What is the Decisive Moment in Street Photography?

Old people laughing and pointing. Omotesando, Tokyo 2017
  • Decisive: being able to make a decision.
  • Moment: Time, momentum, brief period of time.

What is your duty as a street photographer?

Negative space around woman. Kyoto zen temple, 2017
Negative space around woman. Kyoto zen temple, 2017

In street photography, you see interesting scenes and moments. It is your duty as a street photographer to be aggressive and to capture that moment — quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

Decisive Moment = Interesting moments + your courage

Aperture eye. Yellow and red.

The way I interpret the decisive moment:

When you’re shooting on the streets, if you see an interesting moment, you must not hesitate, have courage, and capture the moment quickly.

Street photograph of woman walking in Kyoto, 2017
Kyoto, 2017

What you DON’T want to happen:

Hesitate, fail to click the shutter, and therefore lose the moment.

Take more risks in your real life

Cindy with hand on chin. Red. Kyoto, 2017
Cindy with hand on chin. Red. Kyoto, 2017

Applied to life, we are all given good opportunities. But it is for us to have the courage, guts, and to take the risk — to try to capture that moment.

Once you miss the moment, it is gone forever.

There isn’t just one moment

Selfie in mirror. Kyoto. 2017
Selfie in mirror. Kyoto. 2017

Caveat:

There are many moments which are presented to you.

Therefore, rather than getting upset for missing a good moment, you have to learn to be MORE DECISIVE the next time.

Woman standing in front of Zara. Kyoto, 2017
Kyoto, 2017

What I mean is this:

The next time you shoot street photography, you need to be quicker, to be able to make a decision of clicking the shutter with less hesitation.

How to capture more decisive moments

Kyoto, 2017
Kyoto, 2017

Therefore, to capture more “decisive moments” is,

  1. Identify more interesting moments
  2. Hesitate less before hitting the shutter

That means,

  1. Study lots of great photography (masters of photography), to understand what makes an interesting photo moment. Or, just follow your gut — if you think the moment is interesting, it is interesting.
  2. Build your confidence and courage in street photography, and be less afraid of negative consequences.

1. What makes an interesting moment?

Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017
Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017. Ricoh GR II and flash, shot through clear umbrella.

What’s interesting to you isn’t interesting to me, and vice versa. Sometimes they overlap.

My suggestion: Follow your gut, and your heart.

Kyoto, 2017.
Kyoto, 2017.

If you see any scene or moment that strikes your fancy, or interests you — don’t ignore it.

2. How to be more confident in street photography

ERIC KIM SELFIE in broken mirror. Kyoto, 2017.
Kyoto selfie, 2017

Lots of practice — the more you shoot street photography, the less nervous you will be.

Eye. Tokyo, 2016
Eye. Tokyo, 2016

Also, think less. Whenever I think too much when shooting street photography, I hesitate more.

Therefore,

Think less -> Hesitate less -> Shoot more

Whenever you see an interesting moment, don’t think — JUST SHOOT IT.

Suit silhouette walking. Tokyo, 2016
Suit silhouette walking. Tokyo, 2016

To build more confidence in your street photography, join an ERIC KIM CONQUER YOUR FEARS WORKSHOP.

Choosing your favorite moments

Contact sheet. Tokyo eye, 2016.
Contact sheet. Tokyo eye, 2016.

The art of editing is the art of selecting your favorite images.

Generally, if you take 20 photos of the scene, my suggestion:

Choose your one favorite photo of the scene.

How do you know which moment is your favorite?

Marseille contact sheet.
Marseille contact sheet.
Blue. Man at beach. Marseille, 2014
Blue. Man at beach. Marseille, 2014
  1. Follow your gut — does the photo hit you in the stomach? Does the photo spark joy in your heart? Is it a personally meaningful moment?
  2. Do you see interesting hand gestures, bodily movement, or eye contact?
  3. Is the composition clean and dynamic?

For more information, read my book: “Street photography contact sheets volume II”.

Keep your chin up

Tokyo, 2017
Tokyo, 2017

Street photography is hard, fleeting and scary. Trust me, street photography is the most difficult genre of photography.

Layers of people in elevator. Tokyo, 2017
Layers of people in elevator. Tokyo, 2017

You must be quick, aggressive, and have confidence in yourself. You need to quickly digest images and scenes, and you must know how to position your body to shoot the scene.

Woman in mall, 2017
Tokyo, 2017

Street photography is fucking hard — don’t forget that.

Man with hand over face. Tokyo, 2017
Man with hand over face. Tokyo, 2017

That means, because street photography is so difficult, don’t be so hard on yourself. Rather, keep your chin up, and never give up.

Tilted street photograph in Tokyo, of a triangle composition (man in bottom left, man on top right, and advertisement in top left)

If you miss a good moment, know:

There are a million other moments I can capture, and next time, I will be more decisive, and hesitate less.

Bookend technique with a flash, note how the figure on the far left and the far right frame the subject in the center of the frame. Tokyo, 2017
Bookend technique with a flash, note how the figure on the far left and the far right frame the subject in the center of the frame. Tokyo, 2017

To build your confidence in street photography, join an ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE >

BE BOLD,
ERIC


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By ERIC KIM

Artist-Philosopher