If I started to travel and shoot street photography all over again, this is the advice I would give myself:
1. One camera, one lens
It’s tempting to travel with lots of cameras and gear.
Why? For myself when I traveled with a lot of cameras and lenses I was AFRAID. Afraid that my camera would break, or I wouldn’t have the “ideal” camera or lens for a scene.
Also, lots of us don’t have the opportunity to travel much. Therefore, we want to maximize our travel opportunity for photography, and thinking that by having more camera equipment and gear, we will get the best experience from our photography.
More weight, more pain, and less shooting.
2. Don’t expect to make the best pictures of your life
A mistake I’ve made in the past:
Expecting that when I travel, I will take the best street photos of my life.
Whenever I set my expectations too high for my street photos before traveling, I end up disappointing myself.
For example, one of my dreams in the past was to shoot street photography in Paris. I imagined myself like Henri Cartier-Bresson, and finding infinite inspiration.
In reality, I didn’t take a single good street photo in Paris. I didn’t see that many “decisive moments”. The life lesson was:
Just because I travel, it doesn’t mean I will make good pictures.
There are not any more “decisive moments” in foreign cities.
As my teacher Constantine Manos taught me, “Don’t get suckered by the exotic.”
3. Shoot like a local
Try to shoot a foreign city like it were your home city. Shoot your home city like it were a foreign city.
The truth: if you over-exoticize a foreign city, you will fall victim to the “National geographic syndrome”— you will just try to make pictures like Steve McCurry, or any other travel picture you’ve seen in National Geographic or any other travel magazine.
Therefore when you’re abroad, live and shoot pictures like a local.
Visit the local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Avoid trip-advisor like the plague.
This is why when I travel, I prefer to stay at Airbnb. It feels like I’m at home. Cindy and I shop at local grocery stores, and don’t visit tourist locations. We enjoy eating at local Indian restaurants close by, and spend time in our Airbnb (drinking coffee and tea) and doing creative work indoors.
For me, I spend most of my money living abroad and traveling. For me, it is the best investment — because experiences live with you forever, cameras and gadgets become outdated, and soon dissolve into dust.
But also realize, traveling won’t make you happy. It will open up your eyes to the rest of the world, introduce you to new cultures, and bring novelty in your life — but it don’t bring you happiness.
Ultimately know that you can be happy regardless of where you are.
Even as a tip,
Live at home like you’re traveling. Travel like you’re living at home.
Shoot street photography when you’re abroad like you’re shooting back home. Treat the streets like your own home.