5 Tips For Really Busy Street Photographers

NYC, 2013

NYC, 2013

Nowadays. we are all really busy. We have countless commitments at work, at home, with our friends, and with our families. It is really hard to find time to shoot street photography. Not all of us can leave the obligations of the “real world” and just go out and shoot all the time.

Ironically enough even though I am a “full time street photographer”– I still find it really hard to make time to shoot. I spend a lot of time with emails, social media, blogging, finances, helping out Cindy and my family, and church related activities.

If you consider yourself a busy person, here are some tips I suggest to shoot more street photography:

1. Leave a camera in your car

Photograph by Dana Barsuhn

Photograph by Dana Barsuhn

One of my really good street photography friends, Dana Barsuhn, is doing a street photography project in which all the photos are taken from his car. Like Lee Friedlander, he used the car frame of the window as a natural frame– and always has a camera pre-focused to infinity in his cupholder.

While it is dangerous to shoot photos while driving, I think it is a good idea to have a camera in your car at all times. You can keep it in your glove compartment, or somewhere tucked away all the time. And when you’re driving, just keep it in your cupholder. And if you see a good photography opportunity, take it while you are stopped and not driving.

I think this is a great approach, especially for many of us who spend a lot of time commuting to work in a car.

Once again, be careful while doing this– I accept no responsibility for any car accidents you might encounter while you do this.

For inspiration, check out Dana Barsuhn, and photos by Lee Friedlander (America by Car), and Garry Winogrand.

2. Invest in a small camera

Amsterdam, 2012. Shot on a point-and-shoot film Ricoh GR1s

Amsterdam, 2012. Shot on a point-and-shoot film Ricoh GR1s

The best camera for street photography is one which is small, compact, and with you everywhere you go.

I remember when I first started street photography, I thought I needed a big and professional body to be taken “seriously”. I remember upgrading my Canon point and shoot to a Canon 350d, then to a full-frame Canon 5D. Ironically enough, the bigger my camera got– the fewer photos I ended up taking. I took a lot more photos with with my Canon point and shoot simply because I always had it with me. Whereas with my bigger and bulkier cameras– they were a pain in the ass to carry around.

The first rule of being a street photographer is to always have your camera with you. And it is easier to always have a camera with you if it is small and compact.

I generally recommend people to carry around messenger bags on a regular basis– because it is an easy way to always have your camera with you. It doesn’t even have to be a camera bag– something small yet big enough to carry your camera.

If you want the ultimate compact camera for street photography, I am a huge fan of the Ricoh GRD V (read my review here). It is the only APS-C sized sensor camera that can fit in a front jean pocket (for men).

You don’t even need a new and compact camera. I am a huge fan of showing smartphones for street photography– as they are small, always with you, and inconspicuous. A lot of photographers from the Tiny Collective are making great street photography with their iPhones.

If you use an iPhone for street photography, I recommend the Pro camera app, and the Hipstamatic app. You can also see this past article Misho Baranovic did on shooting street with an iPhone: 10 Tips How to Master Street Photography with the iPhone.

3. Realize there is no convenient time to shoot

Beverly Hills, 2012. Shot inside a Starbucks

Beverly Hills, 2012. Shot inside a Starbucks

When I used to work at my corporate job, I always imagined having a full day to myself to shoot street photography. I would plan the weekends, but there would always be unexpected schedules that popped up and ruined my “street shooting days”.

The best time to shoot street photography is every single opportunity you have. Some of my best street photos have been shot in restaurants, at gas stations while filling up my car, at coffee shops while I’m waiting in in line for an espresso, or even shopping for groceries.

So embrace those “in-between” moments you have in your everyday life to take photographs.

4. Shoot urban landscapes

Indianapolis, 2013

Indianapolis, 2013

I know a lot of street photographers who live in suburbs or areas that don’t have a lot of people walking in the streets. And their frustration is that if they ever want to shoot street photography, they need to go downtown where all the people are.

However I don’t personally feel that street photography has to include people in it. Some of my favorite street photos don’t include people, in the work of William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld.

Take urban landscapes without people in them. Try to create some sort of social meaning, statement, or find interesting juxtapositions. You can read my lesson on Urban Landscapes.

5. Look at great photos (when bored at work)

NYC, 2012

NYC, 2012

I used to work in the IT department while a university student at UCLA. And for those of you in IT (or any other corporate job)– you end up spending a lot of time bored and surfing on the internet.

I don’t think that you only learn street photography while on the streets. Rather, you can learn a great deal even when looking at and analyzing images.

So instead of surfing the web looking at reddit, gear review sites, or rumor sites– I recommend spending a lot of time on the Magnum photos site, and on American Suburb X. Study the work of the masters who have come before us, and see more contemporary street photography in the Hardcore Street Photography pool on Flickr. The more great images you look at and study, the more receptive you will be to make great photos in the streets.


NYC, 2012

NYC, 2012

It is hard to make time for street photography–especially when you are busy. But know you can always make time for something you are truly passionate about.

Life is short. Know that being busy isn’t the purpose of life. Do you want your tombstone to say, “He/she was always busy and answered all of his/her emails”. Or would you rather be remembered for creating beautiful photographs that inspire others?

Always make time for your passion– which is street photography. Fit in the big stones in life first, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

What are some tips you have as a busy street photographer? Share your tips in huge comments below!

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  • http://www.ingusphotography.com Ingus

    Though I do feel your sentiments with #2 with investing with a small camera. Sometimes I find people on the street take you more seriously with a big hunking DSLR and they tend to be more open to you doing your thing.

    Otherwise, thanks for the tips and loving the blog!

    • Paul Donohoe

      I found that true as well I traded my Nikon d300s and the big zooms for a sony nex 7 with TINY lenses. On the other hand, I can’t say I’ve had any more “trouble” with the little camera…I do miss it sometimes though lol

      • anonymous322

        I prefer the small camera (a RX100 in my case) because I can shoot almost unnoticed. I didn’t realize that I was using stealth until the day I went shooting with a bright pink Holga. Everyone noticed that camera. Every shot had someone looking at the camera and smiling.

        • Guest

          Someone always notices the shooter (even if the subject does not) irrespective of what camera / equipment used. Using a more noticeable camera makes people take you more seriously as you are sort of announcing your intentions to take the shot (hence the smile / funny face / sometimes even a punch to the face!). These days (thanks partially to the media and the internet), people think we are some kind of pervs when you try to take a photo in a stealthy manner.

    • http://www.corporatephotographylondon.com/ Corporate Photographer

      I used to shoot with a DSLR but people notice it and tend to be more wary and sometimes aggressive that you are pointing it at them- I have found my iPhone is perfect as nobody notices me taking pics even in really busy places

  • Giovanni Maggiora

    Agree on everything, Eric. #4 is tough, but can be done. A few examples come to mind: https://www.flickr.com/photos/u-ichiro/13800440015/in/faves-giomagphotographer/
    All good guys I’m following on Flickr

  • David Sierra

    This one made a lot of sense.

  • http://www.LeslieDeanBrown.com/ Doc Brown

    I have found myself shooting less frequently downtown (which is an hour away from where I live now) but I’ll make more of a day of it. So instead of carrying a little camera on every single errand, I set aside at least one day per week or preferably two where I’ll go out for at least a couple of hours each time. I end up getting the same number of photos doing it this way and I am more in “the zone” so perhaps the quality is a bit higher.

    And on the size of the camera, I really think it depends on your confidence level.

  • http://www.surreylaneweddingphotography.co.uk surrey wedding photographer

    I totally agree with having a small camera and always having it on you. As a wedding photographer when working shooting work in the street I am in the zone – but take me out of the work situation and pointing a large SLR into the street at people is a lot harder as I feel far too self conscious. I would like to get into street photography more.

  • Owen

    Thanks for the post… exactly my thoughts and i bought the ricoh gr right for this reason…

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