How to Be Less Self-Conscious

Saigon, 2014
Saigon, 2014

Many of us are self-conscious when it comes to our street photography — meaning, we think about ourselves too much when we shoot.

However the philosophy we should try to take is this: treat street photography as an exercise to let go of your ego and forget your “self.” Imagine that when you’re shooting street photography, your body and mind disappears. All that is left is the camera, and it shoots itself. The photos take themselves.

1. They are not your photos

Hanoi, 2014
Hanoi, 2014

One of the tips I have is to not refer to your own photos as “my” photos. Rather, refer to your photos as “the” photos.

This helps detach you from your photography. This will help you become more objective with your photos when judging them, but it will also put less pressure on you when you’re out shooting photos.

I find myself becoming really self-conscious when shooting street photography when I try really hard to make good photos. Whenever I put that pressure on myself, I am always thinking of “me, me, me” or “I, I, I.”

Don’t think of yourself as a photographer. Think of yourself as a person who wanders, and the camera clicks by itself. You just happen to be holding the camera.

2. Don’t think when you’re shooting

SF, 2015
SF, 2015

I think the secret to being a great street photographer is to turn off your brain. To not think. To shoot from the gut, and afterwards choose your best photos with your brain.

When I’m out shooting and I think too much, I am a lot more self-conscious. When I think too much, I am less likely to take photos— because I worry about the negative consequences of what might happen.

Becoming less self-conscious in street photography doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. A long time.

3. Don’t make eye contact

Paris, 2015
Paris, 2015

It also takes psychological tricks and practice. And different street photography techniques.

I find one technique which works well to make myself less self-conscious is to not make eye contact. If I don’t make eye contact with others when I’m shooting, then others don’t make eye contact with me. Then they don’t think I’m taking their photo. Therefore this allows me to get closer to my subjects, to keep clicking, and to keep moving.

4. Smile

Lansing, 2014
Lansing, 2014

On the other hand, a good way to be less nervous and self-conscious when you’re shooting is to smile. Smile when you’re shooting, and smile at your subjects. Don’t do it in a creepy way — do it with a small head nod, and with a joyful feeling in yourself.

When you’re a happy street photographer, people aren’t afraid, nervous, or feel weird around you. The happier you are, the more confident you are.

So use joy, happiness, and your smile as a shield and armor to keep you strong.

5. Expect the worst-case scenario

Beverly Hills, 2013
Beverly Hills, 2013

Street photography isn’t a dainty business. It is hard. Really tough. It is the scariest form of photography out there.

When you’re shooting street photography, you will piss someone off sooner or later. So expect it.

If you expect to upset people in your street photography before-hand, you won’t be as nervous or self-conscious when it actually happens.

Always expect the worst-case scenario, but also realize that whatever you imagine the worst-case scenario almost never happens.

And if you can expect the worst-case scenario, you will have less fear, and you will build more steel in your spine.

6. You’re braver than you think

Downtown LA, 2011
Downtown LA, 2011

You have nothing to fear but fear itself in street photography. And whenever that scary thing actually happens, it won’t be as bad as you imagine it to be.

So friend, have a stout heart, always shoot with a smile, sometimes avert your eyes, and expect the worst-case scenario. Know that street photography is really f*cking scary at times, but that is what makes you a great photographer.

Everyday seek to be a little less self-conscious, a little more brave, and to think a little less when you’re out on the streets. Shoot less with your brain, and more with your heart. Then nothing can stop you.

Always,
Eric

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