We/You All Suck at Street Photography; and That’s Okay

Street Photography isn’t simple and instead is something that requires a number of incredible parallel factors to all line up accordingly–and when cameras start to do nothing else but constantly log life at a higher resolution, it will require human elements beyond algorithms scrubbing for “good images” to actually have someone call themselves an artist. The art form has obviously become more and more popular with Instagram, EyeEm, and VSCO becoming a norm for photographers and people who just like taking pictures. Everyone has the potential to become a fantastic street photographer; but not everyone has the affinity, devotion, and understanding of the art to truly make it work.

Here’s what happens when a great street photograph is taken:

  • A person, or people move about in public
  • The light is perfect
  • A photographer is around
  • A photographer with a creative eye sees something
  • They pull out their camera
  • They snap the photo of the moment

Sounds very specific, right? But it’s actually very complicated when you take it even further. The photographer’s image that they think will look great can end up looking not so great. So they’ll need to edit it in order to save it and make it look better. Otherwise, they’ll need to move on and accept the fact that they took a terrible photo.

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In fact, most of the photos that we shoot in regards to street photography won’t be usable for our portfolio and will be quite awful. It’s why we’re all terrible at street photography: we shoot and shoot, and eventually learn what works for us and our specific creative style or how to edit our images to become something that looks more presentable. We also edit in the sense of choosing what photos we should put forward. Ultimately, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

The idea of all of us being terrible street photographers can apply to almost anything: all the portrait photographers looking to become #instafamous by photographing attractive women, all the #fashion photographers, all the #adventurephotography shooters, it just makes sense. Some of us don’t stick around for a while when trying to just get Instagram likes. But those of us who love the craft will sit there and be content with producing horrible photographs.

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Do you think every image on Mary Ellen Mark’s rolls of film were usable? What about Bresson’s? The answer is honestly no. They were only human and went through a different time. Photographers today have the blessing of shooting digital and not being limited to 24 or 36 frames per roll of film (if they’re shooting digital that is), and so they can shoot to their heart’s content.

But in the end, you’re the only one that is going to make a better photo. And to do this, you have to accept that most of your images are going to suck and that only with time, will you become better.