Creative Street Photography Experiments

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!

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Crosswalk

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.

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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

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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.

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Da Beach

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

Conclusion

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.

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Interview with Hawaii Street Photographer Lance Agena

Can you start off by telling us a brief story on your background and how you first picked up a camera?

Back in 2001 when I was working as a graphic designer and communications guy for a local graduate school, part of my job was making a newsletter. And that meant doing everything from writing, to layout, and photography. That’s probably the first time I actually took it seriously. I guess because I had to. The graphic designer in me knew what images were crap so it was a matter of training myself take photos that met my own standards and seeing what it takes to actually make a good shot. It’s that inner art director that made me get better. After that, I moved on to another job where I met a local photographer named Philippe Gross who — I have to admit — really inspired me to push my photography even further. The guy is incredibly prolific and has a great eye. He always has his artwork being displayed somewhere. We’ve become good friends and I give him a lot of credit for where I am as an artist.

What is it about street photography that keeps you interested?

It’s about finding magic in the mundane. It sounds corny but you know, it really is about finding the novel amongst the mundane moments every day. And because it’s street, it’s genuine and real. I have nothing against other types of photography, there are a lot of incredible captures by artists shooting other things. It’s just that street to me is all the more magical because it depends on that chance encounter and framing it in the most perfect way. It could be that, you know, that moment you capture on your camera is a moment that anyone else could’ve seen themselves. It’s out there if anyone just looks. It’s beauty, it’s emotion, it’s splendor, and it’s shock. It’s the full range of humanity and the moments in between that can be lost if you’re not looking. So yes, to me that’s the magic of it.

How do you go about your photography? Do you shoot on your lunch break, weekends, bring your camera everywhere with you?

Yup, I have my camera with me all the time. It’s another limb and I’m lost without it. It almost guarantees something unreal will happen right in front of me if I don’t have my camera. So I don’t tempt fate and I always have it.

I shoot on my lunch breaks at work, after I get home, on weekends. Family is always first though. So I make sure things are done — any chores or errands. And I only head out if everyone’s got their own thing going on. I’m fortunate now because my kids are old enough to be doing their own things. So if I have time, I’ll head out.

In your opinion what makes Honolulu unique for street photography?

It’s unique in that it’s not unique. You can shoot the same type of shots other street photographers are shooting in almost any other part of the world. Here though, we have that veneer of Hawaii as conjuring up images of paradise in people’s mind. As a street photographer here we can show the flip side of paradise. Here we have real people with the same problems and triumphs as everyone else. I try to capture the range of the human experience, but admittedly there are more shots of urban life in paradise because that’s kind of the nature of it. Yes, it’s pretty here … but not everything is. That’s what a street photographer should be capturing — the full range of humanity.

Where in Honolulu do you enjoy shooting?

I’ve just realized recently that I always find myself at Waikiki Walls — or the Kapahulu Groin. I’m not sure if that makes it my “favorite,” but there’s always potential there for certain types of shots. And there’s definitely a lot of characters there. You see both sides of Hawaii there. You have the local kids coming to surf and dive and then you have the tourists who just want beautiful shots of the sunset. There’s water and sun, which makes for reflections and shadows, and there’s this great structure jutting out into the ocean. That’s a lot of potential at any given time there. But then again, I get bored of it on occasion and from there, there are a lot of other great locations within walking distance.

What do you think needs to happen for Hawaii to be seen as a street photography destination?

I haven’t thought about that. And actually, I’m not sure that’s something I’d want. It’d be a challenge. You would have to go up against those who are already making a name for themselves as surf photographers, “adventure” photographers, landscape, and whatever else you have out there. Do we want to make Hawaii known as street photography destination? I’m not sure. The visual noise is already pretty high. Pretty shots of giant waves and girls in bikinis will always get more attention than a shot on the street. Really, if it were to happen, it’d have to come from massive exposure from a mainstream media outlet highlighting a particular street photographer or something like that. But selling Hawaii as a destination or boosting it’s reputation for street is not a goal of mine.

If you could have dinner with one street photographer past or present who would it be?

Sorry, nothing original here. Henri Cartier-Bresson. Mostly because he seemed so passionate and was a true artist. I can’t help but think it would be incredibly inspiring to even meet him. I’d just sit and listen.

You can shoot with one street photographer for a day who would it be and why?

Assuming we’re still talking about someone living or dead … Vivian Maier. Because she seemed to love life in such an introverted way. I’d have liked to see how she maneuvered in the streets. Not necessarily to learn techniques to shoot better, but to watch how she carried herself and basically adventure through life while being invisible. I want to be one of the people who saw her on the street. And now that I mention it that way, that’s another reason I love street. It gives me the excuse to adventure through life. The perfect shot is that treasure to hunt for, that White Whale, or whatever you want to call it. It’s the hunt for magic in the mundane. It’s what Vivian Maier did through her photography. And guess what? When her photographs were discovered, they definitely were a treasure — for all of us.

How would you describe your street style or photographs?

Contextual. I usually enjoy the wider angles. I enjoy having the whole diorama in the frame. And what’s in the frame usually includes at least one character for the story to play out. It’s boring to have a beautiful setting with no one in frame to interact with it. That’s why my recent exhibition was called “Model Citizens.” I usually have a person in it to be my first person, second person, or third person character in that story within the frame.

I ask this with everyone. If you can have one street photographer shoot your wedding who would it be?

That’s hard. I follow several on social media that I couldn’t pick out by name, but I’m really enjoying Pau Buscato’s work. You can tell he has a lot of fun shooting. I’d love to shoot more like him. He has a great eye and perspective on the world. There’s a playfulness and excitement when he shoots. I’d love to be always in that sort of mindset when I shoot.

If you could shoot a particular style of a photographer who would it be?

Definitely, Maier. I find that I’m looking to replicate the same type of shots that she’s done. Again, sorry. I don’t study a lot of street photographers. I know what I like. I order the same thing over and over again at restaurants too.

What are your short term goals (1-3 years) and what are your long term goals (5-10 years) if you have any with photography? And what are you currently doing in trying to achieve those goals? If any, what struggles are you currently facing?

Street photography goals. That’s hard because I don’t think of goals when it comes to shooting street. It’s very much a journey. I’d like to somehow create my own projects for a living. Whether that’s shooting or writing or video, that’d be great. In one to three years, I think I’d like to get more of my shots seen. That means putting my work and myself more out there, building my own reputation. So that means I’m looking at doing more project-oriented photo series. Not necessarily getting paid work out of it, but covering more events through a street photographer’s point of view. Pretty much documentary, which is what we’ve all doing as street photographers anyway. In five to ten years, I imagine I’d have a larger body of work. So maybe publish a book then. I’d be traveling more too. So I’d like to shoot other streets in other parts of the world. It’s about the journey … and I guess building up a treasure trove if we’re sticking with that theme.

I noticed you like to shoot/document events around town (pow wow, protest, parade setup)…what is it about those events that draw you in?

 Event shooting is different from street shooting. When I’m at events I find myself switching between those two mindsets. Events like POW! WOW! Hawaii! or protests are unique to the times we live in. They should be documented because it’s part of the culture and history of Hawaii. While I’m doing that, I also shoot street because there will always be interesting people and sights at these types of events — participants and onlookers. To a lesser degree, there are other events that I enjoy attending like parades or what have you just to experience a new situation in a familiar location. It helps to change it up for myself so I don’t feel stagnant or grow bored with the same scenery.

Are you currently working on anything in particular?

I’m working on a YouTube channel. I’m not sure what it’ll look like, but search for “Agena Street Photography” and subscribe. I should have one short video up this month.

Any personal tips or advice on street photography?

I have plenty and that’s partly why I’m starting a YouTube channel despite my introversion. I would say shoot what you enjoy and if that means making yourself grow a little, stretch into your most uncomfortable parts of being, that’s what you should be doing. We’re all on a journey so don’t mind others who are ahead of you. Mind your own path and see where others are making mistakes and where others are going that you’d like to follow. Most of all, the most important thing is to get out there to shoot with purpose. unnamed (9)unnamed (8)unnamed (7)unnamed (6)unnamed (5)unnamed (4)unnamed (3)unnamed (2)unnamed (1)unnamed

To keep up with Lance Agena’s work, please see below!

lanceagena.com/

Instagram @lance_agena

9 Things Every Street Photographer Must Do

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Travel

Seeing a new place with fresh set of eyes is a plus. Every time I travel I tend to trigger the shutter more. Perhaps its because I’m out all day compared to shooting at home where I only have an allocated timeframe to shoot. Don’t think that because you travel to some foreign exotic land that you’ll come back home with awesome photos.

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Take Workshops

Workshops do help in my opinion. Learn from the best, pick their mind, and meet other enthusiastic street photographers. Get your creative juices boiling! If you’re a beginner, a workshop is a MUST! Gain confidence with a camera out in public, learn the basics. If you’re an intermediate level street photographer then perhaps you can learn how to edit down your photos, understand what separates a good photo from a great photo. All in all, it’s great to get feedback and see the pros work their magic.

Consume as Much Photo-books as Possible

If there are no workshops in your area or if workshops may be too pricey then consuming as much photo books is a great substitute. You can buy them online or at your local Barnes & Nobel…or borrow from friends. Research what type of photos you enjoy or aspire producing. Look into the great street photographers and focus on their body of works. You can watch countless Youtube video interviews or short documentaries on how they go about shooting the streets. You can self teach yourself anything these days with the power of the internet…it all depends on your own determination. Below are some great youtube videos to check out.

Youtube Videos

  1. Eric Kim with Jack Simon
  2. Mark Cohen Shooting the Streets
  3. Garry Winogrand Shooting the Streets
  4. Joel Meyerowitz Shooting the Streets

Color Books

Michael Ernest Sweet Coney Island

Jesse Marlow Don’t Just Tell Them Show Them

William Eggleston Books

Alex Webb Suffering of Light

Harry Gruyeart

Challenge Yourself

Shoot out of your comfort zone. Photograph in a location out of your comfort zone. You should not be thinking but be more relaxed when you’re out shooting. Let your imagination flow and take over.

Build a Website…and other social media outlets

Create a website, I use wordpress, it is rather simple if you spend a good day learning about it. The power and resource of the internet and youtube should make the process less painful. Build your own platform, the more outlets you have (facebook, instagram, youtube, website, flickr) the more opportunity people will find you. Since creating my own website about two years ago, I’ve been reached out to exhibit my work in Paris and present my work at a local high school. You just never know who’s looking at your work. Social media is just another way to share information but I wouldn’t use them (except youtube, since youtube is owned by google, and videos are ranked higher than anything else, blogs, photos, etc) as my main source of driving traffic. Plus, Facebook’s algorithm is fucked up. Not everyone will see your post and if your post/photo doesn’t receive 10 likes within the first half hour, then your post gets buried.

Share Your Knowledge

This goes back to creating your own platform. I think it’s best to share what you know on a topic, give your (bias) opinion, and interview other inspiring photographers to have them share their knowledge and stories.

Bring a Camera Everyone….iphone/android cameras are more than welcomed.

It’s not hard to carry your camera everywhere with you. I’ve missed some potential cool shots because I was lazy in wrapping my camera around my wrist. There were times when I would just walk across the street to the local convenient store and missed a potential shot. Don’t be lazy, you’ll regret it .

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Appreciate the Process

Most people have goals with their hobby, their passion…some don’t. If you do have goals with your street photography be realistic about it. If your goal is to make one dynamic photo every time you go out and shoot, that’s very unrealistic ( I do appreciate the optimism though). Just appreciate the process and remember to not add any pressure on yourself. You are photographing the world around you as a way to get in touch with reality, disengage with the stresses, burn some calories, absorb the sun, be away from the computer, and just enjoy life. Making a great photo is the plus, really.

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Shoot in the rain, sun, and on an overcast day

Don’t just shoot when it’s sunny, overcast, or during sunset. Try them all. Shoot them all! Don’t limit yourself and narrow your point of view. Of course, if you’re working on a series then you may only want consistent lighting or time of day. Perhaps, you only have time during lunch hours, so harsh afternoon light is all that you can get. If possible try everything.