Street Photography is Like Fishing

The Fishing Technique Illustrated by Annette Kim

The Fishing Technique Illustrated by Annette Kim

The Fishing Technique Illustrated by Annette Kim
The Fishing Technique // Download all FREE Photography Visualizations

Dear friend,

A thought: Street Photography is like fishing. Fishing isn’t about catching fish, it is about enjoying the process of preparing your bait and tackle (equipment), relaxing/zenning out by the water, and the eager anticipation of the possibility of catching a fish (not the expectation).

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When I was a kid, I’d go fishing a lot with my mom or my friends. In fishing, I learned a lot of life lessons:

  1. A lot of luck is involved in fishing: You can be the most skilled fisherman in the world, but without the right weather, the right waves, and the right concentration of fish, whether you catch fish or not is outside of your control.
  2. Fishing is most enjoyable when you’re chatting with your friends or loved ones. Using fishing time as an opportunity to socialize (not catch fish). Or if you fish by yourself, it is a Zen opportunity for you to clear your mind, relax, and de-stress.
  3. The thrill of catching a fish is awesome. The excitement of feeling something tug and bite your line is an indescribable feeling (especially if you’ve been waiting a few hours with no nibbles from the fish). But the thing is that the thrill of the first bite is better than actually bringing the fish home and cooking it. Of course it is rewarding to cook your own fish, but I think the reason that fishermen enjoy fishing isn’t that they like eating fish (or even eating their own fish), but once again, the hunt and process of fishing is the fun part. If you really wanted to eat fish, it’s far easier (and probably cheaper) to go to the fish market.

Fishing and street photography

The analogy of fishing is also perfect for photography, especially street photography. The hunt and the adventure related to shooting street photography is more enjoyable and fun than the photos themselves.

I know for myself, I started to lose my passion for photography when the emphasis started to shift on attempting to making the world’s best photos, or getting more likes on social media. I enjoyed photography the most when I just had fun in the process of making photos; the process of walking, the process of the eager anticipation when waiting for a subject to enter my frame, or the joy related with talking with strangers (street portraits), or the joy of simply walking in new places, and having fun to see a change of scenery, and the excitement I would have seeing and experiencing new things.

If you pursue street photography always expecting to make good photos whenever you go out to make photos, you’re going to become disappointed often and you might even lose your enthusiasm or motivation to keep going out and shooting. The mature fisherman knows this; if the fisherman is only about catching fish, it is either his full-time living (he makes money by catching and selling fish). But in today’s world, most fishermen do it as a hobby/passion.

In photography we should be the same. If your job isn’t to make good photos for a living as a service to your clients, then don’t put pressure on yourself to always make good photos every time you go out and shoot.

For myself, if I make what I consider a “good” photograph once a month, I’m happy. If I make what I consider a “great” photo once every year I’m happy. If I can make a portfolio-worthy photograph every 3 years, I’m happy.

When studying the master photographers, I learned that their “hit rate” was about the same. Ansel Adams said that 10 good photos in a year is a good crop/harvest in photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson and Josef Koudelka apparently admitted to one another in secret that they both got around 10-12 “good” photos a year.


The more you shoot, the happier you will be!

Realize that street photography is also a numbers game. The more often you go out and shoot, and the more photos you shoot, the more likely you will make a photograph you’re pleased with. Remember, if you go through “dry spells” without getting good photos, don’t be discouraged. Refocus your attention on enjoying the process of going out, exploring, and making the photos instead of focusing on just making good photos.

Also don’t forget that the purpose of photography isn’t to become the world’s best photographer. To me, photography is more about finding joy and appreciation in your everyday life, photography is about creative self-expression, photography is all about having fun making visual art as a child does.


Practical suggestions:

  1. Walk more often. The more you walk, the happier you will be. Why? The more you walk (preferably with your camera around your neck), the more photo opportunities you will see. And whenever you see a good photo opportunity, JUST SHOOT IT.
  2. Remember to enjoy the process of photography above everything else, more so than the joy of getting a good photo. Of course we must enjoy the joy of,getting good photos, but that shouldn’t be our prime objective. If our photography is only about making good photos, we will lose motivation to keep going out and making new photos.
  3. Go fishing sometime, and see what personal parallels you can make with photography. And perhaps you can interview some fishermen by asking them, “How do you motivate yourself to wake up so early to go fishing? What’s the longest period of time you’ve gone without catching a fish? Why do you fish? What keeps you inspired to keep fishing? What do you enjoy most about fishing?” Then interview some street photographers and ask them the same questions!

Josh White neverland zine

Also a fun note: if you like street photography and fish, check out the work of Josh White in Seoul, who shoots a lot in Busan (where my family is from). Josh just put out his first zine (EVERLAND) of his soulful black and white photos. He is my favorite contemporary photographer and highly recommend you check out his work.

NEVER STOP SHOOTING, you got this!
ERIC

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