Have you ever shared a photo and had someone protest: “But that’s not street photography!”
This is the story of my life.
I. No definitions in your street photography
If you are passionate about shooting in the streets, in public places, with or without permission or whatever, don’t call yourself a ‘street photographer’ anymore.
Rather, just think of yourself as an ‘anti street photographer.’
To be an anti street photographer is to disregard all labels, and just photograph whatever you find that is interesting to you.
For example, I like to shoot urban landscapes. I like to shoot portraits of people with permission (sometimes without permission).
I like to shoot at the beach, at the park, at the mall, or when stuck in traffic.
II. Disregard the genre of ‘street photography’
Break yourself from the cage of a genre.
Fudge ‘street photography’ — let us just roam the streets like street dogs, and shoot however you want.
III. My personal principles
I know on this blog I share a lot of my personal thoughts on shooting street photography.
There are certain principles I like to follow for myself, which include:
- Not cropping
- Getting closer
- Using a flash
- Shooting in P (program) mode
- Talking to my subjects for ‘street portraits‘ (sometimes during, before, or after).
- Shoot with non-zoom prime lenses (28mm/35mm)
- Shoot a scene 25% more than you think you should
- Buying books, not gear
But these are just principles I like to follow. You don’t got to listen to me. But I do think these principles help make you a better photographer.
IV. ANTI STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
So I want to give you some tips:
A. Make urban landscape photos
Anti street photography doesn’t require people. So photograph urban landscapes that interests you.
Look for human emotion and soul in buildings.
My tip for shooting urban landscapes— look at the edges of the frame, and take at least 10 photos of an urban landscape. And if you want to add a ‘cherry on top’ — put your self-portrait into the image.
B. Don’t shoot candidly
An anti street photographer doesn’t care to make a photo with or without permission.
So if you want to take your anti street photography to the next level, don’t shoot candidly. In-fact, I think it is easier to shoot candid photos compared to asking for permission.
Asking for permission is hard. You need to put yourself out of your comfort zone. You need to put your heart on your sleeve. You need to make yourself vulnerable.
You need to talk to a (gasp) real human being. You have to treat them like a human being— not like an intimate object to be uploaded to the cloud. You realize that their life is just as difficult, complex, and complicated as yours.
I don’t even care to make good portraits of strangers anymore— I am more interested in their life story. I want to evoke a reaction.
I love photographing laughing ladies. I talk to older women, and chat them up— and ask them to start laughing, by starting to laugh.
You know you’re making good portraits of people if you feel good after you leave. That ‘warm glow’ of feeling good will stick with you for at least another 5 hours.
And not only that, but make the photo-portrait making session a positive one.
There is too much depressing photos online and in the world. Why not photograph smiling and happy folks?
C. Don’t care for the opinions of others
In anti street photography, you got no labels, no cage of repression. Only make photos that bring your heart delight, and share whatever photos interest you.
You can photograph random things. Photograph textures in the streets. Photograph close-up of people’s teeth. If someone gets pissed off you at you, turn the other cheek.
Don’t think whether this will be a good ‘street photo’ or not — think whether the photo is meaningful or interesting to you or not.
Be like a big-ass kid, and wander the streets with your camera and have fun.
D. Don’t care for fancy gear
The last tip for anti street photography — don’t care what gear you shoot with. Don’t sell your left kidney and buy a digital Leica — rather, just use your smartphone, or whatever camera you already own. If you want something small, get a Ricoh GR II.
Don’t be a slave to your camera— make your camera your slave.
V. Do it all day, everyday
Shoot street photography whenever and wherever. Shoot inside the movie theater. Photograph during your commute. Shoot around the office. Fudge it — even shoot your boring neighborhood.
Anti street photography — just photograph whatever interests you, and make your own reality real. Build a steel spine, photograph your life backwards like Benjamin Button — only photograph what you would find soulful if you were shooting in rewind.
Look for divine and happy moments. Don’t loaf around on the couch looking at new gear. Rather, make this the best street photography year. Disregard how many followers your peers have, and be glad for your own place in life. Survive through the years, and put together your magnum opus. Steer clear from the crowds online — they’re like grain-eating locusts.
Be strong, and shoot street photography according to your own rules, your own ethics, and your own beliefs.
You got this. Go ANTI.
Learn more: STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 101 >