You're a streetphotographer, now what?
2023, September 20
** Working on this **
Welcome to the club!
You've already spent hours and hours on the street.
You just have this appetite to photograph out there. The urgent need to capture things over and over again. Hopefully to get that one image that says it all.
You are convinced to be able to say (to yourself), 'Yes, I am a street photographer'.
This is what I do. This is what I want. This is what I love. This is what I need.
But ... now what?
There is a good chance that you are no longer inspired. Or you have doubts about your work. And what you are photographing, is that really what you want to make? Probably you are searching for something but you don't know what. Well ...
Welcome to the club again!
Everybody will have their own journey, in gear, in bags, in software and in style.
I'm only sharing my experiences and struggle so far (still in the journey too) and perhaps there is something that can inspire you to find your direction.
There is not a chronically order here but a good one is to ask Simon first ...
Ask Simon, he will tell you why!
Simon Sinek’s golden circle – Start with why
You can question this for everything you do or want to do!
So you can also question this for your photography.
Why do you want to make streetphotographs?
Why do you want to take photographs at XYZ?
By already asking “why” and honesty answering this will help you making the “better” photos that express what you where looking for!
The why for me is probably the search for connection in my urgent need to capture everything in the daily urban live.
The how is that I need to be on the streets as much as possible finding a connection to those things, people and situations.
What I need is to be invisible and unnoticed in the crowd
It also helped me not making photos of everything. For example a day in a themepark, why do I want to make photographs there? Maybe good to take one or two photographs when the children are excited. But no need to take all my gear with me and rather enjoy the moment. Same for a city trip, nowadays I prefer to buy a postcard instead of photographing a church covered in scaffolding.
Learn from your own photos
It is important to review your own photos over and over again. Categorise your photos into different albums or sort them into projects. Sometimes you discover you already started a project without knowing.
Maybe you don’t see the direct reason why you shot it, and it can take days/weeks/months later when reviewing your photos that there is exactly that one particular thing in the photo why you shot it.
So don’t delete everything you have shot, if you think there might be a reason why you shot it, just keep it.
There is always a reason why you shot in the first place.
Do it your way = your style
Believe in yourself, trust your intuition, just shoot, and especially shoot what you like. Don't see yourself as a a mature or hobby photographer. This sounds negative. You are the photographer. You are the artist.
Trust yourself, trust your intuition! You are right, really!
Being truly yourself is probably the most difficult thing. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself.
Do it your way = your style.
View and learn from photos
You can only be a writer if you read books. The same for being a photographer, you have to look at photos to understand what you like.
I have a love-hate relationship with social media, but I started liking photos from Flickr (and yes still a great source) and Instagram. At somepoint you discover a pattern in your likes, your taste. Take that as a base to continue developing your style.
My experience: I always thought I liked sharp, colorful photos. But my pattern turned out to be mainly black and white, a lot of contrast, hard light, some noise and grain, not quite sharp and clean, a bit mysterious and a strong relationship between subjects. I personally don’t like posed, directed or arranged photos. I prefer to move away from standard documentation-like photos, I am not a press or portrait photographer. I want to show you my version of a certain scene or mood.
GEAR is important. NOT. Well ... Arghhh ... F*** GAS
Ask yourself: Why did you choose for the camera you are using?
Maybe, because "I found it on the street", "It's a birthday present from my parents in law", "it was a returning favour from my neighbour", "it was a gift from my camera store".
But most of the time you start with a common brand and perhaps stick with it.
Maybe because you have spent a lot on lenses and accessories. If that's working for you that's fine too. But always be critical if that gear still suits your type of shooting. If you camera is too big and you only take it with you when you have a suitcase with you it might not work. If you are only doing planned work then it's maybe not a problem at all.
Seek those who fan your flames
What do you want to capture?
Is it just pure registration of a scene of something?
Create a totally new image of an object(s) or situation?
Or do you want approach it much more as documentary, reportage, journalism or travel photography?
If this is not clear to you, you also don't know what you are looking for. It doesn't have to be one thing either. Or always the same. Things change too or are depended on the situation or your mood.