Stop Sulking About Terrible Street Photography! Here’s Why It’s Okay

I have previously written about the possibilities of photography being addictive. It’s certainly plausible that street photography is addictive—the hunt, the catch, the shot, the endorphins! It’s the reason so many street photographers go out in search of the rush that comes with “getting the shot.” The reality is, however, you’re not going to get a great shot all the time. And I know many street photographers get disheartened with that. You shouldn’t, and here’s why.

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Street Photography Home Run!

My relationship with street photography has intensified over the past couple of months. It’s the first time since the pandemic began that I am back to always carrying my camera with me. I constantly want to shoot and create; it feels amazing.

Beyond my passion returning, I also feel sharper than ever in terms of spotting the scenes. I am consistently seeing compelling frames, and I am missing nothing. It’s the level of awareness I had two to three years ago when I felt at my peak. Because of this, I hit a little run where I was getting great images. The kind of images that you make and think, “I can’t wait to get home and load them on the computer.” For a certain amount of time, creating street photographs felt like hitting the jackpot on the fruit machines. Day after day, those shots would line up; it was thrilling.

Then one day, I roamed for hours. I was searching for “the shot,” waiting for the frame. Nothing came. I went out the next day. Again, nothing came. “Where is my jackpot?” I said. And then I reminded myself that street photography is seldom about winning.

Street Photography and Consistency

Street photography, in my opinion, is one of the most challenging genres to shoot (check out the easiest genres of photography). The reason it’s so hard is because we have no control over what happens on the streets. With that in mind, it’s logical to expect that you won’t always get great shots when out shooting. But I know a lot of street photographers struggle with this reality. When the shots don’t come in, they sulk. Sometimes they stop shooting and go months without heading out with their cameras.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “that sounds like me,” I have news for you: it’s okay for your street photographs to suck sometimes.

As Alex Webb put it:

“Luck, or perhaps serendipity, play a big role. But you never know what is going to happen. And what is most exciting is when the utterly unexpected happens, and you manage to be there at the right place at the right time, and push the shutter at the right moment. Most of the time it doesn’t work out that way. Street photography is 99.9% about failure.”

— Alex Webb

Even the best, most celebrated street photographers fail. They know they won’t get great shots all the time, but they remain consistent. They’re at peace with their failure and happy to patiently wait for their success. So, if you’re hoping to one day be considered a master of street photography, you need to be able to push through the rough spots. If you can’t accept that you won’t hit the jackpot every day, this game isn’t for you.

How to Keep Shooting Street Photography During a Drought

There are several benefits to shooting street photography. It’s not all about the final image. Firstly, I believe street photography makes you a better person because of the virtues developed while practicing it.

Secondly, the process of walking around is extremely meditative. It keeps you focused, centers your mind, and can be relaxing, despite the amount of walking you do.

There’s also the community that comes with street photography. Shooting street is a good way to make friends and discuss the genre of photography you love. Socializing enriches the mind, especially when you do it with like-minded people.

Things You Can Do to Overcome a Drought

Taking a conscious break from street photography can help you get back to where you were. Don’t shoot for a few days, maybe even a week. Then get right back out there. Other than taking a break, you should go through your archives. If you have years of experience, you should notice patterns where you had great streaks and unavoidable droughts. Use it to remind yourself that this time will pass, and you will start creating winners again.

Final Thought

Again, street photography isn’t easy. And no matter how good you are, you’re not guaranteed good shots all the time. If you really have a passion for the craft and have taken the time to study it, you will know it’s mainly a waiting game.

If you tap into all the other things that street photography can provide, then making awesome shots every day won’t seem anywhere near as important as you thought. So, if you’re not hitting a home run, stop sulking and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s all part of the game we love. If you are consistent and strong-minded, those great images will come, and you will feel amazing when they do. So keep going!

Do you get disheartened when you don’t get great images? What helps you overcome a drought? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host professional photographers within the industry.