For some reason, every time you start a new thing in your life, you are not perfect in the beginning. In almost every case, you won’t be perfect even in 20 years, but for sure one day your practice will pay off. When I began Street Photography, I didn’t even know that Street Photography was actually a term. I just enjoyed exploring life in the streets and shot some random photos of urban landscapes with people walking by. I used to shoot in programme mode and with autofocus. I seeker inspiration in photos of great photographers like Alex Webb and David Alan Harvey and I wondered how they could achieve such masterpieces. Not from the compositional standpoint alone, but especially from the technical view.
In my first Street Photography workshop I learned that it was better not to to use the programme mode in street photography and got deeper and deeper into the world of photography. But I would have wished someone would have corrected some of the misconceptions I had when I started photography. What I should have known when I started photography – and what you will know now about it that you found this article.
Point 1: Most people love photographers – they don’t like papparazzi
For some years I thought that it was kind of a a crime what I was doing: taking candid photos of people on the streets – will I get punished for it in some form? Will people call the police when I take their photographs? Will they be angry?
Truth is: Most people don’t mind to get their photos taken when they know for which purpose. So from time to time I ask random strangers for their portrait. I tell them what I find beautiful or impressive in their looks and most of the times people happily agree while the people who do not want their photos taken mostly reject me in a very polite way.
Often I also talk to people I have taken candid photos of after the shot. When they see my images and recognize them as art rather than as some form of paparazzism, they regularly feel flattered. Sometimes they also ask for the photograph. Therefore always take some business cards with you when you are going for a photo walk!
The most important learning for me was: Talk to people on the streets, be friendly, smile, do not act like a creep! Then strangers will react in a positive way and maybe you will find even some new friends, fans or follower.
Point 2: The outcome is not that important – it is more important to get out on the streets!
In the beginning of my photography I always focused on some ongoing projects like „dogs in front of supermarkets“ or „Yellow“ when I looked for people in yellow jackets walking by a yellow DHL-Transporter . But you know what? I am not that good in multi-tasking so I forgot to recognize other great motifs which crossed my way. I always thought of „dogs“ and „Yellow“ – and guess what happened? As I continued to make my project-following photo walks I began to get bored. The fascination regarding Street Photography is exploring new places, documenting interesting situations and composing unique Street Photographs. But I felt like I was in a tunnel just seeing a few percent of the world surrounding me.
So I stopped working based on projects. Instead, I spent some days just to lookup my photos of the last weeks and months and even more interesting series developed from its own. They did not have a common element like yellow objects but they were connected through a mood ,a special feeling you get while watching them.
So, why don’t you see going out for a walk with your camera as a form of meditation? Try not to think about projects or certain frames you are working within but rather try to just be in the moment. You will encounter much more interesting stuff than before. And even if you don’t come home with some great shots, don’t worry: You have had some good time with loads of fresh air and met hopefully some nice people out there. So a good photograph is only the cherry on top!
Point 3: Know your goals
What are your goals in street photography? If I would had known 5 to 10 years ago that my greatest dream is to be a photographer, then I would have done things differently. Do you just want to achieve a better work/life balance and hit the streets as a hobby? Cool! Photography is one of the greatest and most productive things you can do in your free time! Do you want to be a well known Street Photographer who earns money with photography? For example, by selling prints? (take a look at my prints for sale) Great – participate in a lot of street photography workshops with your favorite photographers, get a professional website, work on your social marketing skills and, the most important thing: Get on the streets EVERY DAY unless you are in a country with total Corona Lockdown.
Tatsuo Suzuki, the famous Tokyo Street Photographer and Ex-Fuji-ambassador, goes shooting every single day, even, when it is raining, snowing or he is looking into the eye of a thunderstorm. He had been a lawyer until he decided to become a photographer. He dedicated his whole life 24/7 to Street Photography and is now an international recognized living Street Photography legend. Do the same! Be dedicated! Work 24/7 and do know you might be dead tomorrow so only today is the day to begin achieving your goals!
Point 4: The most successful photographers are not the best
So many not so good Street Photographers got famous because of their marketing skills. There are some OK-but-not-really great-Street Photographers with great Social Marketing skills who got famous only with the help of their online marketing knowledge regarding especially social media. So if you know how to use social media and you are a good photographer, you have every chance to suceed.
Point 5: Don´t let you stop
Don’t take nasty criticism personally. In most cases, haters are jealous. Ignore the haters and move on. You don’t need their approval. That doesn’t mean you should ignore constructive feedback which might help you to grow, but you should ignore insults of dumb bullies.
Get it on, go out. Give everything. Every day.