INSPIRATION

10 Lessons from the Masters of Street Photography

BY ERIC KIM

Eric Kim is one of our favourite practicing street photographers – producing countless thought pieces and instructional videos as well as teaching workshops over the world, and somehow still finding the time to shoot prolifically. We’re huge fans in particular of his ‘Lessons from…’ blog series, giving insight into what you can learn from the professionals, as seen by someone who immerses themselves in the past and present of street photography.

The following article is an extract from his free book ‘100 Lessons from the Masters of Street Photography’ – with images added by us. We thoroughly recommend you download and read the whole thing here.

1. EMBRACE FAILURE

Image by Joel Meyerowitz

“Street photography is 99.9% about failure” – Alex Webb

Every time you click the shutter, there is only a 0.1% (if that) chance that you will make an interesting shot. You might shoot for an entire day, not get a single good shot, and feel disappointed and frustrated. Know that failure is a good thing. The more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed. As Thomas Edison once said: “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”

When you fail to get the shot, don’t become discouraged. Rather, learn from your failures and mistakes. What caused you to miss the shot? Was it because your camera wasn’t setup properly? Was it because your camera was in your bag (and not in your hand)? Was it because you were too nervous and didn’t have the courage to click the shutter?

2. ‘MARINATE’ YOUR SHOTS

Image by Helen Levitt

I shoot both film and digital, but one of the biggest advantages of shooting film is that you’re forced not to look at your photos immediately after you’ve shot it.

With digital I find it a lot harder to let my shots ‘marinate,’ as I am prone to ‘chimping’ (looking at the LCD screen immediately after having taken photographs).

For some shots, the longer you allow yourself to live with them (i.e. ‘marinate’ them) the more you like them. For others, the opposite is true. Imagine oil and water in a bottle. You shake the bottle hard, and they are both mixed. The longer you wait, the oil will soon rise to the top (your good photos), while the water will sink to the bottom (your weak photos).

3. SHOOT WITH A ‘STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS’

Image by Daido Moriyama

“For me, capturing what I feel with my body is more important than the technicalities of photography. If the image is shaking, it’s OK, if it’s out of focus, it’s OK. Clarity isn’t what photography is about” – Daido Moriyama

One of the common mistakes a lot of photographers make is that they are too analytical when they shoot street photography. They forget the most important part of photography: photographing what you feel with your heart.

Daido Moriyama is one of Japan’s most famous photographers who popularized the “stream-of-consciousness” style of photography. Not only that, but he popularized the radical “are, bure, boke” (grainy, blurry, out-of-focus) aesthetic, which rebelled against the photography at the time, which focused on making hyper-sharp images with fancy high-end cameras.

When you’re shooting street photography, just photograph what you find interesting, without any judgement, self-criticism, or frustration. Realise that most won’t be any good, but that you’ll find a few gems along the way.