Let’s go in a fun street photography adventure: I wanna share some secrets, brutal truths, and honest advice on how to elevate yourself as a street photographer: to take your work to the next level, to conquer your fears, and fulfill your personal maximum.
Preface: This is not for the weak of heart.
If you’re easily offended, please don’t read this. Of course this is all my opinion.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s continue my friend.
Street Photography, Defined.
Okay my definition of street photography:
Sociology with a camera.
Street photographers seek to analyze, critique, and understand society by using the camera as a research tool.
So if you’re interested in street photography, you’re a street sociologist. Welcome aboard.
What is sociology? It’s a discipline that seeks to make order of our crazy social world. It’s seeking what makes us human.
Why I love street photography
Street photography is for everyone. It is democratic. You can shoot with your phone, or any device with a camera or lens.
You can shoot on a phone, film camera, tablet, or any device that can record light.
Definition of a Photographer
What is a photographer?
- Photo: light
- Grapher: writer
A photographer is a writer of light. Or a light writer.
Your camera is your pen. You can create reality however you see it. The best photos are the ones that are opinionated, exciting, fun, non-boring, dynamic, and tell a story.
If we think of writing and poetry, it goes back thousands or years. What makes good writing or poetry?
Writing: good story, good actors, good emotions, and good beginning and endings.
Poetry: the flow, cadence, and choice or words. Painting vivid imagery. Elevates the soul.
Do your photos do the same?
- Everyone who lives in a city and shoots photos is a street photographer. What makes living in a city different from living in the countryside?
- What do you love and hate about city living? Document that.
- Use the easiest camera for you to make photos on. Often your phone, or a point and shoot camera. A good writer doesn’t fuss over their pens. What matters is the quality of the words that comes out, not what the ink looks like.
- Shoot what interests you. If something is boring to you, don’t shoot it.
- Get close: physically, emotionally, and spirituality to your subjects. Put yourself in their shoes. Shoot with your heart, and when in doubt, take a step closer to your subject.
Boring street photography
OK, everyone is a street photographer. But most street photography is boring.
How do you make a non-boring or interesting street photograph? Some ideas:
- Don’t just shoot people walking by walls at touristy landmarks. More easy for others to replicate your photos.
- Don’t photograph during flat light; dramatic light during sunrise and sunset have more drama and excitement. A tip to know when the light is good: is your shadow longer or taller than you are?
- Avoid making a photo that can be replicated by Google maps or Google Street view.
Thank you Charlie.
So great street photographers don’t compromise. They stick to their own creative vision. They don’t settle for boring photos.
I am inspired by my friend Charlie Kirk. He was deeply inspired by Garry Winogrand, who made dynamic, multi layered, and exciting street photos.
When my friend Charlie shot on the streets, a lot of people didn’t like his aggressive style. But they loved his photos.
Charlie had a lot of courage to stand up to online haters. But to be frank, Charlie’s haters were just envious and jealous of his skill, bravado, and courage. Charlie inspired me to be more courageous and aggressive with my street photography.
Thank you Charlie, I consider you to be my photography teacher, mentor, guide, and friend. I owe you so much.
How to take your street photography to the next level
Tilt your camera. Make more dynamic and “edgy” street photographs by incorporating un-straight horizons. Study the work of Garry Winogrand and Charlie Kirk for inspiration.
Use a flash: Flash will add more drama, suspense, and sex to your photos. Study the work of Bruce Gilden, Weegee, Anders Petersen, Jacob Aue Sobol, Dirty Harrry, and Eric Kim.
Don’t overlap subjects: A simple way to make better photos: avoid overlapping subjects. Add space between your street photos.
Be unique in your street photography. Don’t let anyone make photos that can easily replicate yours.
The harder it is for you to make a street photograph, the less likely it can be replicated.
A hard street photograph isn’t necessarily a good one. Yet, it certainly is less boring to look at.
And the only cardinal sin as a street photographer: sharing boring photos.
You can make boring photos. Just don’t share them.
What is your street photography batting average?
In terms of my batting average, I make 1 street photograph I’m very proud of from every 1,000 photos. If I make one good street photograph a month I’m happy. If I make one great street photograph a year, I’m ecstatic.
Most master street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Josef Koudelka have only admitted making 1 good photo a month.
The easy way to get more home runs in your street photography: swing your bat more.
That means, shoot more street photos to have a higher likelihood of you making a good photo.
Easy way to remember this:
JUST SHOOT IT.
To conclude this chapter, some things to consider:
You are a sociologist with a camera. That is what a street photographer is. How are you using your camera to analyze society, human beings, and yourself?
Avoid making boring street photos by adjusting emotion, drama, and soul into your photos. Capture hand gestures, eye contact, feelings of doom and gloom, war and peace. Be a poet with a camera.
What makes your street photography unique? Share your thoughts on ERIC KIM Forum
Also for inspiration on the go, buy STREET NOTES MOBILE EDITION: a Street Photography Workshop on Your Phone, for everyday inspiration — either at the coffee shop, your morning commute, or when you need assignment ideas when shooting on the streets.