Street photography is one of the genres I personally find the most challenging. Even though I love street photos, I’ve never really managed to master this genre myself. In this video from Roman Fox, I learned why it may be so. He talks about five bad habits that can hold our street photography back, and I recognized myself in most of them. So, if you’d like to become a better street photographer, keep reading and make sure to watch the video.
To give you a heads up, Roman uses some swear words in the video, so you probably don’t want to play it if your kids are around. And here are the mistakes he talks about.
The first bad habit is rushing. In other words, it’s panicking because you think you’ll miss out on something. It’s taking photos of everything you see, trying to cover every angle of the scene. If you’re photographing a person, you may be rushing because you’re afraid that they’ll notice you before you get the shot.
This will leave you with a bunch of photos you’re not happy with. When you rush to take photos, you’ll likely mess up your settings or focus, or end up with poorly composed photos.
Therefore, slow down. Take a step back, observe for a minute before acting, and think about what photos you want to end up with. You should still be efficient and don’t waste time, but don’t rush either. Find the balance between the two and focus on what you want to achieve.
2. Not having a direction, theme, or goal
This theme, direction, or goal can be as broad or as specific as you like, but it’s good to have them. For example, think about what parts of town you want to shoot, what light you’re looking for, what the type of subject, and what your ethical boundaries are. It’s good to have a rough direction of what you’re looking for.
To help you with this, you can make a mini project about anything. This will give you a sort of a goal and point you at a specific direction with your work.
3. Not planning ahead
This is related to the previous point, but it’s more about the things you can do right now (not a long-term approach). For example, if you want clean, minimal images – go to places that will give you that look. Before you go out shooting, plan the light (use PhotoPills). Plan the lens or lenses you’re going to use based on the location you’re visiting and the type of photos you want to get. It’s also good to adjust the camera settings in advance and change them as the light changes. This way you won’t miss the shot when you see it.
4. Focusing too much on the end goal
Although it may sound contradictory to the previous points, Roman points out that you shouldn’t worry too much about the end result. The point is – if you only do street photography as a hobby, it’s not worth stressing out over getting the best image possible. I’d say it’s about finding a balance, just like you should do with time efficiency. You should do your best to get good shots, but you shouldn’t be frustrated if you don’t. The main point is to enjoy the process and the experience of taking photos and learning along the way.
A practical tip Roman shares is to get your camera and a single lens, go out and shoot a bunch of random stuff you’d otherwise delete. It breaks this need for perfectionism a bit and makes it easier to just enjoy the process of being outside and shooting.
5. Staying in your bubble
The fifth and final mistake in street photography is being anti-social. It’s a good thing to meet other photographers, talk about your processes, take photos together. Roman mentions that he likes taking street photos with earphones on. He listens to music, podcasts, e-books; and zones out from the world. I’d say that’s another thing you could change if you photograph people in the street – sometimes, being social and interacting with people will help you get the shot. But of course, it all depends on what you want to shoot.
As I mentioned, I recognized myself in most of these. That’s probably why street photography remains a genre I respect so much but suck at. Still, I hope I will improve over time, and tips from this video are certainly one to keep in mind before I go out and shoot.
Are there any mistakes you think you’re making that are holding you back?