I love spontaneity in photography. Photography is the most fun when it is effortless, and doesn’t require for us to think, or “try.”
I feel photography is the most enjoyable when we are in a state of “flow”, and we lose sense of the world around us. When clicking the shutter is like a hot knife cutting through butter. When you react to scenes, and don’t need to worry about being yelled at, or missing the moment.
You lose a sense of yourself. You become integrated with the streets. Your brain shuts off, and you start to trust the intuition of your body and subconscious.
Why shouldn’t we think in the streets?
I see street photography as an almost Zen-meditative process. Street photography is about disconnecting your ego from your body. Street photography is a chance for us to practice self-therapy on ourselves. For us to connect with the streets, the environment, and society.
When I’m shooting street photography, I lose a concept of myself. I no longer feel fear, anxiety, or stress from my daily life. I am focused wholly on making images, and seeking interesting scenes. And I do this in a way that is relaxed, without pressure.
When you’re shooting on the streets, of course you want to “think” — but my suggestion is to not think with your brain. Rather, simply trust your body’s intelligence. “Think” effortlessly by following your gut and intuition.
Easier said than done though, right?
Many of us have brains that chatter on non-stop.
How do we not think while shooting? Some ideas:
1. Think like a child
A child just does things without thinking much about it. A child draws for fun. A child plays on the playground for fun. A child doesn’t censor him/herself, and doesn’t just their art as “good” or “bad.”
Shoot like a child. Don’t take your photography too seriously. The less pressure you put on yourself when shooting, the more in the “zone” you will be.
2. Give yourself permission to make bad photos
The biggest reason we think too much when shooting street photography is because we think too much — because we want to make “good” photos.
Rather, think opposite. Give yourself permission to make bad photos. Better yet, the assignment is to make bad photos.
Give yourself permission to make bad photos when you’re out on the streets, but edit your photos ruthlessly and only choose your best photos afterwards when you go home.
3. Walk slowly
I find when I slow down, and walk slowly, I feel more meditative, feel less rushed, and feel less anxious. This allows me to turn off my brain, and just feel the sensation of the environment around me. I feel the pavement against my feet. I feel the soft breeze of air in my face. I hear the sounds of the chatter on the streets, and the honking horns.
Try to walk at a pace that isn’t rushed. Slow down. Treat your street photography outing as a zen-meditative walking-practice.
Of course our brain is important — it has helped us from being eaten alive by saber-tooth tigers thousands of years ago.
Yet in today’s world, we use too much of our brain. We over-think and over-analyze our lives, our creative endeavors, and our art. Our brains screw us up—because we no longer trust our own intuition, gut, and spontinaeity.
I still remember as a child, the lesson I learned when taking tests was this: trust your gut. If the choices are A,B,C,D, and E — and your gut tells you that it is answer “B” — choose answer B. I’ve taken a lot of tests when my gut told me one thing, and my brain the other. Most of the times when I followed my gut, I was right. When I followed my brain, I was wrong.
Lastly, enjoy the process of shooting street photography. Enjoy the walk, the chance to talk to some strangers, and the chance to snap a few photos. Does your street photography add or remove pressure or stress or anxiety from your life?
For me, street photography is about removing and subtracting frustration from your life. If street photography is adding stress to your life, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Always stay positive, and follow your gut in the streets.
To learn more about street photography, check out Street Photography 101 >