My Experiences Shooting Street Photography in Istanbul

This is my second time in Istanbul, and it has absolutely been one of my favorite places in the world to shoot street photography. It is a combination of the friendly people, the diverse history, the historic architecture, the multicultural heritage, and the golden light.

The other day I put my GoPro Hero 3 on top of my Leica MP and with Portra 400 loaded, made a POV of me shooting the streets of Istanbul — around the Eminonu area in Istanbul which is right by the water and the New Mosque.

My experience of shooting street photography in Istanbul

Istanbul, 2013
Istanbul, 2013

I know Istanbul is currently in the news a lot for the clashes with the protestors at Gezi Park and Taksim Square – but surprisingly life seems normal enough here. I saw tons of tourists fly from JFK with me into Istanbul (loads of Korean people too) and the airport was packed. At the moment, there are only a few protests on the weekends- and most of the recent ones have been quite quiet. Turkey is also on holiday, so a lot of people have left Istanbul to visit their summer homes outside of the city.

Istanbul (although mostly Muslim) prides itself in its secularism in terms of separation from state and church. However the new government has been trying to change that – which has also fueled some conflicts.

Overall I find the majority of people I approached with Charlie Kirk to be very friendly and open-minded. I have been shooting street photography here for the last 4 days or so, and haven’t had a single person get upset– even when shooting up-close and with a flash. I simply smile, say hello, and even have conversation with people.

I find that speaking some local words goes a long way. Examples include hello, thank you, and goodbye. You would be surprised how much locals appreciate it when you attempt to speak their language (even if you might butcher the pronunciation).

Another thing I recently did (with the advice from Charlie) was to invest in a local football (soccer) team’s jersey: Galatasaray S.K. People in Turkey are very passionate about their football, and wearing their jersey already got me loads of high-fives from strangers I walked by in the streets.

So if anyone is thinking of visiting Istanbul, I highly recommend it. One of the most beautiful places in the world for street photography, and certainly somewhere I recommend traveling to when you have the chance.

What I have been aiming to do in my street photography

I just uploaded a new GoPro video of me shooting street photography in Istanbul. Let me try to narrate it a bit- to explain what I am trying to do.

1. Stick around / work a scene

Istanbul, 2012

I think it is very important when you see an interesting scene going on, not to just take one photo and move on. Rather to stick around, and really “work the scene.” For example in one of the earlier scenes I am shooting, I wait for the background to clear up and take multiple shots of different interactions and gestures I see.

2. Work in layers / multi-subjects

Istanbul, 2012

One thing I have also been trying to is work on layers in my photographs like Alex Webb, and have more multiple-subject shots. Istanbul is perfect for that

3. Look for gestures / interactions

Istanbul, 2012

I think a lot of my earlier work has to do with finding interesting people and simply taking portraits of them. However now I feel that taking a photo of an interesting person simply isn’t enough. What I am trying to look for is gestures and interactions whether it be a face covering a hand, a couple holding hands, or people staring a certain direction or a way while pointing.

I often feel that emotions and people’s feelings can be shown mostly through gestures (of the face, hands, or feet). I therefore try to time taking more shots when I see some sort of gesture or interaction happening.

4. Interact with people (know local words)

Istanbul, 2012

Something I have always done (but have been doing more of) is interacting with my subjects. I have found that by learning a few local words has helped me better connect with locals who don’t know much English. And also there are loads of people in Istanbul who are very fluent in English – those of which I have extended chats with.

I often take candid photos and then talk to people after. Sometimes I chat with them, and ask to take their photo after or even have them to pose for me. I think both approaches are fine, but generally the candid photos tend to be the best.


Istanbul, 2012
Istanbul, 2012

I am starting my workshop in Istanbul (intro and intermediate/advanced) here this week with Charlie Kirk and am quite excited for the experience. I am also excited to see the progress of the students- and will share their work later on my Facebook fan page. I will also try to do a few more GoPro videos (of the class and me shooting) which you can follow on my YouTube channel.

I have also done already 4 interviews with local Istanbul photographers- which I plan to share on my blog soon.

Upcoming Street Photography Workshops

1x1.trans Eric Kim Street Photography Workshops
New friends from my Introduction to Street Photography Workshop in Tokyo, 2011

If you are interested in traveling, overcoming your fears, and taking your street photography to new heights check out some of my upcoming street photography workshops below!

October 18-20th

San Francisco – Intro to Street Photography Workshop – Info & Register (few spots left!)

November 1-3rd (new date)

Los Angeles – Introduction to Street Photography Workshop – Register intent

November 8-10th

Tokyo Introduction to Street Photography Workshop  – Info & Register

November 15-17th

Tokyo Intermediate/Advanced Street Photography Workshop – Info & Register

November 22-24th

Kyoto Film Street Photography Workshop – Info & Register

Take care and thanks again so much for your readership and support. If anyone has any questions about Istanbul or feedback – leave a comment below!

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