Street photography requires a lot of focus. With the world moving so quickly around you, if you’re not paying close enough attention, then images will pass you by. That’s why you need to do all you can to ensure you’re fully in the zone, locked in on life and ready to pull the trigger. Thankfully, there are some techniques you can implement to help you attain Jedi like concentration. Let’s take a look.
Turn Off Your Phone
Sorry millennials, but it’s time to say “smartphone, bye bye”. They cause too much of a twitch. The temptation to constantly check your phone disrupts your mental flow. You take a few frames, walk for five minutes, check your phone and rinse repeat. This is going to knock you out of your groove. Your mind cannot be settled when it knows every five minutes it’s going to be interrupted. Whilst you’re checking those notifications (that can definitely wait), plenty of potential frames are coming and going.
So, instead of seeing how many people liked your Cafe Latte on Instagram, switch off your phone and get in the zone!
Meditate Before You Shoot
“Oh, God. This new age hippy stuff. Next you’re going to tell us we need to be Vegan to be good street photographers!”. Calm down, eat some chicken and just hear me out.
Before a photo walk, it’s not unusual to see a spike in adrenalin. You’re pumped, excited and a little anxious about getting “the shot”. All of this is enough to send your mind into a frenzy. So what do you need to do? Slow the train down.
Taking 10 deep breaths or five minutes focused breathing will help to keep you centred. It will do wonders for your attention and hopefully, help get you some great shots!
Put Your Headphones in Your Bag
I get it, walking, stalking and listening banging beats is a lot of fun. But listening to music puts your mind in several places at once, meaning you can’t give your main concern your undivided attention. Sometimes you hear a shot before you see it. A child laughing or people cheering, you’re going to miss that if your ears are buried in your headphones. If you’re insistent on having music play whilst you shoot, try this technique… Instead of playing a mix of tracks, have the same one on repeat. Studies have suggested that having music on repetition can actually be a positive for your concentration. It gives your mind consistency, helping you to remain in a groove.
I recently interviewed Edas Wong. He’s arguably one of the sharpest street photographers working today. When talking about his process, he explained to me the psychology of FLOW…
“FLOW is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity”.
In other words, don’t allow yourself to be distracted. A mindful photo walk means your fully present and ready to work the scene and make the shots.
Try a Street Photography Photo Stand
You all know what a photo walk is, how about a photo stand? Instead of walking aimlessly for hours, let the world come to you. You can do this by standing in the same spot for a period of time. I’d suggest trying to do it for at least one hour in order to get the benefits.
Physically slowing yourself down will allow you to better observe. You will be more aware of all the narratives that are going on around you and you’ll have a pick and mix of frames to choose from. It’s also a fun challenge to see how many good photos you can make just by standing in the same spot. Plus, it’s a good exercise for training your eye – making it sharper and more responsive to what’s going on in front of it.
Realise When You Can no Longer See New Things
If you have your favourite hunting ground, that’s nice and all, but it’s time to make a change. Going in the same spot over and over again can lead you to become complacent. That enthusiastic wonder is no longer visible, as your brain develops a “been there, done that” mentality.
Set yourself free and go somewhere new. Let the explorer in you run wild and allow your enthusiasm to boil up as you set out to experience new land. You’re going to get energetic and your eyes will be open to everything around them. That excitement will get you pumped to shoot street photography and you won’t want to miss a single shot – just remember to mediate first 😉
I know many of you love getting in your little groups, going on your little walks and patting each other on the back. Well, you can kiss that goodbye! What do you think this is, Funtime Frankie? You’re on a path to becoming a street photography Jedi, leave your buddies behind!!! I think the power of writing this article has gone to my head.
Seriously though, shooting alone helps you to avoid the distractions of “hey mate, come look at my shot”, instead you can be selfish and focus fully on your own work. I don’t really want you to leave your friends behind, but if you only do group photo walks, try mixing it up a little.
Always Have Fun
You may find some of these techniques extreme, but they will help you. Remember, however, the most important element of good street photography is that you’re having fun. We do this crazy little genre because it’s our passion (and we’re probably a little insane) and the fire of that passion can only stay lit if you’re enjoying what you do.
So try all of the pointers above and see how you get on. You may find some work and some don’t – just do what’s best for you.