YouTube has become intertwined with almost every topic you want to learn about, and photography is no exception. And while it’s had a positive impact in some aspects, it affected others negatively.
In his latest video, Evan Ranft discusses how YouTube has changed street photography – and why it has changed it for the worse. He reflects on Kai Wong and DigitalRev and their influence on street photographers, including himself.
In the video, Evan focuses on himself and his story as a YouTuber rather than trashing fellow photographers. So, take it with a grain of salt, as it’s a personal experience and opinion, not a rule that’s set in stone.
For Evan, Kai was the catalyst that spurred his love for street photography. Kai’s own love for it was contagious, as his reviews had a distinct flavor. He even influenced his decision to buy an Olympus OMD EM5 on a Black Friday nearly ten years ago while still in college.
After buying his Olympus OMD camera, Evan began photographing the streets of Atlanta, snapping shots between classes and after graduation. His YouTube videos documented his journey. But the million-dollar question was: how to capture the spontaneous and unpredictable world of street photography in YouTube videos? His answer came in the form of mounting a GoPro to his camera, an idea he borrowed from Taylor.
Getting one good photo
In Evan’s early street photography day, Evan’s mission was simple yet ambitious: hit the streets, take photos, document moments, and produce one good photo. Just one. Why just one? Evan says that street photography taught him that, among the hundreds of snaps, only a few stood out. Through voiceovers in videos, he shared his creative process, how one image led to another, and the reasons some shots worked and some didn’t.
How did YouTube ruin street photography?
Fast forward a few years: street photography soared to popularity on YouTube. Creators started generating millions of views just by showcasing a simple 30-minute photo walk. As more creators jumped on the bandwagon, however, Evan says he started to notice a decline in the quality of content.
Quality vs. quantity
As street photography began to increase in popularity on YouTube, quantity beat quality. This was mainly due to a tug-of-war between time constraints, monetary incentives, and creative integrity. YouTube introduced a financial incentive even to share the bad days of street photography. As long as viewers were entertained and views were ticking up, the quality of the work often wasn’t as important. This leads to the next point related to this one: losing the balance.
Losing the balance
Balancing frequent content creation, which is key to growing on YouTube, with maintaining high-quality output is a tightrope walk. Evan admits that he often found himself producing videos that weren’t a true reflection of his artistic potential due to time spent editing footage and finding examples. Balancing time spent shooting, creating and editing videos, and making as many videos as possible –well, it’s not a recipe for fulfilling your true potential. As a result, street photography’s bar was lowered to cater to mass appeal and swift production. What was accepted as art became more about volume and less about quality.
Now, is there anything inherently wrong with this shift? Evan says that, technically, there isn’t. After all, the world changes, and it’s good to be aware of it and embrace it if and when we can. “If that is what the masses are willing to accept and that is the new standard of what street photography is, then technically it’s art,” Evan concludes in the video. However, it’s important to remember that, chasing popularity and revenue, we don’t lose the heart of street photography — the spontaneous, the random, the thrill of capturing the perfect shot.
[How Youtubers (myself included) Ruined Street Photography | Evan Ranft]