What Goes on in My Mind When I Shoot in the Streets

What should I take a Photo of Penguin 5D
What goes on in my head when I am doing street photography. (Yes, that is a penguin version of me with a Canon 5D)

Stumped for ideas, I recently I asked to the members of my Facebook Fan page what I should blog about next. These are the responses that I received that inspired me to write this post:

    • Eric Houng: “What prompts you to snap a picture of someone? is it cuz you see a story about that person? stuff like that :] (inspiration… that’s the word i was looking for hahah)”
    • Mithun Kumar: “Do we apply brains or just go with the instincts when photographing on Streets?”
    • Yvette Murphy: “Related to above requests– how much of it is planned, i.e. you see the possibility of a shot ahead of time and wait for it to happen and, simply, spontaneous, i.e. the right place at the right time. For example, I had seen the possibility of a great shot, I waited for the right time…and perhaps I lost patience, but it never happened.”
    • Rick Heath: “What does one need to do in terms of mindset on the street….I would love to do this but do not want to be threatening. How do you be forward in a nice way. Does this make sense? In other words, what does your mindset need to be…..frame of mind, etc.”

Therefore I will try my best to explain my  “workflow” of my thoughts when shooting in the streets. The scenario I will explain my thought process when I went to shoot on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica (during my lunch break yesterday). I tried my best to record and write out my thoughts as candid as possible.

  1. (As I am sitting down at my computer): “Damn I am feeling hella antsy–gotta go out to shoot in the streets. Where should I go? Eh–doesn’t matter, I just gotta get on the streets and I’ll figure that out later. “
  2. (As I am about to leave): “Hmm… is my battery charged and do I have my memory card in my camera?” (Checks camera). “Sweet– time to hit the streets.”
  3. (I leave the office and enter a back-alley): “It feels amazing to be outside. I wonder what I should shoot today. Do I want to shoot from the hip, juxtapose people with the environment, or just take photos of what interests me? Hmmm… I’ll just have to walk around and figure out”
  4. (As I am walking around the streets): “Eh… nothing seems to be too interesting today. These people are much too boring for me to take photos of. There is nothing about them that stands out. Oh wait… this guy looks a tad interesting.” (I take his photo and check it). “Eh, framing is decent and I got a nice little shadow. But definitely doesn’t stand out to me. Not a keeper”  
  5. (As I approach a fountain): “That is a nice little fountain. Oh wait– there is a woman sitting right in front of it. Oh man, it would be hilarious if I got a shot that it looks like the water fountain is shooting at her! Time to nail the shot.” (I approach closely, crouch…and take a few photos). (As I check my LCD Screen), “Sweet…I dig this photo”

    Had this idea for a crop after taking the image
  6. (I keep on walking around): “Today feels a little slow… oh wait there’s some kids and a mom there! This seems interesting” (Takes a quick shot from the hip). (I check my LCD), “Ehh..framing is a bit off. There doesn’t seem to be enough action going in here either. Not only that, but the photo doesn’t really pique my interest very much.”
  7. (I see a dog): “Dogs are cute. I wonder if I should just take a shot of it from a really low angle” (Crouches, holds camera nearly to the ground and takes photo), “Eh–not the most interesting shot in the world, but oh well.”
  8. (I see a woman checking her bag): “Oh man, her bag has a hummingbird on it. This may make for a good symbol somehow.” (Brings camera to eye and snaps two photos while walking past). (As I check my image), “Hmm.. framing is okay, but the photo is not nearly as interesting as I thought it would be.”
  9. (Dying from the heat): “Oh man, it’s getting pretty hot. I wonder if I have a keeper that is ‘worthy’ to go on my Flickr/Website”
  10. (Thinks of the photo I took of the woman and the fountain): “That photo is definitely a keeper. I feel satisfied–time to go back to work.”

In response to Eric, Mithun, Yvette, and Rick and everybody else who is curious about my mindset/thought process when shooting in the street:

  • As you can tell, not all of the shots that I take on the streets are “keepers” (or the photos I deem my best work). Also when shooting in the streets, I follow my instincts and do not discriminate. I just listen to what my subconscious tells me, and take all the images I wish to take.
  • To get over the initial “jitters” of shooting in the streets when I am not feeling warm, I just take random photos of random things, to simply “warm up” my trigger button and listen to the satisfying “clack” of my shutter. The more I hear my shutter, the less afraid and bothered I feel about other people hearing it.
  • I have a mindset that I am out there to capture “The Beauty in the Mundane” and that I am not a “creeper” or someone threatening. In thinking that I am out there to do a “good” and capture beautiful images of everyday-life, I do not feel that I am threatening and thus other people don’t interpret me as threatening.
  • When walking around in the streets, I try not to “force” my shots or take a photo of literally everything I see. I also make sure to walk at a slow pace and look around myself for interesting things/people to take photos of. I can also add that most of the things/people I see in the streets are not quite interesting to me (I feel sort of desensitized after shooting in the streets for quite a while), so it takes something truly uncanny or odd that captures my eye.
  • There are also many instances when I see great photo opportunities, and I try to stay patient to capture that perfect image. If I see a sign, billboard, or interesting backdrop, I wait for the right “actor” to right into my scene, and capture the image I have in mind. I typically hang around “waiting” for a shot for about two minutes tops, but if I grow impatient or see other photo opportunities around myself, I simply move on. There are other times when I am walking I see the “Decisive Moment” right before my eyes, and I catch the image at the right time.

I have a question for you guys: What goes on in your head when you are out on the streets and taking photos?