Stop shooting from the hip
Shooting from the hip becomes a guessing game that you will fail 9.5 out of 10. You also look like a creep walking around aiming your camera from the hip, looks like you’re trying to shoot up a ladies skirt. I recommend everyone to try everything once just to experiment so you can judge for yourself first hand.
Stop judging the quality of a photo based on “likes”
Social media is very superficial and the quality of a photo is very subjective. However, don’t let the number of likes influence you whether or not the photo is good. You will know when a photo is good to you not by the lighting, framing, post processing of the photo…the photo resonates with you…it evokes an emotion and perhaps plays with multiple emotions within you….the photo has more questions than they do answers…the photo is open ended, keeping the narrative on going unlike many one and done humor photos we see today.
Stop trying to be like Bruce Gilden
Are you ultra aggressive on the streets with your flash gun due to an imbalance of testosterone levels or are trying to shoot like Bruce Gilden….Just stop, there is only one Bruce Gilden. Plus if you shoot the way he does, your photos will only remind people of well Bruce Gilden….Find your own style and voice in street photography and create your own legacy…just shoot to get away from the daily stresses and to be more in touch with your surroundings.
Stop thinking about how you’re going to monetize your street photography
Stop thinking too far out on how you’re going to sell prints and make money off your street photography. Stop lusting over the awards and recognition. Remember why you’re shooting street and let me remind you there is no money in being a street photographer. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, shoot street because it temporarily removes you from the daily grind. Shoot street to appreciate the current moment. Shoot street because you enjoy the challenge in creating something out of nothing. Shoot street because you enjoy walking and love the feeling of having all your senses working together…reminding yourself you’re currently here…alive. Shoot street to leave a legacy not for an easy dollar. The moment you try to monetize your passion, you’ll go back to your old miserable self. Don’t fall into this trap.
Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo
“Street Photography is 99,9 % about failure. So often I feel defeated by the street. I sometimes find, that if I keep walking, keep looking, and keep pushing myself, eventually something interesting will happen. Every once in a while, at the end of the day, when I´m most exhausted and hungry, something – a shaft of light, an unexpected gesture, an odd juxtaposition – suddenly reveals a photograph. It´s almost as if I had to go through all those hours of frustration and failure in order to get to the place where I could finally see that singular moment at day´s end” – Alex Webb
The first harsh lesson street photography has taught me is “Win some. Lose most”. Most of the time when you go out to photograph whether it’s a weekend walk into the city or whether you just bring your camera everywhere with you, just have realistic expectations and not expect that every shutter click is going to be a good image.
Remember to ultimately shoot for yourself and at the end of the day what really matters is if you’re happy with your photos. You may get a lot of “likes” or compliments on social media from your friends but deep down you know whether you have a good photo. WWE superstar John Cena, said that after a match everyone backstage congratulates you and pats you on the back tell you “Hey that was an awesome match” but in his heart and mind he knows whether or not the match was a 5 star match. And if it was a 5 star match he’s not settling, as long as he’s wrestling, he’s gonna keep striving to top his last five star match. You can bring that same mentality to street photography, you take a good photo. It wins awards, gets recognition but don’t settle. Keep shooting. Try to top your last good photo. The competition is not among other people on social media but rather among yourself. Realize that you’ll have more shitty shooting days than good. And once you realize this and be honest with yourself in the quality of work you’ve been producing and the time and effort you actually put into your street photography, the better you can go about your art.
Even when you’re submitting photos to festivals or competitions. I’ve always said that getting in one is like hitting the lottery. The percent of your photos getting in is slim. Therefore, do not be disappointed by not getting in. Because you did not lose. You just did not win. If you’re in a rut or have a photographer’s block then try out new genre’s either within street photography or in photography in general. Sometimes mixing things up helps me reshuffle the creative juices. By allowing yourself to try new things and make crappy photos along the way takes off pressure. Removes any competitive spirit within you and allows you to have fun and learn new things.Sometimes going on hiatus helps. I discovered street photography in 2010 and did it for two years.
I stopped in 2012 because I didn’t know what and why I was photographing randomness out in the streets. I got back into street photography in 2015 with a new burning light and most importantly it was more fun than when I was originally practicing it back in 2010-2012. In that regards, sometimes you need to hit the reset button. For most people their reset button is a two week vacation and when they return back to work they’re rejuvenated and ready to continue to climb the corporate ladder. That’s why there’s spring breaks, summer breaks, winter breaks, for students so that they don’t feel burnt out and uninspired to learn. If you’re falling off into boredom and you’ve tried mixing it up…it’s okay. That’s normal. This actually happens to me a lot. Just find something else to do or stay busy and return to hitting the streets thereafter.
At the end of the day try new things, pace yourself, compete among yourself, and don’t add any unnecessary pressure onto yourself. You are the gatekeeper of your own destiny.
Other similar blogs –
Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo
What time of day are you going
The time of day to photograph people on the beach is very important just like when you go out to photograph the streets. Are you going early morning? Sunrise? Where the light is fairly faint and their aren’t a lot of beach goers…depending on your location you may see a lot of early morning runners and surfers.
Are you going at noon? Where the sun is may be a bit harsh and it’ll be hot as heck! At this hour, I find that the beaches are most crowded. It can be difficult to last a few hours due to the heat, walking in sand, and carrying a bag full of items. I suggest dressing comfortably, wearing slippers or sandals, and carry a point and shoot or keep your dslr/mirrorless camera as light as possible.
Also at this time of the day, there should be a variety of people at the beach. Families. Seniors. Tanners. Surfers. Homeless. Tourist. Locals. Go before lunch and shoot for a couple hours, maybe from 11am to 1pm.
If you’re worried about the sun causing you any stress then go before sunset. The late afternoon 3pm-4pm and shoot until the sun sets. You’ll find the best lighting at this hour, a very soft and subtle light just arraying the shores. The key here though is to find where that light is exactly hitting. Of course the area where the light is hitting will change as the sun sets but once you find it, don’t lose it. Follow the light and let your subjects walk into it. There may be opportunities to create dark shadows or silhouettes as well. Also at this hour, the beach isn’t as overly crowded (which can be overwhelming at times just like shooting a busy intersection). Most people are getting ready for dinner or just waiting to enjoy the sunset but majority are doing that away from the sands.
If you look the part, you’ll get the part. Same applies when you’re photographing on the beach. If you look like a tourist like everyone else on the beach with beach shorts, often taking selfie shots of yourself, others around may not even notice you or seem to care. But if you’re on the beach with jeans , a pair of shoes, and a long telephoto lens then obviously you’ll be standing out from the crowd…and for the wrong reasons.
Now I’m not saying to go shopping for an entirely new attire just for the beach setting. Dress comfortably. Have respect of what you photograph and who you photograph. Same principles applies as when you’re roaming the sidewalks.
My other advice when blending in is to take your time. Scan the beach. I love shooting the beach because there are many activities happening, lot of different people of all size, shapes, and background in a more contain environment. And also everything is slowed down, unlike the streets where it can be very busy and overwhelming at times.
Have the Fisherman mentality
Take your time. Be patience. Scan those in the water. Observe those lying in the sand absorbing the sun. Eventually you will come across something that just instinctively connects with you. Maybe it’s an overly tanned person. Over sized man in speedos. A juxtaposition of a swimmer and their inflatable’s.
People are exposed on the beach. Their guards are down. For crying out loud, they’re barely clothed. So worse case scenario a photograph of themselves should be the least of their concerns. I believe if you were to shoot at the beach from sunrise to sunset, be patient with the situation, you would walk away with more amazing photos shooting the beach than if you were to spend an entire day on the streets. That’s just my opinion.
What to Look For
Well what do you look for when you’re shooting the streets? Gesture? Color? Wardrobe? Interesting face? Patterns? Juxtaposition? Humor? Same can be applied when photographing the beach. However, I feel it’s even more out there and you don’t have to really look or even stress overthinking or even trying. Just take a nice walk down shore, take your time, enjoy the ocean and view, and I guarantee you will come across something you’d like to make a photograph of. Comparing to shooting the streets, it’s easy to get caught up with the fast pace environment and just to blaze your way through street after street. Your photo walk just ends up being more of an exercise than a creative experiment. The beach has a calming effect, I think that mostly has to do with the people on the beach having that calm and relaxation feeling and it rubs off on you. If you go and blaze through the people in the water or on the sand and be very aggressive with your approach you will only be calling negative attention to yourself from other beach goers.
There’s a lot to see on the beach. Different activities happening, perhaps a volleyball game, kids building a sand castle or burying their siblings alive into the sand. People running in and out of the water. Lying down getting fried by the sun. Or perhaps the possibilities of creating interesting juxtaposition with those reading a book on the beach.
Narrow Your Focus
Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of people? Not seeing anything that sticks out to you? When I feel in this rut, I usually go to my fallback. I think we all have fallbacks in what we look for or what stands out interesting whether we’re conscious of it or not. For me if nothing stands out then I narrow my focus on gesture or bright colors.
Same can be applied photographing the beach, perhaps you narrow your focus to body shapes that you find interesting. Or overly tanned aka burnt people at the beach. Simple things like that, that may not make great photos but at least it’ll make you start clicking that shutter button.
Respect Your Subjects
Have some ethics and respect when shooting the beach just like when you photograph the streets. It’s one thing to have balls and courage but it’s another thing to be disrespectful of another person’s space. If your gut tells you it’s not a good idea to photograph that situation or person then move on. The very least you can perhaps ask for permission but that ruins the candid shot and I personally think it’s a bad habit to do…to seek permission in order to make a photograph. if you’re new to street photography then you get a pass but for those that are more seasoned it’s frowned down upon. Also consider asking yourself, is this photograph really worth taking… is it that good of a shot? Sometimes you really don’t know until you are post processing the image but most of the times for myself, I know in my gut that I got a good photo at that very moment.
You can catch me photographing the beach on my youtube channel here
Adding this donate button. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Your monetary donation will be used for coffee and photobooks. Mahalo
What frustrates you about photography?
What’s your thoughts on today’s street photography landscape?
What is one street photo you never get tired of?
When or what was the most fun you had photographing?
Any personal street photography tips or advice you have to those out there?
We all run into a rut in life and yes it happens in our own photography as well. If you’re having a photographer’s block or simply aren’t inspired to shoot here are a four creative street photography experiments worth trying….hopefully at the very minimum it gets you out of the house, burn those calories, get some fresh air, and allow you to start snapping away. Lets begin!
If you only have time to shoot during your lunch break like I do and work in a pretty busy district then try shooting at the busiest crosswalk in your work area. The good thing about a busy crosswalk is that there’s a lot of foot traffic. People are walking in one direction to another. Some are rushing to get to their destination…and some are not. Once you choose the busiest crosswalk with four crossing points, keep at it for at least an hour. The good thing about crosswalks is that there are breaks in between and you can look across the street to see whose on the other side and sort of prepare your mind on how you anticipate to make the photograph. You also have time to pick and choose which characters stand out to you.
And also depending on the street/crosswalk if its super busy like somewhere in New York City, you should be able to blend in with the crowd, no one will notice you even making a photograph. I promise you if you did round robins around the four point crosswalks for an hour straight you would come away with some memorable shots. This approach may be best suited for someone who hates walking aimlessly for an hour on their lunch or someone that gets easily frustrated after not seeing anything. At least when you are photographing along the crosswalks there’s no shortage of people, it’s dense, which in my opinion means there’s opportunity.
Attend a Weekend Event
I took the family out to the Punahou Carnival (President Obama’s old stomping ground) an event that I have not been to in almost twenty years. I started to have preconceived images in my head or what I’d think I would be able to capture based off of some photos I’ve seen from others (for example Jill Maguire – check out her interview I did last year) and from my experience you don’t want to have preconceived images in your head…you don’t want to jump to conclusions because that can be very forceful in trying to make a photograph happen…then frustration builds upon after that.
Anyways, after about an half an hour in getting the kids on a couple of rides and putting my focus on them by also photographing and capturing their moments we took a quick break and the first thing that caught my attention was all the carnival attendees eating..well carnival food. The way they bit into the different foods. You had people biting into a corn on a cob a certain way, an ice cream, others slurping fried noodles in a very grotesque manner, gigantic bites into their burger. Something about it really caught my attention, I am not sure if I found the mannerism humorous but it was enough for me to start snapping away. I was using flash because one it was at night and two I wanted the subjects to pop out in the foreground while making the colors very striking. And soon after a few shutter clicks, I got into a rhythm and started snapping away. I was able to get close to people because it was overly crowded and most of the attendees did not notice me nor cared what I was doing. I would take a photo, flash goes off and people taught I was taking a photo of something behind them.
You can check out the entire series here – Punahou Carnival 2018
Photograph Somewhere You’ve Never Photographed Before (in your state, country)
We all would love to travel at least once a year but traveling cost money and if you don’t have that luxury then try to work within your means. Drive thirty minute south, north, east, and or west from your location. Park somewhere safe of course…I mean do as much research in terms of parking, bathrooms, restaurants for breaks before you spontaneously head out and walk around and absorb the area (Street photography tips before you head out). This is a reminder that you don’t have to travel abroad to make memorable photos. Start within your own city, drive to somewhere new or somewhere you have’t really photographed within a 10 mile radius and perhaps make it a weekend excursion. I truly believe that the best photographs that you’ll come away with is when it organically happens and when you know too little than too much of a situation.
If you live near water, take a walk on the beach and bring your camera with you as well. I love photographing people on the beach because things are much much slower and calmer compared to the actual streets. People are on the beach to relax, some are tourist on vacation, for crying out loud people are in speedos with their guards down already so they could care less if you make a photograph of them. People at the beach aren’t there because they have to be there, they aren’t miserable at the beach, they’re there to congregate and have a good time, get a nice tan, enjoy the sunset, and ultimately get in some of that salt water therapy!
There’s a lot of different activities happening at the beach, a lot of body shapes, sizes, young and old, so there is a lot of variety to choose from and you can go at a slower pace.
You can check out a few of my vlogs shooting the beach in Honolulu. https://www.youtube.com/timhuynhphotography
There you have it folks, just a few simple ideas or experiments worth trying if you are having difficulty photographing the streets or if you hit a photographer’s block. At the end of the day, it’s not about the amount of social media likes and or follows. But rather about having fun with your street photography. From me I feel most alive when my brain is stimulated and challenged but also if I’m able to have an outlet to release my creativity. I shoot to get away from the daily stresses and ultimately it helps me get off my ass burn some calories, get some fresh air and be a creator. You should do the same too.
The following presentation is a rant on whether or not your photos are considered “street photography”.
What is street photography???
According to wikipedia…”Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. Although there is a difference between street and candid photography, it is usually subtle with most street photography being candid in nature but not all candid photography being classifiable as street photography. Street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. Though people usually feature directly, street photography might be absent of people and can be of an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic”.
So why not call it candid photography since it’s photographed candidly….or public photography since it’s in public. Candid photography sounds more quote unquote…formal….street photography sounds much cooler and is what I would prefer it to be called. You can even call it un-posed photography as “street” doesn’t always happen on the street. It happens everywhere, in the living room, zoo, mall, theater, but the idea of it being candid and focusing on the decisive moment is still relevant. Anyone posing shots or asking for permission is attempting more documentary photography.
However, in my bias opinion at the end of the day photography is photography. Categorizing themes or subjects is just another way of organizing a book shelve, where one shelve is all material on cooking and the bottom of the book shelve being children’s books…but at the end of the day they are all just BOOKS!!! Sometimes we label things just for conventional purposes…same with street photography.
Also to continue my rant…if you look at how the photos within the genre of street photography have evolved over the past three or four years..it comes off more as “Fine Art Photography” (yes I’m creating a new term)….there are so many “one and done”…”one liner”….”humor” photos that get recognized on social media and at photo festivals…it’s insane and nothing compared to more traditional photos let’s say Winogrand or Henri Cartier Bresson. Don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on humor photos or one and done type of photos…at the end of the day, to me a good photo is a good photo. The photo either works or simply doesn’t work. It’s a yes or no.
Taking candid photos of random strangers on the sidewalk without any context or substance would be considered street photography…I assume so…does that mean the person is contributing to the abundance of crap floating on social media, myself included…that’s up to you as the viewer as you are the only one that can filter out good versus bad photos and have your own preconceived bias judgement on what is considered a good street photo and what’s not. If you showed a slideshow of various styles in street photography to 10 amateur and 10 prominent street photographers I bet your ass each one will have a different opinion on the photos itself. Street photography is a very subjective, it is the hardest form of photography but yet the purest form of photography there is in my bias opinion.
I think it’s best to not use social media to obtain any influence on street photography…however if there is a particular photographer you come across on social media that you really like then by all means follow their work. I think it’s best to study the greats Alex Webb, HCB, Winogrand, Meyeworitz, Eggleston and me…Joke. Their photos have context and substance that go beyond the photo itself.
What Street Photography Is Not…
Studio photography…uhhh duuhhh…studio photography is too artificial and set up…there’s nothing spontaneous about it. It’s just too manipulative with the makeup artist, hair artist, wardrobe, studio lights, camera assistants….and ultimately it’s not candid…at all.
Wave photography is photographed out in the open…it is candid…but the primary subject in street photography are people or the urban environment..so therefore wave photography is not street photography or a sub category of it. However, if you want to get philosophical and defend your argument that wave photography is very well street photography…perhaps you can by saying that you aren’t just focusing on the waves itself but the environment. The ocean. The beach. Where people come together and congregate. It is living proof of humanity and culture of how people enjoy their free time and get away from reality.
Landscape falls into a similar realm like wave photography….there’s no urban element that coincides with street photography. But what if my landscape shot has a person in the frame…is that now street photography? Maybe. I’ll leave it up to you how you’d like to sub-categorize your photos but if you’re asking my opinion…No. Since the primary focus is on the landscape, sunset, sunrise, tree, water, mountain.
Maybe this is all a misconception. Definitions or terms are usually created by historians, academics, or critics that have never even picked up a camera and give an honest attempt to photographing the streets. Garry Winogrand, one of the most beloved contemporary street photographers, hated the term “street photography” and just considered himself a “photographer”. Bruce Davidson also did the majority of his work in the streets, on the subway, in the projects and is considered a “street photographer”. However, Davidson disliked the term “street photography” and refused to call himself one. Then there’s Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Godfather of “street photography”… never called himself a street photographer.
At the end of the day I can’t stress enough that a good photo is a good photo…regardless if it was a street photograph, landscape photography, wildlife or nature photograph, a studio portrait….Don’t worry about whether or not your photos are “street enough”…just focus and put your energy in capturing and making memorable photographs. Strong photographs are ones that stir us emotionally, that makes us cry, laugh, sad, allows us to create our own narrative, ask more questions than answers, have us take a deeper look at our communities and society.
OK For Real This is The Conclusion…
One last note, don’t let social media dictate your style or what you’d like to photograph. Photographs on homeless people are frowned down upon in the street photography but if that’s what you’re interested in and can figure out a way to make it really intimate and engaging such as Suzanne Stein (check out the interview I did on her – Interview with Photographer Suzanne Stein) then by all means go for it. Research photographers like Suzanne Stein or others that do a good job in photographing these type of subjects and keep in mind just because your photographing homeless today doesn’t mean you’ll photograph them tomorrow…your style, approach, and interest in street photography will change…it’ll keep evolving as time goes on. My other advice is to incorporate your other interest or specialty into your street photography. I met a friend in a workshop with Jack Simon (you can read my review on his workshop – What I learned during Jack Simon’s workshop) and she wanted to learn how to take street photographs and have more confidence doing so. By trade she was an architecture and did event photography on the side. So she had very good understanding on geometry and leading lines and when we did our photo critique, we can all see she had an eye for just that. Now it was just a matter of incorporating people into her photographs. She later approach the streets as if it was an event, snaking through the crowd and just snapping away. Overtime she can be a really dynamic photographer by combining her variety of skill sets to street photography.
For me I’m a independent filmmaker and commercial videographer by trade. I went to film school because I love the art of storytelling and a bit of a geek when it comes to camera gear. My approach in regards to photographing the streets was always the challenge of creating fiction out of reality. That’s why I’m still motivated to shoot the streets…it’s not because of social media or wanting the likes and comments…it’s not because I get paid to do so or I’m trying to be relevant on Google…or even sell prints for that matter. I enjoy storytelling…and in fact any form of storytelling, street photography just happens to be my way or creative outlet of sharing those stories to the world.
In a nutshell I feel that street photography is more theory and mystery, the photo gives more questions than answers and allows the viewer to create their own story. It also talks more about the actual photographer/artist than the photo itself….whereas documentary photography are about facts, there are more answers than questions presented and can be a conscious and continuous work in progress.
If you are new to street photography below are some blogs to get your feet wet
In my previous blog 10 Street Photography Resolutions Tips I listed one resolution tip to consider for the new year is to “Be Creative Daily”. I gave you the reason why to be creative and things to consider in finding your creative outlet…but I did not touch upon on “How” to be creative. Here’s my personal input and tips on how to be creative.
Most of us work a 9 to 5 job and therefore can’t or don’t really have time to be creative. The creative light bulb doesn’t just switch on and off very easily. For me, having a family, kids, full time job, side projects, and my street photography endeavors…it is very hard to find the time and make the time. If I go through weeks without producing any content or photographing or really doing anything that stimulates my mind, I get frustrated. I get restless and irritable.
I’ve tried shooting and reading while on my hour lunch break which can be difficult because I skip having a meal in replace of being creative. It is not the most effective unless I have some sort of meal to keep my mind off of food and fully immerse myself into reading (I work across a Barnes & Nobel) or in the moment photographing the busy streets of Honolulu. I stopped a few months ago photographing on my lunch break and rather focus on getting a meal in or take care of errands (more important things I would say).
To find time after work is difficult because it’s family time. Prepping the kids lunches for the following day among other things. Weekend’s there is opportunity but again I would rather spend that time with the kiddos. I try to squeeze an hour or two of shooting on the weekend if the kids are asleep during the afternoon. So that’s just in regards of having time to shoot.
I’ve noticed my mind is most awake or rather my brain is most active and stimulating with ideas at night. Around 10PM. I’ll stay up with a beer and just jot down ideas of anything really, I need to get into the habit of revisiting those ideas so my advice to you is jot down ideas and revisit them the next morning. Why? Ideas from the night may not make the most sense when looking at them in the morning…Ideas are initial feelings and reactors from the brain. So for me the time I’m most creative is at night, for you it may be in the morning, afternoon, before dinner. Whatever it may be find the time you are most creative and allocate that time at least once a week for a few hours.
Find The Place
Once you found the time next is to find the place. Finding the place where your ideas flourish. Maybe it’s in the bathroom while you shower. At a coffee shop. In the car when you’re stuck in morning traffic. For me I’m lucky to have my own living room as the place where I can be at peace and let my creative instinct take over. This is of course once the kids go to sleep, it’s quiet, it’s a bit nippy, I have a single lap on, sitting on my couch with a notepad and a can of beer. I guess you can say I am most creative when I am relaxed and almost not “thinking”…I just let my mind takeover and jot down whatever comes to mind. I think a lot of time thinking actually defeats the purpose, some things just come to you organically and then once that idea comes then you start to dissect it.
Be Around Other Creative People
If you have the luxury to be around other creative people or have friends that are (musicians, painters, photographers, videographers (video is the bastard child of the arts) or writers) then try this. Remember you are what you eat…always surround yourself with other people that are much better than you. Listen more and talk less. Ask for feedback and critique on your work. Ask them what and how do they be creative. My best education is through trial and error and picking the brains of others that are good in what they do. I started blog interviews summer of 2017 to see how other street photographers go about their work. Their approach and creative process and I have always found it inspiring. At the end of each blog I felt even more motivated and felt good about what I was able to accomplish. There are very few people here in Hawaii that shoot street, so to find someone here locally and get a cup of coffee to talk about the genre is far out of reach. So rather I conducted online interviews to not only share with everyone else but to help me either get over that photographer’s block or just to better understand other street shooters point of view.
Everyone is creative and unique. Ultimately it’s about finding balance in one’s life. Trying to find a time and place where you can make the most out of your creativity and maximize your own potential. Indeed, it is very hard to be creative daily or at least be effective with your creativity on a daily basis so in reality find the right time within the day and find the right place and set a side a few hours each week to do so. Even if nothing comes out of it, at least you had the opportunity to reflect on things and keep your mind off of work or other daily stresses.