Let’s face it, the pandemic took a toll on our overall well-being and left many of us drained. Some street shooters I know have only recently gone out with intentions of shooting street. If you were on a street photography hiatus during quarantine and lock-down, view it as a positive step towards recharging your emotional batteries and coming back out shooting the streets with a fresh pair of eyes. If you’re having trouble finding where you last left off, then here are 5 ways to get your street photography groove back.
Just Press It
Just shut up and shoot! Or a more polite way in saying that, just press the shutter button. Regardless if you think it’s worthy of being an image or not, just click the shutter button. Main point of this suggestion is to get you in a groove and comfortable back on the streets. Sometimes you just need to loosen up any per-conceive tension and let loose by snapping that shutter button. If you wait for the right alignment or subject matter to enter your frame of shot, you may never click your shutter button and remain in your creative rut.
Try Something New
Do something you’ve never done in your street photography. Shoot wide angle. Use flash. Shoot low angle. Shoot extreme close ups. If you shoot predominately in color then shoot in black and white, and vice versa. Trying something new will force you out of your comfort zone and challenge your creative instincts. Don’t always rely on muscle memory to get you back into the flow of the streets. Despite the streets looking filled and almost back to “normal”, people are still adjusting being in public spaces. Most wear a face mask in public. The six feet social distancing rule is something to always consider and be respectful of.
Street photography like anything, needs practice. The more reps you put in, the better you become at it, and the better you become at it, your chances of making a great photo increases.
Celebrate Your Images
Our culture tends to only celebrate the winners. That also rings true in street photography, we celebrate the one’s the either received a lot of “likes” on social media or the one’s that made a finalist in a contest. Embrace photos of yours that resonate with you, not just the ones that are celebrated by others. I think it’s more important than ever post-pandemic that we give more appreciation and we embrace more of our own work. Not overly admiring of others in the field and wishing we were them or capture the images they’ve captured. Time to celebrate your own individuality.
I think connection is huge post-pandemic especially after a full year of zoom meetings and zoom virtual events. So one suggestion I have is to connect with other street photographers in your community. Meeting other street photographers in your area makes bonding much easier because of an existing shared interest based on things you both enjoy doing or talking about.
Another option is to make a street portrait of a stranger and stir up a conversation. People love being met with acknowledgment or respect. A quick chat with a stranger or a short bond with someone new can foster a sense of fulfillment. Taking a candid photo or portrait of someone and complimenting them afterwards with enthusiasm can kill most awkwardness between you the photographer and the subject/stranger. I mean how many times has a stranger ever given you a random compliment.
Watch Fill The Frame
Whether you are a street photography fan or not, I can guarantee one of the eight subjects in my documentary Fill The Frame will inspire you and you will be able to find connection with. Fill The Frame will inspire you to go out and take pictures in your area of public space.
It’s hard to believe we are well past a year since the initial COVID lock down. While the entire world stayed indoors, I took the opportunity (safely of course!) to document the emptiness and the changes within my own community. Seeing the opposite of the typical tourist filled streets of Hawaii made me appreciate the calmness and beauty of my home.
My pandemic photo walks were always fairly short. Street photography usually has such vivid subjects, but in midst of quarantine everything was empty and bare. I didn’t get frustrated however, because I knew whatever photo I captured would be a documentation of this unprecedented piece of history.
In 2018 and 2019, I could count on one hand the amount of times I went out to shoot. I had wrapped up my feature documentary Fill The Frame (if you haven’t seen it check it out) and I went on hiatus to reset. Coming into 2020 I was hungry and motivated to get back on the streets to build my YouTube channel (Subscribe HERE) and to attempt to get that one perfect shot. My Olympus M5 Mark ii of 6 years was laid to rest and I invested in new gear like the DJI Osmo Pocket to record more POV. Of course we all know what happened next. But that didn’t deter me.
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson
Prior to COVID I would say my approach for shooting the streets would be to aimlessly walk and try to cover as much ground as I had energy for. I would leave it up to the street photography gods that I would come across an interesting person or a gripping scene or situation. However, with much less foot traffic or action happening out in public I slowly adjusted my game plan. My good friend Paul Kessel who has had an amazing run despite the setbacks of 2020, winning 1st place in singles competition for the Miami Street Photography Festival among being a finalist in many other competitions, has always given me advice to find a scene. Either a scene with good lighting or a good background; if there’s both that’s when the magic happens. The key is patience and to let the scene slowly populate. To walk aimlessly and hope to come across an interesting person or situation relies too much on luck and things out of your control. Being the young punk that I am, I brushed off his advice, not that I didn’t trust or believe what he was telling me was true, but rather I felt like I didn’t need to change my style. Most people change when they are forced to or when life hits them in the face. The pandemic did just that, it hit me in the face and forced me to change my street photography approach and correct my bad habits.
Now in 2021, I’m back to being comfortable out shooting the streets again. You’d think you can rely on a lot on muscle memory but that was untrue for me. Confidence and knowing your camera (I mostly worked with a Ricoh GR III which took me a while to get used to) and your camera knowing you are two most underrated things in street photography. I had to relearn how to shoot and that challenge made things fun and fresh again. Completing Fill The Frame was a big weight off my shoulders and only now could I shift my focus elsewhere, primarily taking pictures and producing original content on YouTube.
So this is a reminder to always try new things, go outside your comfort zone, experiment to see what works for you and ditch the things that don’t work for you. Change can seem daunting but can be very rewarding.
Who is Kevin Icabales?
A Filipino street photographer from Bacoor, Cavite, Philippines. Also a professional real estate photographer and a news stringer for Pond News Asia.
His street photography works were exhibited in various countries such as the Philippines, Italy, Germany, Romania, India & Ukraine. He is the winner of the Italian Street Photo Festival 2019 (Single Photo category) and his works can be seen in known publications such as World Street Photography Book 5, World Street Photography Book 6, Eyeshot Magazine, Street Sweeper Magazine, Street Photography Magazine, and ProgressivE-zine.
How did you get started in street photography?
I found my passion for shooting candid moments when I started doing photojournalism, wedding and concert photography. Fast-forward, my shooting style led me to street photography. I did not have any idea about this genre before until I read some books and watched online videos.
Has covid changed your shooting style at all. What have you learned
While I was documenting during the heightened period of COVID-19, it made me realize how valuable relationships are. From there, the pandemic did encourage me to shoot more photographs outside my comfort zone. It allowed me to help others that were affected by selling prints and digital exhibitions. My shooting style slightly changed by distancing farther than my usual photo walks. But I believe it is new learning and development for me as a street photographer.
Tell us about your award winning shot and how you captured that? Did you know right off the bat that it was a good photograph?
I captured my award-winning photograph when I was currently shooting a hotel room in Richmonde Hotel Iloilo. When I looked outside the window, something’s happening down there. A man is lying on the floor and a car parked diagonally. I took a few snaps then I got back shooting on interiors again. I felt uneasy because I’m not convinced that I got a good photograph. After a few minutes, I went back to my hotel room to look outside the window again. The scenario is still the same. Eventually, I saw a dog from afar. I knew then that if the dog walks into my frame to form a triangle composition together with the man and a car, it will be a money shot. It’s a simple composition but the cognitive friction is intense. Stories will play inside your head and you might not be able to sleep at night.
What are some things you want to improve in your street photography?
In Street Photography, layering composition is one of the composition techniques that I like to improve because it is something that I don’t do much.
Has street photography open new paths for you?
Street photography opened a lot of opportunities for me especially at the beginning of my journey when my photograph was selected and curated by Tim Huynh for World Street Photography Book 5 publication and it was exhibited in Hamburg, Germany last 2017. From there, I dared to start conducting street photography workshops to teach aspiring street photographers. And I’m grateful that people were inspired and had deeper connections with my photographs.
Who are some of your favorite street photographers?
My favorite photographers are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Garry Winogrand and Elliott Erwitt.
How can people keep up with your work?
People may keep up by following my Instagram handle here www.instagram.com/k.icabalesphotography
- Hi Brett, please introduce yourself
I am a freelance photographer currently based out of Los Angeles. I was born and raised in Southern California and attended photo school for visual journalism. After graduating, I moved to Washington, DC in 2009 to work as a staff photographer for U.S. News & World Report. I was with the magazine for over 10 years before moving back out west in 2019 with my partner as she began law school.
- How did you get started in street photography
I began dabbling in street photography while I was in school. I was influenced by the work of quite a few street photographers at the time, and it was an easy way to get out and practice the various skills I was learning and make images for assignments. In the years since, it is just something that I really enjoy and it has definitely become a part of my creative process. It is nice to be able to wander, see new things, appreciate light, and just make images for myself. It has the added benefit of keeping my skills sharp and enabling me to experiment with new ideas that I might not want to try while on assignment.
- Has covid changed your shooting style at all. What have you learned
Aside from more PPE and a little more caution than normal times, I still take a similar approach. I have always shot a little wider, so needing to get close is usually not a big issue. When I am photographing I try to be hyper aware of everything that is going on and I think I have learned to amp that awareness up a little bit more just to make sure I am keeping distance from people and not getting myself into a situation that I might not be super comfortable with.
- Who are some of your favorite street photographers and why
Alex Webb’s work is incredible and has inspired me for as long as I can remember. His compositions and use of color are amazing. Shin Noguchi is another photographer whose work I really admire. His eye is incredible and he does a really wonderful job at capturing feelings and moments in his photos. I also really like Trent Park’s work. The way he sees and uses light is awesome.
- If you could have one street photographer document your wedding day who would it be and why
I think if he were still alive I think I would choose Henri Cartier-Bresson. His work is just so classic, the way he composed images and the moments he found were so good. I would like to imagine he would make some really beautiful images that would capture the feelings of the day with style.
- What are some of the positive influences Street Photography has had on you?
Street photography has definitely influenced the way I shoot and my approach in general. Without its influence on my work I am not sure I would have had the same opportunities as a photographer as I have had to this point in my life. There is so much crossover with photojournalism that the skills and lessons learned while out making street photos have definitely come in handy while on assignment. The confidence I have gained from street photography has also been empowering – to know that I can just roam around and find interesting scenes and compositions has been very beneficial at times.
- What are you most proud of in terms of your work?
It isn’t necessarily street photography, but I think some of the healthcare work I did while at USN&WR really stands out to me as work I am proud of. I would often spend time with patients who were going through some really hard situations, yet they still had the most upbeat positive attitudes about everything – it was humbling and inspiring to say the least. Occasionally during these assignments their family or friends would pull me aside and let me know how grateful they were for the work the magazine was putting out and how it had helped them figure out the best care for their needs. It was nice to know that the photos were part of something that was able to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Definitely hard to top that.
I think a lot of artists are never satisfied with their own work, so just generally knowing that some of my images have inspired, informed, been appreciated or made a difference to someone makes it feel like I am doing something right. That is the work I feel best about.
- If you had to explain your work to a senior citizen how would you describe it?
When it comes to my work and street photography specifically, I like to explore the beauty and subtleties of daily life and the world around us. I tend to search for a combination of interesting light, vibrant colors, nice compositions, and a human element to try to create a mood or feeling in my photos. My images tend to be candid, clean and graphic, and I am a sucker for shadows.
- What is your dream assignment/project?
Good question. I think this answer could take many different paths depending on the day and my mood. What comes to mind now is any assignment that would involve travel to somewhere with lots of interesting light and colors to play with, and just the freedom to document it as I see it. I’m drawn to the aesthetics of places like Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, etc…so those would be interesting places to go to for assignments. But really, so many things could be a dream assignment. Anything that just allows me to get out and experience things that I might not get to otherwise.
- Where can people keep up with your work?