When I started taking picking up the camera, one thing that really hindered my creativity was my timidness when taking pictures of people. Most photographers I know are usually shy and reserved so it's important to go out there and break out from the shell so we can take better photos. So instead of just jumping into an event and being thrown in the lion's den of people photography, I took a more relaxed approach and silently took photos on the streets which turned out to be the best practice in studying people.
Surprisingly, it's also very relaxing and an artistic fulfilling experience. But don't get me wrong, It still pushed my comfort levels and made me grow as a person socially and as a working photographer. Here's some major gems I received and continue to gain from the experience.
No thoughts. Observe. Capture the Moment.
To be real, you can't be a good street photographer and be updating your twitter feed at the same time. You gotta be in one place. Both physically and mentally. Or else you'll just miss the moment. But what makes a moment? Simple...A story. Something that will give the viewer a compelling reason to stop and observe your image for more than just a split second. But you gotta turn off the phone and tune into the moment. Make it a time for yourself. With all the fast paced things in this world, to me, standing outside of it all and simply observing and capturing has both increased by photography skills and my sense of well being.
Talking To "The Strangers"
Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of photographers tend to be timid and shy. So taking pictures of people and not being seen can be a tough challenge. We know some don't like their photograph being taken. But there's also a ton of other folks who really don't care if you do. So the goal is to be comfortable and inviting. If something "bad" happens then play it cool. Say that your practicing your photography skills and most people will understand. Plus you can start getting to know new people and make friends. The amount of people I've met was worth it's weight in gold and the stories people have to tell can be one of the greatest lessons you'll ever learn.
But don't take my word for it. Go out and try it yourself. You'll become way more comfortable around unpredictable situations that can be easily translated when your hired on an event gig. Once you learn to observe and communicate well, you'll be able to find the best moments and capture them with ease. When it comes to events, sometimes stopping and taking it all in first can make a huge difference in your style of shooting. Learn the zen way of street photography and then apply the lessons learned in your money making work.
What's In My Bag?
Honestly, your gear should be the last thing to consider if you want to create great street photography but if I had the choice of anything I want I would use any full frame camera with a 50mm lens. To me, the 50mm is the perfect lens for that artistic look and you can be rather discreet while keeping a moderate distance. I've noticed the framing to be quite pleasing and keeps me relaxed while shooting. A fixed focal length make me feel more connected to the camera. I'm moving to get the proper shot, no need to rely on the camera's zoom.
But any lens will work. The most important bit is not the gear, it's the lighting, composition and most of all the story. Be a great story teller and you'll catch the attention of more then just the camera buffs but everyday people. If you can hook viewers more than beyond the technical, then you've got yourself a good thing going.
So take the leap and go for it. You'll be surprised by the many things you'll start to see when you pick up the camera and shoot what intrigues you. After your comfortable with being on the streets, apply the knowledge and use them in your event gigs. Make it your time for honing your skills and practice being in the moment. Become the sharp, silent shooter and capture the moment!