What Music Albums Can Teach You About Street Photography Projects

London, 2014. Part of my on-going "Suits" series.
London, 2014. Part of my on-going “Suits” series.

I love music. I love listening to music when I’m writing (like I am doing now), I love listening to music when I’m driving, and I love having music play in the background when I’m with my friends.

I have a lot of favorite artists and I have found one thing that separates the “successful” artists and from the “unsuccessful” artists: the “successful” artists continue to produce work (and don’t die off).

When I was in high school and college, I used to listen to a lot of “underground hip-hop”. These rappers and artists weren’t getting a lot of playtime on the radio, but had small and dedicated followings. Many of these artists had potential, but after releasing only one or two albums, they faded into obscurity. This made me sad— it was quite a shame that they weren’t able to keep pushing forward, to continue making new music, and to keep their audience happy.

Musical artists don’t put out new work everyday. Rather, the most prolific ones try to make at least one good album a year (10–14 tracks).

I was then thinking to myself: perhaps we photographers can do the same thing. Try to just aim to make one “photography album” per year, of our best 10–14 images.

A lot of artists put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into those 10–14 tracks. They constantly redo the producing, change the vocals, and get honest feedback and critique from their peers.

I think in street photography it is very rare we make a good photograph. If you can make at least 1 good street photograph a month, you’re doing really well.

Don’t feel like you need to make an amazing photograph everyday. Don’t even feel pressured to upload a photograph everyday.

I think in an ideal world as long as you can put out at least one good project (10–14 images), once a year, you are doing really well. Perhaps you can have a small exhibition once a year (local coffee shops are always willing), or perhaps doing a small “zine”. Just get it printed on Blurb, or try to figure out some other ways you can self-publish.

Currently I have a series of photography projects I am working on. These include my “Suits” project, my “Only in America” series, and I’m starting to do some more street portraits with my digital Ricoh GR during my travels (might end up being a new project).

I feel the pressure to constantly be producing good work, and the constant need to upload photographs. Sometimes this creates a lot of anxiety and stress, because it is very rare that I make any good photographs.

However one of the benefits I’ve found shooting film is that I don’t feel like I’m in such a rush. I just recently processed 164 rolls after sitting on them for nearly a year, and having that patience really helped me out a ton in terms of being more “objective” editing down my shots.

If you shoot digital, my suggestion is this: after you take a photograph, let it “marinate” (sit) for a week before looking at the image. I think after a week, the memory you had of taking the photograph fades; therefore you can judge your photographs more “objectively”. And perhaps wait a full month before deciding to upload the photograph. Time is often the ultimate counselor when it comes to editing (choosing our best images).

Another tip: I usually ask at least 3 photographers I trust whether they think the photograph is good or not (before I decide to upload an image). If I think the photo is good, and my 3 close confidants think it is good, I am comfortable sharing it in public.

So go hit the streets, produce some new tracks, and make a beautiful album.

More articles on street photography projects

If you want to learn more about how to put together a street photography project, I recommend reading these articles:

  1. Free E-Book: The Street Photography Project Manual
  2. Video Presentation: Introduction to Street Photography Projects
  3. 15 Street Photography Assignments to Re-Energize and Re-Inspire You
  4. 40 Street Photography Resolutions Ideas for 2014
  5. How to Start Your Own Street Photography Project

If you also want to learn how to better form a street photography project and achieve your fullest potential, don’t miss out the chance to attend one of my upcoming street photography workshops.

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