Street Photography Philosophy

Why shoot street photography? For whom should you shoot street photography? What are the ethics behind street photography?

Istanbul bus. Leica MP, 35mm, flash, Kodak Portra 400, 1.2 meters.

First of all, the reason why shoot street photography:

  1. Encourages you to get out of the house, and interact with the “real world”, which is good for your mental and physical health.
  2. Encourages you to interact and engage more with strangers, which builds your inner courage in interacting with others. Also a good way to open up your mind to new cultures, people, and ways of living.
  3. Easy, democratic, and open way of making art: Anyone and everyone can shoot street photography, regardless of what camera or phone they shoot with. Street photography is the ultimate accessible form of art: you can shoot it anytime, anywhere, and however you want.

Ethics of street photography

Man with hand in light. Istanbul, 2014

  1. Sooner or later, you’re going to piss someone off in street photography. But as long as as your intentions are good, you’re not doing anything wrong. Conquer and overcome your feeling of guilt in street photography by realizing that you’re creating beautiful art, you’re recording human history, and you’re doing a positive social good by going out and making photos.
  2. It is within your legal right to make photos in a public space.
  3. If you don’t like having your own photograph taken, you’re going to feel uncomfortable and unethical about taking photos of others without their permission. To conquer this, learn to become comfortable shooting more selfies of yourself!

How often should you shoot street photography?

Flash street photograph in Istanbul, 2014 // Eric Kim

Shoot everyday street photography, of your daily life. Shoot street photography when traveling, or when you’re in the downtown area of your own city.

Shoot street photography because it is fun, and brings you joy. Don’t make street photography an activity that stresses you out.

Conquer your fears

Man with hand in light. Istanbul, 2014

To live with fewer regrets as a street photographer, hesitate less before shooting. You can still feel fear before shooting a street photograph, but don’t let the fear hold you back.

Conquer your fears in street photography by habituation: shoot more street photographs, for a longer period of time, to overcome your fears. The more you shoot street photography, the less fear you will feel.

Man with curtain on face. Istanbul, 2013

For a quick start to overcoming your fears in street photography, you might need an extra push from the outside, and some encouragement. To get pushed outside of your comfort zone in order to quickly conquer your fears in street photography, attend an ERIC KIM WORKSHOP.

Starting off in street photography

Contact sheet Istanbul

To get your feet wet in street photography I recommend:

  1. Do the “fishing technique”: Find an interesting scene, and wait for strangers to enter your scene.
  2. Avoid eye contact: Don’t look at your subjects when photographing them, just pretend like you’re shooting something behind them. If you don’t make eye contact, your subject is going to assume you’re photographing something else.
  3. When in doubt, ask for permission. Shoot “street portraits”.

Define street photography for yourself

Selfie with X on my shadow, Istanbul street photo, 2013

Define street photography for yourself. When you’re starting off, just experiment and have fun. Don’t worry how others shoot street photography, experiment and discover what works for you.

Istanbul family, 2013

Having a spirit of play, and “beginner’s mind” in street photography will accelerate your learning. Don’t worry too much about social media, and getting lots of likes on your photos online or on Instagram.

Street photography is about joy, and showing the beauty of life!

Girl in yellow dress on her phone. Istanbul, 2014

Street photography is a joyful way of showing joy and beauty in everyday life. Street photography highlights the simple joys of everyday life and living. I know personally, street photography has made me happier, because:

  1. You find more joy in the ordinary beauty of everyday life.
  2. You find joy in the beauty of strangers, and capturing fleeting moments of everyday life.
  3. When we’re out and about with our camera, we are actively LOOKING for things to photograph. Thus, we are more attuned with our environment, and thus more likely to be grateful for the world around us.

Ultimately for me, street photography isn’t just making nice photos; it is a way of life. I see the street photography “lifestyle” as walking a lot, always having your camera with you (either around your neck, or on your wrist), and having the confidence to take risks and chances in life.

Suit Istanbul, 2013

If your interest and passion is street photography, you are already a street photographer. You got nothing to prove to anyone else, but yourself.


Street Photography 101

If you’re new to street photography, start here:

Master Street Photography

Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Mastering Street Photography
Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Street Photography

Become the best street photographer possible by picking up a copy of Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Street Photography. This book is full of all my distilled knowledge and wisdom on street photography over the last 10 years, crafted specifically to empower you in street photography.

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Street Photography Articles

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elegance, seoul, 2009 Eric Kim street photography

Street Photography Inspiration

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Beginner Street Photography Articles


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Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos
Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

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