I think it was Weegee who first said, “F8 and be there!” in terms of his advice for aspiring photographers (thanks to my friend Kevin for the idea).
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What does F8 and be there mean?
This means don’t worry about your technical settings on your camera. The most important thing for you as a Photographer is to be out and about, experiencing the real world, and seeing things, and then just capturing (photographing) it!
F8 is a good default aperture, that gives you enough depth of field to get everything in focus. It’s the ideal aperture to use when you’re using a manual focusing camera (zone focusing, on a film or digital Leica/rangefinder, or any other manual lens).
In today’s world, I would say “P” and Be there. Program mode (P mode) automatically chooses your aperture and shutter speed, and just use center point auto focus at ISO 1600 to capture moments which you find personally meaningful or significant.
On the Lumix G9, I’m just shooting everything in IA mode (intelligent auto), where it literally chooses all the settings for me (auto aperture, shutter speed, ISO, auto focus, etc). This has been amazing for me because I worry less about the technical settings, and I focus on the composition, framing, interacting with my subjects, getting close, and capturing “decisive moments” (Mastering my timing in street photography).
Not only that but the smaller the sensor, generally the better. Why? The smaller your sensor size, the more depth of field you have, which means, more stuff in the scene will be in focus!
For example I’m using the Lumix G9, which is a micro 43rds sensor. When I shoot at F8, I’m actually shooting at f16 (the micro 43rd sensor is a 2x crop sensor, which multiplies my depth of field). I’m using the Leica/Lumix 12mm lens, which is effectively a 24mm (full frame equivalent) lens in which almost everything is always in focus. The wider your focal length for your lens, the more will be in focus.
Or you know when you’re shooting with your phone camera (small sensor), everything is always in focus. And the benefit is you can get really close to stuff and focus very close (macro mode). To me this is great, macro mode opens up a whole new world of possibilities!
It’s all about being there
What you’re trying to do in photography is to increase your “positive optionality” in life, aka your likelihood of encountering a situation you find interesting, which will motivate you to make a photograph it.
Ways to increase your optionality in photography (more ideas contained in STREET HUNT).
1. Take public transportation:
Take the bus, subway, or train to work, or when you’re traveling. You will see more interesting folks and people, and you will be more likely to make photos!
2. Go out more:
Don’t eat dinner at home alone. Meet up a friend, or go to a restaurant or bar for dinner. Bring your camera along. Of course you’re gonna spend more money, but I think the price of your meal is worth it, if it will give you more positive optionality to make more photos!
3. Always have your camera around your neck, wrist, or shoulder.
I’ve found for myself personally, when my camera is inside my bag, or worse (at home), I don’t see as many photo opportunities, nor do I shoot as much! Now I try to make it a personal rule whenever I leave the house, to just have the camera around my neck (HENRI SHOULDER STRAP, Phantom Black). If you have a RICOH GR II (#ricohmafia), pick up an ERIC KIM NECK STRAP (compatible with RICOH GR).
4. Go to more social gatherings:
Even if you don’t feel like going out, go out anyways. Be like “Yes man” (Jim Carey movie). Bring your camera along, you might make some good photos! Bring your camera to the bar, and chat with strangers and ask them to make their portrait (see my OLD COLONY project, where I bought some folks beers, chatted with them about their life stories, and made their portraits). Or bring your camera to the arcade, or anywhere you go!
5. Explore a new neighborhood, travel and go to random places.
Try visiting a new place in your city, or travel! Cities I love to travel to and photograph: Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Busan, Downtown LA, NYC, San Francisco mission district, Deira district in Dubai, New Orleans, Mexico City, Prague, and of course many more…) Don’t waste your money on new cameras or gear; invest that money into experiences, travel, education, etc. Invest in yourself!
6. Live more adventurously!
When you have an option, live a more risky, bold, and interesting life by taking the more “adventurous” choice. Sure sometimes the choice might be at worst, boring or bad, but the potential upside is unlimited!
And the only final phrase you need to know:
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