An Inspirational Lesson Learned About Street Photography

Note: I got this email from aspiring street photographer named Tasos. It was quite inspirational and eye-opening. I thought I would share it with you guys!

Hey this guys shooting us! - Tasos
"Hey this guys shooting us!" – Tasos

The other day I was out, and as usual I had the camera with me.

I took a photo of 2 gentlemen. It was a great learning experience.

I shared my thought with another member on flickr who was kind enough to comment on my photo.

Here is my letter to Mary (fellow flickr(er)):

Hi Mary. Thanks for your comments.

You know this photo is very important to me. Not because of the subjects, composition, lighting etc. I am hoping to take much better photos than this one. The reason why this photo is important to me is because it taught me something about shooting “street”. I am getting my courage up shooting with a wide angle lens, and getting close to people. I think that it is important/necessary when shooting street. So I think I’m getting comfortable with that part. I practice even when the camera isn’t to my eye, by trying to hold eye contact with strangers for as long as possible, seeing if the other will turn away first (something that was hard for me because I’m normally not that type of personality). Sometimes the other person looks away first, sometimes they smile, and sometimes they scowl (that’s when you have to break a smile). Having said this, here I am in this parking lot. I get out of my car, full of confidence, and I am walking up to these guys. At first they are unaware of me and I snap a couple of photos. Nothing special. but then on the last shot, the man on the right takes notice. He didn’t seem all that enthused. I had my shot, and I moved on. At that moment I thought highly of myself as I had the shot, wasn’t timid etc.

When it came time to leave I got into my car.

The man on the right had left. The man on the left was still sitting there.

As I drove by him. He was looking at me, with a sort of questioning look, and at the same time kind of upset. I didn’t break eye contact, and he looked away first. This time I felt very poorly of myself. It was as if I had broken him. As if I had taken something from him that he wasn’t willing to give.

It was at that moment I learned my lesson.

You see, street photography (I am learning) walks a thin line. On one hand you are documenting the human condition, and you want people to be natural and unposed, unaware of you. But what happens when you get noticed (like I was)? My reaction (just walk on by), at least in this case, wasn’t the right one. I should have approached them, made some small talk, and let them know what I was doing. Instead, I felt as if I had been caught taking something that wasn’t mine.

Later that night I came home and found a link to this article titled: “People Like to be Honored.” It clarified what I had experience earlier that day (almost as if fate had it waiting for me).


Add Tasos as a contact on Flickr and follow him on Twitter!

Have any of you guys had an epiphany or lesson you learned about Street Photography? Leave a comment below and share your story with us!