101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

In lieu of the popularity of my last post about the “100 Things I Have Learned about Photography,” I decided to make a new list that pertains to street photography specifically. Also if you don’t know, I am currently writing a book titled: “Street Photography 101,” and the excerpts are being posted here. This new list is a homage to the Street Photography 101 book that I am writing.

Note that there is some overlap of some of these points with the previous list that I wrote, but I thought it may be essential for new-readers to note. Also, feel free to critique, comment, and share this list with anybody you want. I would love to hear your feedback.

101 Things I Have Learned from Street Photography

1. Don’t worry about the camera so much, just take the damn photo.
2. Ditch the zoom lens and screw on some primes
3. Carry your camera gear in a messenger bag  (it makes your camera & lenses easier to access).
4. Go for the candid look.
5. Go for the shock factor.
6. Smile often.
7. When shooting from the hip, your first 1000 shots will be terrible.
8. Don’t make eye contact with your subjects when trying to be discrete.
9. Imagine that the world is your stage and people are your actors.
10.  Feel free to ask people to take their portraits.
11.  Try to refrain from taking photos of the homeless (as most shots can be considered as merely exploitation).
12.  Crouch when taking your shots, it often makes for more interesting photos.
13.  Get close. Now take two steps closer.
14.  Shoot with an all-black camera with your logos taped up with black tape (to make your camera look more discrete).
15.  Go explore—serendipity is key.
16.  The less planning, the better.
17.  Ideal exposure for a bright sunny day: f/16, ISO 400, 320th/second.
18.  Pretend like you’re taking a photo of something else.
19.  Be respectful.
20.  Change your lenses to re-inspire.

"The Conductor" - Downtown Los Angeles
"The Conductor" – Downtown Los Angeles

21.  Follow your own style, not trends.
22.  Don’t worry about the fear of shooting in public. It will go away over time.
23.  In my 4 years of street photography, I have only had two people to ask me not to take a photo of them. (Your experiences will most-likely be similar)
24.  Most people like getting their photo taken.
25.  If a policeman asks you to delete a photo, tell him that you know your rights and refuse to do so. (edit 9-29-10)
26.  There are no rules in street photography.
27.  Always bring your camera with you everywhere you go. EVERYWHERE.
28.  Don’t take photos, tell stories.
29.  Limit the number of street photographs you see from the internet. The more you see, the less you will value your own.
30.  You will be called by others as “weird” for your street photography. Ignore them.
31.  Look for the beauty in the mundane.
32.  Take photos that make people laugh.
33.  Street photography is best experienced alone.
34.  Constantly experiment and innovate.
35.  Street photography doesn’t always have to be in black and white (although sometimes it does look better).
36.  Grain is beautiful.
37.  Hold your camera with your hand, not your neck.
38.  Don’t be afraid of offending people. Most likely you won’t.
39.  “The night is often more vivid than the day” – Van Gogh
40.  Some of the meanest looking people can be the nicest.

"The Faces" - Paris, France
"The Faces" – Paris, France

41.  Don’t make excuses. Make photos.
42.  Never delete any of your photos. Some of the technically-off images make the best street photos (think blurry, grainy, or dark images).
43.  Always keep your eyes open for the “Decisive Moment”.
44.  If you think your photos are boring, they most likely are.
45.  Street photography summed up in one sentence: “I could have taken that photo but I didn’t”
46.  The quieter your camera, the better.
47.  Don’t be sneaky.
48.  Wide Angle > Telephoto for street photography
49.  Everybody in the streets has a story to tell.
50.  Street photography is not just about the photos, but the experiences.
51.  You don’t need to be in Paris to take great street photographs. Your backyard is equally as good.
52.  See life through the eyes of your subjects.
53.  A well-cropped image can often tell a better story.
54.  Juxtapose.
55.  Look for the light.
56.  Go off the beaten path.
57.  Have the mind of a child and wander. This is how you will find your best photographs.
58.  Only show your best photographs. This will strengthen your images.
59.  If someone says that you are “really lucky,” slap them.
60.  The more photos you take, the better.

"Gloom" - Seoul, Korea
"Gloom" – Seoul, Korea

61.  Your subjects are people, not prey.
62.  Spread the love of street photography with your friends and family.
63.  Less is more.
64.  Get meaningful critique of your street photography from an online community. It will help you tremendously.
65.  Street photographs are subjective.
66.  Look at what other people aren’t looking at.
67.  Do not stress over amazing shots that you may have missed. Simply more on and strive to take a better shot.
68.  Create a series or a theme for your street photographs. They will help create a style for you.
69.  See with your eyes, not your camera.
70.  There is no such thing as the “perfect photo”.
71.  Timing is key.
72.  You don’t have to take a photo of everything. Don’t feel guilty for just enjoying the moment.
73.  If you are a beginner, don’t worry about the settings too much. Just toss your camera on auto mode and go shooting.
74.  Don’t look for photo opportunities. Have them find you.
75.  Children cannot see your camera.
76.  If you ask to take a portrait of a stranger on the street, ask them for their email so you can send them their image. (they will love it).
77.  Don’t forget to look up and down.
78.  No subject is too ordinary to shoot.
79.  Always carry a spare battery and memory card on hand. This has saved my ass half a million times.

"Dizzy" - London, UK
"Dizzy" – London, UK

80.  Don’t be afraid to push your ISO higher.
81.  Learn how to shoot without using the viewfinder and make it a second-instinct. Thus also…
82.  Practice shooting from the hip.
83.  You will never encounter the same shot twice. Now swallow that fact and digest it.
84.  Street photography is a lot like swimming. You have to do it to truly learn it.
85.  Draw inspiration from other photographs, don’t steal them.
86.  Street photography is a lot like fishing. Sometimes you catch a whole bunch, sometimes you catch none.
87.  Getting one or two keeps from an entire day of shooting is a good number.
88.  If someone asks you to delete a photo of them, just do it. It isn’t worth the trouble.
89.  Be smart: ie don’t go shooting in the hood by yourself at night with hundred dollars worth of camera gear.
90.  Some street photographs just look better in color. Don’t overlook this.
91.  There are always photo opportunities regardless of where you are.
92.  Less is more.
93.  A street photograph is worth an essay.
94.  Public transportation is a gold mine for street photography. Learn how to use it.
95.  Always keep at least two backups of all your images. Technology is unreliable.
96.  Keep a journal of your shooting experiences. Track your thoughts and development as a street photographer.
97.  Get lost in your photography and lose track of time.
98.  Think before you shoot.
99.  Have fun.
100. Live life.
101. Just do it.

"Contemplation" - Paris, France
"Contemplation" – Paris, France