Street Photography is one of the most difficult photography genres in general. You don’t have a second chance to arrange a beautiful scene, but have to be spot on with your camera. Additionally, there is the social component that can make it even harder for us to get close and capturing the images we want at the end of the day. Nevertheless, you will notice that you can improve quickly and that it can be a lot of fun reviewing the “snapshots” after a long day of photographing. Here are 7 tips to motivate you, when you are just getting into Street Photography.
Related to the famous quote by Robert Capa, you have heard his advice over and over again. Nonetheless, it remains true: “If your pictures aren’t good enough you aren’t close enough”. Especially, in the beginning, you might be afraid to get close and receive negative reactions. Remaining calm and becoming more self-confident over time helps you to get positive reactions while on the street photographing.
Being closer has many advantages. You are able to connect better with your subject. It might sound a little esoteric, but in my opinion, it shows in the picture when you are physically closer and no — a longer lens doesn’t have the same effect.
From day 1 try to get as close as possible. Don’t stagnate at a “safe distance”, overcome your comfortable zone and connect with your subjects.
Get Comfortable in Public
Getting close and personal photographing on the street can provoke reactions of the photographed subjects. Most people have pessimistic expectations of approaching strangers and one of the worst outcomes is that we are getting rejected. That we are not liked immediately by a stranger and are socially rejected.
Scientists have found out, that rejection triggers the same mechanisms as having physical pain. Therefore it is understandable that we want to avoid rejection as much as possible. The question is why should we so concerned about rejection and is there something positive about this kind of fear?
The fear can be very overwhelming at the start and hinder you to get really close. Over time you learn how to have a positive impact and if you need to stand your ground. To photograph in public you need to step out of your comfort zone, but it will lead to the results you desire.
Reduce the image to the essential
Another point of the “not close enough” paradigm is, that we often feel that we need to put as much stuff in our pictures as possible so that every person might find something of interest in it. The truth is, that these chaotic pictures with many different scenes are discounting every point of interest. Rather than having 5 focal points in a single picture, take 5 pictures with a single interesting story.
You can’t please everyone anyway and if out of the 5 pictures, 4 are boring and 1 is a true hit, then this is a larger success than having 1 mediocre picture. Therefore before you take a picture make sure you think about the actual subject of the picture and then fill the frame only with objects that are relevant to this subject and their story.
Print your Pictures
Are you afraid that your pictures aren’t good enough to print because they don’t look perfect on the computer screen? You will be surprised how well these pictures turn out in reality, even though you are just a beginner.
Having a picture in your hand is a very special feeling of accomplishment, even if you think your pictures are inferior to others, don’t be afraid to frame your own pictures and put them on a wall. You can be proud of your first pictures and to remember those early memories is very precious.
Photography and especially the street genre is not a 50-meter dash race. It is a long-distance endurance race that hopefully last you a lifetime. Photographers see their accomplishments in decades, not in single days. You can get surprisingly good results early on and already feel like you are the next master photographer. Truth is, that there is always luck involved in Street Photography and snapping a great picture every now and then doesn’t make a skilfull photographer.
When the time comes and you have to endure a time where you feel uninspired and aren’t able to capture great pictures it shouldn’t demotivate you. All the iconic names that come to your mind practice photography for many years or even decades to be where they are now.
Having the camera in front of your eyes and photographing from this point of view without changing the perspective is very effortless. But that also means that pictures from the standard eye level are very regular and appear uninteresting at first. By choosing a different angle, you show a different view of the world that we usually don’t face anymore. You can, for example, lie your camera on the ground and take pictures from there if your camera has a flippable display.
Be creative and put effort into every single picture, which also means to change up the point of view. Don’t go the lazy way by only taking pictures from the eye level.
Be aware of the Background
You might think that the most important part of the image is the actual subject, but the background takes an equally vital role in forming an aesthetically pleasing image. You can have the most beautiful scene lying in front of you, if your background destroys the photo, it won’t work.
There are however ways to get rid of a distracting background, for example by changing the perspective or simply getting closer to the subject.