102 things I have learnt about street photography – a slightly flippant and deliberately controversial guide by two cute dogs

Photo by Charlie Kirk
Photo by Charlie Kirk

If you want to read two cute dog’s deliberately controversial (yet incredibly insightful) tips on street photography, read more:

  1. Closer is not always better. In many cases it’s worse. Forget the machismo and think, what’s the maximum amount of “stuff” I can include in the frame without it becoming a mess.
  2. If you really have to take a picture of something boring, at least try to take it in a way no-one else would. Think of interesting angles, viewpoints and perspectives.
  3. You can only understand what’s original by looking a lot of photographs; you can only understand what’s a cliche by looking at a lot of photographs.
  4. Looking at a lot of photographs can make you a worse photographer.
  5. Gestures tend to repeat themselves.
  6. A great idea executed with great photos is what we should all aim for.
  7. The difficulty in getting the photo can ensure it’s not generic. A photo that is easy to take is easy to repeat.
  8. Getting close and cutting off heads isn’t artistic. It’s a sign of hip shooting at chest level and an inability to capture an interesting expression.
  9. If you shoot with a 28 or 35 it’s important to look at least 5 meters ahead. You won’t be able to anticipate or react to events that happen one meter away.
  10. Always walk slowly unless you see a midget and a lady in a burka walking off in the distance. Then run and catch them up. Fast.
  11. If your mother likes your photos it’s a bad sign.
  12. If everyone shared complete bodies of work rather than single images, the world would be a far better place.
  13. Self-publishing a book on blurb is not “having a book published”.
  14. Being in a collective is only as good as that collective makes an effort to produce collective work.
  15. Charging for pixels is mercenary.
  16. It’s important to try to see things as a child would. Freedom from adult compositional rules can lead to more interesting photos. That’s why alcohol or drugs can help.
  17. Better photographers often take fewer photos.
  18. If someone offers you a drink, of anything except poison, accept it.
  19. There’s nothing wrong with telephoto lenses, unless you change the aspect ration to 16:9 add black borders and call your photo cinematic.
  20. Some that can can teach. Some that can’t can teach. Some that can’t can’t teach.
  21. There is no such thing as talent.
  22. If working the scene means taking pictures from lots of different angles, then that’s bullshit. There are generally very few ways to frame a picture. The key is anticipating the moment, or shooting enough with the right framing to get the moment.
  23. Photography is our genre. Become familiar with that before seeking other influences (although please note 3 and 4 above).
  24. Photography can be internal and external. If your life is interesting make sure to shoot internally too.
  25. There is nothing worse than shooting with a digital shooter who uses a LCD, nothing worse than shooting with an experienced photographer that sees the same things you do. My ideal shooting companion is a landscape, portrait or still life photographer with lots of anecdotes.
  26. If you find an interesting project, complete it. Many great photographers see photography as work. It’s not all about passion and enjoyment.
  27. Dark clothes and a dark camera will help you stay discrete. Don’t wear a brightly coloured hat.
  28. Most experienced street photographers, if they see the same scene, will take the same shot. So make time to shoot by yourself.
  29. Complicated pictures hold your interest but simple pictures stay in your memory.
  30. A photographer is not solely responsible for a complicated picture. Their camera is.
  31. Film really is better than digital. It just looks nicer. End of debate.
  32. Many of the best photographers all have something deeply wrong with them inside.
  33. And tend to be Jewish.
  34. There is no correlation between 32 and 33.
  35. When working on projects, take still lives, landscapes and portraits. You never know if you’ll need the shots. Better to have than not. Your project might change.
  36. These really are the last days of street photography. In ten years time we will just be editors.
  37. www.street-photographers.com really should change the name of their collective.
  38. I’d love to put Bruce Gilden in a room with Joerg Colberg.
  39. Repeating the same framing is not making an artistic point. It’s lazy.
  40. The newest cliches are, in this order, colour connections, flashed car interiors, cut off limbs and wistful looking children.
  41. The flash multi exposure will be the cliche for 2014.
  42. If you shoot film you’re a photographer, if you shoot digital you’re an editor.
  43. An interesting subject being uninteresting is uninteresting.
  44. An uninteresting subject being interesting is interesting.
  45. An interesting subject being interesting is very interesting.
  46. Anticipation is really one of the best skills a photographer can have. A badly framed great moment is often about a lack of positioning.
  47. Spend an afternoon just watching people. Observe emotion.
  48. Spend another afternoon looking at backgrounds.
  49. Many pictures look better without a single unidentifiable anonymous subject walking through the scene.
  50. Being able to see something emotional is a skill that can be acquired.
  51. In post production, don’t discriminate against blacks. Sometimes they deserve detail as much as the highlights.
  52. The background is more important than the foreground. There’s usually more background in a photo – so ensure that it works too. Clean backgrounds can be the sky, fields, walls, shop fronts, the sea etc. Messy backgrounds are generally wide open squares or facing into the streets.
  53. If your background is messy, get very close and fill the frame with your subjects or angle the camera upwards or don’t take the picture at all.
  54. A badly composed picture of a beautiful woman is always a good photo.
  55. Street photography is candid pictures of strangers. Not so difficult to understand now is it?
  56. Colour photography is much harder to do well than black and white photography.
  57. There is nothing wrong with mixing black and white and colour. Bertien van Manen did it, and her book Moonshine is my favourite of 2014. This is not a sponsored link.
  58. Shooting at the same focal length is generally a good idea, but it’s not a rule. What if you need to take a landscape photo, a portrait, a still life?
  59. Make sure to have a drink with Hin Chua one day.
  60. And smoke with Justin Vogel.
  61. Keep your elbows in unless you need to nudge another photographer out of the way.
  62. Once you are working on editing and sequencing, buy a big metal board and a lot of magnets.
  63. Go through a decent photo book, count the leitmotifs and ask yourself why they are used.
  64. Search for posts by Bryan Formhals on social and read them before he deletes them all.
  65. Using the high contrast black and white mode on the Ricoh GRD doesn’t make you artistic.
  66. Nor does shooting wistful portraits on a Mamiya 7 and desaturating the colours.
  67. Using a Leica does.
  68. Leave the slight imperfections in the photo. It shows that it’s a photo and not a computer generated graphical design.
  69. Statistically Greeks stage more photos than any other nation.
  70. And the Japanese have the highest number of great photographers that no-one has heard of.
  71. Grand Minnow should set up his own blog and have Eric Kim comment on it.
  72. I have to say, I miss Alex Coghe.
  73. Are there cliques, sycophants, politics and divisions in landscape photography? Or is it just in relation to street photography?
  74. There is nothing wrong with calling yourself a street photographer.
  75. If you have an attractive girlfriend and don’t take her photograph, send her my way – charliekirkphotography@gmail.com
  76. Contact photographers who’s work you like, send them a bunch of prints or visit them and ask to buy them lunch. I’m sure most of them would agree to take a look at your photos.
  77. If you’re shooting for the whole day, eat something very sweet at 3pm, but don’t start drinking until sunset. You’ll end up an alcoholic if you start drinking any sooner.
  78. If you’re in a country that loves football, buy a T-shirt from one of the big clubs. It’ll open doors.
  79. It’s better to hipshoot and risk badly framing your shot, than to not take the shot at all. But only hipshoot when it allows you to avoid being beaten up or arrested.
  80. If a photo looks too good to be candid, it usually is.
  81. Every photo book needs the following: a dwarf, a naked lady, a dog, an umbrella and a horse. And if you get all of these in the same shot, you can probably retire on your royalties.
  82. Write down all of those great photos you missed. Put them on a pin board and look at the board before you go out shooting. You missed those photos for a reason.
  83. In the UK there would be a good market for T-shirts that say “I’m a photographer not a paedophile.” Why should children be off limits?
  84. Search the old HCSP critique threads for any critiques from Ben Roberts. That’ll teach you more about photography than most workshops (except for MINE). [Edit to Americans – the part in parenthesis is a joke]
  85. There is such a condition as WAS – workshop acquisition syndrome.
  86. If you want to start a blog, make sure to be controversial. Topics worth writing about are the definition of street photography, film over digital and colour or black and white. Chuck in some gear reviews and camera pictures for the win.
  87. I’ve never understood why “serious photographers” take pictures of dogs but not cats, and horses rather than cows.
  88. When sequencing, avoid grouping connected photos next to each other. Don’t be obvious.
  89. If you are shooting a protest, think about avoiding signs and banners. Frame out key information. Leave that to the news photographers. And if you want to piss them off, shoot with a wide angle lens and get in the way of their photos.
  90. If you want your book to sell, change your name to Robert Frank and call it The Americans. I’m sure hundreds will buy it by mistake.
  91. And if your book title can be confused with a cheap airport novel for middle aged women, you might want to think about changing it.
  92. Even if you don’t like the work of Eggleston, Robert Adams or Steven Shore, never admit it in public. Ever.
  93. If you are male, grow a beard.
  94. Always exaggerate about how low your keeper rate is. One in fifty rolls is the minimum.
  95. When shooting with a friend, use the pointing technique as perfected by Jason Eskenazi – point towards a landmark and ask your friend “Is that [insert landmark]?” and take a photo of your subjects. Works every time.
  96. If you want people to think that you are one of the masters of street photography in the 21st century, don’t be shy to tell everyone. Some will even believe you.
  97. Bellamy Hunt offers a service where you can get your black painted Leica brassed up without having to use it for ten years. Be sure to avail of this service. You’ll be in great company next time you go to Arles.
  98. If your artist statement is unintelligible, you are doing well. Lie about your age and sex too. If anyone asks, you are a female photographer under 30.
  99. Send a Facebook friend request to Jason Reed. The only photographer I know to have achieved over 250 comments on a post.
  100. Quit social media. It’s more mysterious and you’ll gain an extra 40 hours a week to take photographs.
  101. If you want lots more social media followers, make a list like this.
  102. 63 per cent of these tips are flippant. Just in case you haven’t noticed. There are also at least 5 points that contradict each other and some spelling mistakes.

Original post written by two cute dogs here.

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