In any forms of art, sports or other activities, preparation is an important part of the creative process. It also applies to street photography, so here is my list of tips, in a humorous tone, to improve your preparation the next time you are about to hit the streets.
(all pictures shown in this article taken in Adelaide, Australia. Click on pictures for high res)
1) pick a piece of gear and commit to it for the whole day. Leave the rest, together with your doubts at home.
Yep, that tiny 21mm you just hid in your jeans pocket must stay too.
A Leica and 35mm is my main set up on this trip
2) take some inspiration from photographers whose work you admire. Scan quickly through a book, analyze a picture or two. The goal is evidently not to mimick them, but to get some inspiration and motivation.
“Piercing and tatoos” is generally not considered as a source of street inspiration. But whatever works for you …
3) check quickly if there are any worthwhile events going on into town. It means people and that translates into all kind of pictures opportunities around it.
Note to girlfriend : Saturday’s farmers market is not an event. Indeed, who can shoot while pulling a caddie ?
When at the event, also pay attention to the the less obvious.
4) plan roughly where you are going to shoot. Will you stay at a corner of street or walk aimlessly through a neighborhood ? Knowing what your whereabouts will be takes another element out of your mind and keeps your focus where it should be, on the action.
If you don’t like to plan ahead, then just Get lost man.
5) reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well ? What are the things you need to improve, and what elements of your style do you want to emphasize ? Practice is an important part of street photography, so is developing a style.
If you do have way more weaknesses than strengths, maybe time to try another style. Or shoot flowers.
Controlling distortion is one of the weaknesses I try to correct. Being very tall does not help.
6) dress normally, or at least adapt to the environment you will be heading to.
No need to disguise like a black ninja, you are about to shoot pictures, not people.
7) cheer yourself up. Be positive and leave bad thoughts at home. Bad vibes lead to bad photography and possibly, bad interaction with your subjects.
I do know a few street photographers whose bad vibes lead to good photography. That’s evidently assuming I never end up in one of their photographs.
Happy or grumpy, the choice is on you.
8) start by walking slowly. Slower than you normally do. Bring your rythm in synch with the flow of the street.
It evidently does not apply anymore once you get chased by an angry subject.
9) make your first shot a “in your face” one. Take your inhibitions and fears out straight away. You don’t need to waste two hours getting slowly closer to people.
If the first encounter ends up with a “in your face” punch, head back home, it’s not your day.
Left or right ? Which way do you think the punch was more likely to come from ?
10) Don’t force your shooting when you do not shoot good shots straight away. Don’t let frustration build. Not getting good shots is part of the game and shooting non-sense shots leads to even more frustration.
The peak of frustration can usually be detected when you start shooting bikes locked to street lamps.
11) and above all, stop telling yourself “I’ll go later”. Later becomes pouring rain, later becomes dark, or worse, later means nobody is left in the streets.
Later could also become to the catastrophic “Honey, would you be so kind and accompany me to see a ballet”.
So stop wasting your time on the internet, hurry up and get your butt out on the street before it is too late.