you want to put in. It’s sort of like training at the gym to improve your health and physical physique. You can hire a trainer and have a training partner but ultimately your success and failure are based on you and you alone. In film/video there can be a lot of finger pointing, well the editor didn’t do a good job cutting this scene, the lighting was bad, the actors sucked…In street photography, nothing is staged, it’s happening in real time and in public setting. You can only blame yourself for not taking the picture, not having your camera settings correct, not being close or far enough, not editing properly, not studying other photographers, not improving one self, all of these is dependent on you.
Street photography helps me get my mind off the daily stresses….what is my family going to eat for dinner, when will i receive my rightfully deserved raise, work stuff, family stuff, the future, the past, friendships, the what if’s…our current state of our country, etc.
When I shoot, all those worries exit the door. If for some reason it doesn’t I can’t really focus on being in the moment and enjoy my photo walk and ends up being a waste of time.
I’ve always enjoyed walking as I’ve used the time to relax and meditate away from my stresses. I started walking at a young age 10 months old, my parents couldn’t afford a stroller so they made me walk everywhere. I used to walk a mile or two home all through grade school, so walking was never an issue for me. Plus it kept the body fat in check.
Nowadays, I take a walk when I can, I’ll walk on my hour lunch break with my camera. On the weekends, after work. This helps me get away from sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours a day or staring at my phone. If I don’t take a walk sometime within the day I get irritated and my body specifically my shoulders get real tight.
Making photos out on my walk is the bonus.
Being out and about allows me to appreciate my community, my environment, but also be aware and conscious of issues in my area (homelessness, traffic, people looking miserable because of their jobs, people glued to their phones, etc). Through my observation it helps me better understand people in their current state and also allows me to reflect on the past with the rapid changes in comparison to my own childhood.
I love taking/making photos out in the public setting. I have something where I can call my own! I don’t work for anyone, have anyone to tell me get this or get that. I click the shutter when my eyes, heart, and soul feel something out in the streets. Once it’s capture, it can never be duplicated, it is unique to my own eyes and personal touch.
It’s very similar to remodeling your own home. From buying of the materials, getting your hands dirty all with a vision in mind. The simplicity of visualizing something that’s personal to you and making it become a reality is a great feeling. For photos, when you see that A-HA moment out in the streets and make an image out it, it’s sort of like an orgasimic feeling.
I love to observe and see what other people do out in the public. How they act or react in certain situations. Observing how we’re all so similar but yet so far disconnected from one another. Observing how people interact in groups versus solo.
I wouldn’t continue doing street photography if it wasn’t fun. The day that I have no fun in it, is the day I’ll completely stop. I need to often remind myself that I shoot for myself and not to take this so seriously. Street photography is my medicine for stress (better than cigarettes).
Everyday is a new day to conquer an opportunity in which is awaiting before us. Same applies in street photography, everyday is a new day. You can go to the same spot at the same exact time of day and you’ll always discover something new. It’ll always be different and therefore you’re money shot of an opportunity might just rain on you from the photo God’s. I shoot at the same spots time after time, I have yet to be bored or become lazy.
You don’t need to travel to a new place every year to make good photos. You can do it in your back yard or anywhere rather. That’s what makes street photography as unique as it is.
Street photography keeps me inspired knowing that I’m documenting my surroundings, my community for the greater good of mankind. It helps me get through the day at work, it makes me have something to look forward to. I don’t shoot street to make money, I do it because it feels right, in my gut it feels good to go out and make photos.
Looking at other street photographer’s photos online and through books keep me moving. A lot of times I’m just amazed at what other people see and are able to capture, it blows me away. Creating nothing into something is very uplifting too, as we all try to do that in our everyday life through work, school, trying to make a $1 out of .15 cents.
I hope my 10 reasons on why I love to shoot street photography resonated with you. Ask yourself why you enjoy shooting street photography and this may lead to a bigger purpose with a more refined goal down the line.
Thanks for reading, keep shooting.
How JJ Abrams insight applys very much so in street photography
Stop lusting over which camera you should get next (or simply G.A.S…gear acquisition syndrome). Your camera is just a tool to do the work, it probably only makes up 10% of the finished product. You can shoot the streets candidly with any camera, a Leica, a Sony, a Canon, an iPhone, a Olympus, a Nikon, any camera really. What you really need to know is how to work your camera and ergonomically if it feels right in hand. Is it too heavy, too small, too big, are there too many buttons, is it cheap/expensive. Those are my main factors in considering the perfect camera. I don’t care about megapixels (I don’t print my image for billboards..how many of us do, most of us just upload our images to the web), or all these cool art filters (I rather edit the RAW on my desktop afterwards or if I’m lazy just wifi the jpeg onto my phone and edit through SnapSeed, awesome app).
I want to share with you all about the physical and also mental tools you need to make a good photograph.
One of the cool things about street photography is recognizing a moment or scene that is catered towards eyes, your heart, and soul. Not everyone will recognize or see the same shot and if they do I’m pretty sure everyone that’s taking the photo of the same subject will walk away with different pictures (partly due to focal length, when the photographer clicks the shutter, distance from the subject, etc). Recognizing and realizing something interesting is happening, it could be a humorous scene, something mysterious, or surreal moment. Lot of times this happens based on your instincts, it hits you in the gut “Hey that’s interesting” or “I wonder what’s happening here”, it keeps you curious and guessing of what’s taking place.
The photo above I obviously made at the beach. I was walking along Waikiki Beach on my lunch break. It was humid and I wasn’t seeing much happening nor was I clicking much from my shutter. From about 40-50 feet, off to the side, I see these two older ladies lying on top of their men. I thought it’d make a interesting and comical photo so I quickly walked over praying that they stay in the exact position without adjusting themselves.
I took several shots without being disruptive and walked along. I was very happy to have made this photo regardless if it hangs in anyone’s living room or exhibits anywhere…I personally like the photo and happy to have caught the moment. It wasn’t until I brought the photo into post that I realize the two men look identical…and possibly even the two ladies. There some mystery to the image as well. The more questions your image asks…the better. I hate Street photos with titles or gives me all the answers. I like formulating my own stories. I also dislike movies that gives me a concrete ending, unlike Christopher Nolan, his films always have an open ending (let’s you decide what happened). This technique makes you feel a part of the artist’s work, it allows you to contribute and have discussions with friends and adds the element of “What If” in it.
Any type of photography or live action event you’ll need to anticipate what’s either going to happen or about to happen. If you shoot sports you must be aware of how the game is flowing, who’s leading and who’s down, is the team coming off a time out? How much time is left on the clock? What quarter is it? This all leads to you getting that next shot, following the action and what’s to come. If you shoot weddings, there’s usually a program involved. If it’s time for the newlyweds to cut the cake, you can anticipate one of the spouses to get some cake on their nose/face. Or when the bride is ready to throw her bouquet, you can anticipate one of her bridesmaid snatching it up in the air filled with excitement.
The same applies to street photography. You must anticipate what’s to come. How do you anticipate for the scene to evolve. For example, I shot the photo above in Cuba (image is a Finalist for StreetFoto 2017). I RECOGNIZED the a person (I don’t know if it was a man or woman, I never saw what the person looked like. Not does it matter, anyways) was walking towards me with a bright red umbrella shielding him/her. Within that split second I again recognized the vibrant wall he was walking past by, I sped up and took the photo. I only had one opportunity to click my shutter and I did, only once. I chimped (which means you look at your photo once you made the photograph, it’s highly frowned down upon street photographers) and thought it was an alright photo. I looked up and I see the individual with the red umbrella slowly fading away into the distance. Seconds later, I felt somewhat of a regret and wished I had another opportunity (it was raining in Cuba and was already in a discouraged mood). Deep down, I knew something was there but felt I didn’t capture the moment….
When I returned home and uploaded my photo into Photoshop, the image stood out and really got me guessing and kept me curious about the image. This photo had to be the toughest image I have ever edited (crop, tones).
Now let’s make an example of the same photo (Red Umbrella). Let’s say I had arrive to the red wall a few minutes earlier. When there’s a strong and vibrant background/wall with no design or graffiti or art work, just a plain color backdrop, my imagination runs wild. So let’s say I’m in front of that red wall and I visualize for something to walk by and matches up with the red wall. Perhaps, a clown dressed in all red. Or a clown dressed in all white with a red nose. Possibly a butcher who just finished work and has blood all over his apron. I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud. With your imagination, hope, little bit of luck, and patience, you just may have the perfect subject or scenario align itself.
“Patience is a virtue”
Recognizing a potential photographic moment can take patience, some more than others. I don’t have this skill with my photography and perhaps in anything that does require patience. I hate waiting, I’d rather keep walking and hope to come across something as I move forward. I applaud those that can wait or give the illusion through their photos that they have waited for hours or days for the photo to develop. One photographer that comes to mind is one of my personal favorites…Pau Buscato, check his work out if you haven’t already you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Patience in photography can be applied to anything in life. Being patience with your spouse, co-worker, waiting in long lines, being stuck in traffic, waiting for that promotion. Patience is a quality skill to have in all walks of life. If you feel in your gut that something can blossom into a perfect image then wait…it’ll be worth the wait. Because all it takes is one photo to immortalize your work.
Stop with the excuses. Just shut up and shoot. Worry later.
See something interesting. Click the shutter. If you’re able to work the scene and shoot at various angles, do it. See something comical. Click the shutter. See something that makes you happy. Click the shutter. See something that has you curious. Click the shutter. Keep clicking the shutter and repeat. Don’t second guess yourself or contemplate whether the photo will be award winning or not. Just click the damn shutter!
Some photographers like to interact with their subjects and some don’t. For me, it depends on my mood. If I’m doing a street portrait I usually do have small talk with my subjects. Most are flattered to have their photo taken partly because I build their confidence before making a photo of them by complementing their good looks or hat, or whatever else they’re wearing. Your social skills may come into play when you face confrontation and someone you just photographed is pissed off at you. Knowing how to be in that heated situation and how to showcase your “Customer Service” skills may bail you out (I have yet been in a heated situation because of street photography).
You may go day/weeks/months without any photos you’re happy with. This can be discouraging. However, what helped me get over this hump was not too long ago. When I came back from Cuba earlier this year, something hit me that street photography for me (everyone has their own reasons) is not about making good photographs. Rather, it’s about going out, taking a walk, getting away from your cubicle, away from social media, and being in touch with your reality, your surroundings and absorbing all that in with appreciation. When I go on my photo walks I either completely zone out and not think about anything or I reflect on my day or the previous days. Both in a very zen approach.
When I travel I shoot from sunrise to sunset, actually its more like from 9am first thing in the morning till 6-7pm or until my body can no longer hold up. After the first day of walking and shooting for 10 hours you’re body really feels the pain. I power through for the rest of my entire trip. I tell myself that I’m not going to see this place or I’m only here for 3 more days so just power through. Street photography can take a toll on you, so be prepared to go at your own pace, take short breaks in between your photo walks. Have meals to refuel you so you can continue shooting. But listen to your body, if you can power through awesome, if you feel like your body is slowing down and you can focus on your shooting then head back home.
Set reasonable goals for yourself. For example, everyone’s new years resolution is to quit smoking and lose weight. Well, if you do put any action behind it and if you expect to lose weight within 2 weeks, I can guarantee you’ll most likely won’t obtain your goal. You gotta follow through your goals. If you made plans to go shoot Monday, Wednesday, Friday during your lunch break, follow through them. Don’t get lazy. With street photography, if I don’t shoot for more than 2 weeks I feel really rusty. Almost like a rookie back on the streets, I think of it as a confidence bar, the more consistently you shoot, your confidence bar remains untouchable but each day you don’t shoot it slowly drops. Imagine if you don’t shoot for one year straight and you don’t look at photobooks or study the masters or read anything on street photography…and then the following year you go back out into the public setting with a camera in your hand…I can only imagine you’ll feel like you don’t belong. That cloud of fear would hover over you as when you first started off shooting street photography. ‘
Make yourself strong against negativity. There will be people on on social media or even your own friends that’ll say negative things about your photos and ask you why do you take random photos of people. You gotta bypass this and not let it bother you. Street photography is not wrong, its not bad, you aren’t doing anything illegal or hurting anybody. That’s what helps me feel so comfortable when I’m out shooting…It’s because I ain’t doing no wrong when I’m out there.
If you enter in photo competitions and contests expect to fail 9 times out of 10. It takes a really good photo and luck (plus its all subjective and imagine the jurors looking at thousands of entries…yours really need to stand out to leave a mark).
Have a positive outlook. Even if you don’t get a decent photo while on your walk or wasn’t able to capture the decisive moment. Be appreciative of life, your family, your health, having the right to photograph publicly and openly. Remind yourself that you’re on this photo walk to get away from the stresses not to add more stress. Street photography is our creative outlet.
Enjoy the process, study your favorite photographers, take workshops, and appreciate life. Again, these tips are from my own personal experience and opinion, I hope you were able to find this read helpful and that you can apply some on your next photo walk.
Thanks for reading, keep shooting.