Four Key Tools You’ll Need To Make It as a Street Photographer
It’s not gear.
Have you ever wondered why some photographers produce quality street work every day? How are they always presented with interesting stories to capture on camera? What is it they do? What is it they have that makes them successful?
To do street photography, you need very little. Barriers to entering this field are close to none. One camera with one lens is essentially everything you need. No tripods, studio equipment, models, products, filters, none of that really matters. Get dressed, grab your camera, go out, find stories. Easy.
Yet, to do this kind of work, you’ll need a lot.
You’ll need a lot of time
To get a great image, you’ll need to stay at one spot for a long time or return to it periodically. You’ll need time to look at it from many angles. You’ll need time to be there at different times of day or night. You’ll need time to wait for the story to come to you. You’ll need time to understand how time plays its part in the stories you want to tell. The scene will offer you different stories in the morning and different stories in the late evening. There will be some stories in summer and other stories in winter. You can capture different stories at the same time each day, or the same stories during different times over the years.
Time is the essence of street photography. Figure out how to place it in your storytelling.
Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.
– Miles Davis
You’ll need a lot of patience
It’s a crucial element in getting the story right. You need it when working on a long-term documentary project spanning years. You also need it for waiting for your subject to enter the frame of your photograph.
I struggle with patience a great deal. Often times I frame my scene, wait for the subject, lose patience, and decide to leave. It is at this moment when someone interesting walks into my story. However, I am no longer ready to capture it. I’ve missed the moment, the story’s gone. Have patience, don’t miss the story — it’s on its way, there’s just no telling when it happens!
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
– Leo Tolstoy
You’ll need a lot of practice
Nothing ever happens on the first try. There is good news, though. For more practice, you need just two things. These are already necessary for successful street photography. Time and patience. The more you shoot, the more prepared you’ll be for the arrival of your stories. You’ll be able to anticipate the right moment to press the shutter button, which settings to dial in, which F-stop to use, or how focal length affects the storytelling in your shots.
Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.
Most importantly, you’ll need a lot of confidence
Confidence in yourself, your work, in the fact that it matters long term, that your project has value many cannot see, that you know what you want, what you are doing, the confidence you’ve made the right choices. To build confidence, compare to yourself only. Look at your previous work and compare yourself to that. Comparing to others makes sense in sport, not in art.
If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
– Vincent Van Gogh
The greatest paradox of street photography is the ability to work with little equipment, little control, a lot of uncertainty, for a long time, with no guarantees.
However, those who persist, prevail. Thank you for reading.
P.S.: Before you go, two more things! First, you should get my stories in your inbox. Do that here. Second, if you like your experience here on Medium, you should sign up and gain access to all kinds of inspiring texts. I’ve been a member for over four years now, and it’s the best 5 dollars I spend each month. If you sign up through this link, you’ll support me directly with a small portion of your subscription, and will cost you the same. Should you do so, thanks a million!
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