View Full Version : I'm Good Enough?
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and dog on it people like me."
So why does my street photograhy sux?
I have read the books watched podcast, and more. What ain't I doing right?
Am I alone?
I'm quite clever with things mechanical and always have been ... steel, nuts, bolts, washers, gaskets etc is my comfort zone. I have consumate skill in this area!
Give me a pile of timber, the right tools and ask me to build a garden shed and I'll make a dog's breakfast out of it.
Don't sweat on the things you're not good at ... capitalise and focus on your strengths.
Good advice from diagularax. Street photographer is a well trodden path by famous names so inevitably you will compare yourself to them and feel daunted by their skills. I photograph friends and have done for many years and they take no notice of me so I have a bunch of nice shots. You migh consider doing something like that.
It looks to me like you're photographing at either a place or a time when nothing much is going on. You might want to look for public events, parades and such. You're good enough, don't worry.
Everyone has a larger section in the "miss" category than "hit" - at least knowing you aren't the best out there is a good sign that you will know when you really get something good, right?
Be glad you aren't one who believes everything they shoot is gold.
Have fun, let yourself off the hook, keep shooting. Humanity is strange enough that you will get something!
F8 and be there, right?
@Cosmonaut - I really like your gallery with the old barns. I love that kind of stuff. I can't help you with street.
I try not to think if I'm good or not, but just try to have fun and enjoy what I'm doing. If I happen to get a picture that I like, or others like, well happy chance that! If I think about it too much, well, I know I'm not that good, so I'll get depressed! ;) So I try not to think about it and just enjoy playing with my camera! Always, the best way to get better is to keep shooting, something I have to work on. Ultimately, life is too short to worry....
Personally I think there is very little good street photography. Probably because it is all so pedestrian !! Boom! Boom! (OK very weak joke.)
But in fact its hard to do well and in my view even harder with a manual focus rangefinder - probably one reason why so many street shooters like wide angles (More depth of field which make it easier to make a passably sharp image.)
I make "nice" pictures but I am fearful that at the end of the day they are boring. And I think a lot of street photos are boring simply because most people forget that there has to be something in the shot that is engaging. Its not enough to just shove a camera in someones face and capture an adequately sharp / adequately exposed image. Many street shots I see, (Too often mine too I am afraid) are not so much "the decisive moment" but "the deadly dull moment."
Incidentally I actually find its easier to take good street shots when using a modern DSLR with say an 85mm fast lens. I hate being in someones face when taking their image and this discourages me from taking many pitcutes when doing it the traditional way. And it means that the person in the image is often unaware of your presence and hence acting naturally rather than glaring at you and wondering if their fly is undone or they have a bogey in their nose and that is why you are photographing them
For those who say this is being a bad sport, I can only quote from George (or was it General Melchatt) in the last series of Blackadder and say "Yarboo and sucks to you!"
I looked at your street shots on your website, and I wouldn't say your street photography sucks, but it does fail to inspire. I feel like there's a lack of creative vision that says something bigger than the subject. You certainly put a lot more thought into it than the 95% of the street photos I see on RFF. You find people in different and interesting settings and isolate them well with thought-out compositions. It seems neat and not sloppy.
I was told by a great photographer that great photographs have A, B, and C and I always keep that in my mind when I do street photography. Sure, someone sitting at a bus stop lighting a cigarette might have A and B if you get the angle and composition, but it just needs to say something more about social life, interactions, etc. than just a guy lighting a cigarette. Anyone can go out and get that shot. You need to see it in a way that no one else does or is able to capture in that moment -perhaps 3 people at the bus stop lighting their cigarettes all at the same time. It's about being intuitive and receptive to your environment and acting creatively and intelligently. In all of your shots, you are in control over the situation and the isolation of your subject. I'd advise you to pick a spot and let the world act before you and the situation control you as opposed to the other way around. Try a different approach than the one you have and see what happens.
I like this one a lot:
And there are a few more in that set that are very good. A bit of editing would get rid of the ... less good ones.
I didn't look at your stuff, but ask yourself why you photograph what you do. If you're shooting street stuff because "that's what you do with rangefinders," then that's why your photos aren't as good as you think they should be. What I mean is this: photograph things that truly interest you. I'm a historian as well as a photographer. Guess what my best photo work is? Documentary photography in long term projects meant to tell a story. I suck at wedding photography, because i just don't give a damn about some stranger's wedding day, no matter how much they pay me. See what I mean?
Hey, it's not you, really! All street photography sux! :)
I think Chris Crawford makes a good point, I think that some just shoot street because that's what HCB did, or that's what range finders are fashionable for.
I think the reality is that street photography is very easy, but almost impossible to do well.
It's easy because all you've got to do is go 5 minutes from your house and start taking black and white pictures of people walking down the street, ideally get in a couple of homeless guys, or perhaps capture someone in a blur of motion. I think it's almost impossible to do well, as at the end of the day, it's people walking down the street. That's what most of us in the Western world are sick of seeing every single day. The subject is very boring, unless you look for some deeper meaning, which either isn't there, or remains boring.
Maybe the key is to find a theme you find interesting, as Chris says, and try to work on that.
Chris is right, if it doesn't interest you, it isn't going to make a good photo just because you used tri-x. Find something that you find beautiful, sad, interesting, or any kind of emotion and photograph that.
Don't feel bad about not taking a good "street" photo, in my whole life I've probably seen about 5 street photos that I like. Trying to make something interesting out of a boring subject everyone has seen 100 times on their way to work is very difficult.
For good street photos, you need to find something/someone interesting or unusual or cute.
Man juggling at an antiwar protest in Santa Fe
A few days before an election
Kids in a crowd in downtown Santa Fe
Kid on the Santa Fe Plaza during a free concert
Kid jumping to reach leaves on a small tree on the Santa Fe Plaza
I shot all these when I lived in Santa Fe several years ago. They were done over a period of a year and were culled from A LOT of 'not quites'.
A picture that can tell a story without words can be a good street shot. I think that is what most of us struggle with.
Something we all should do more of as street photographers is to shoot a theme / locale.
Here is a thread currently live on this site about a fish market in Vietnam.
Although the technical quality may have issues in some photos, its a good theme and is interesting to do. It gives a unifying idea to a set of photos and that automatically adds interest. After all if street photography is the love child of documentary photography and reportage - isnt theme based shooting mainly what those disciplines do.
All sorts of ideas come to mind - people at the market, people in cafes, night in the city, people on the land etc
Just relax and get closer to the people. What i saw your street photographs is that you are so far to the community. Moreover, do not think taking a good photograph and never turn it to a competition with yourself. Just allow the life to flow and live, feel and try to see every single moment of the street life. Also respect to the every element of the street and keep in mind that you are not at the center of the life, you are just a part of life.
Actually street photography is very similar to driving a car. When we first start to drive we are always thinking what the current gear is and what will be the next gear. Whenever we used to driving, we never think about the gear or the other mechanical issues, we just let it go.
Be glad you aren't one who believes everything they shoot is gold.
Thanks all for all the tips and advise. I think I have the landscape thing figured out. When I see a scene I know when and what to do with it well ahead of time. It never really plays out like I have it in my mind but it's close. It comes natural and seems to flow. Being a photographer is like being a musican. Not everyone is going to like your stuff and you can define your career with a handfull of hits.
The streets are different than landscape. Unpredictable, spontanious and you have to act quick. I am more lucky than anything else. I have maybe one or two shots I am happy with out of hundreds I have taken. You are all right I need to just relax and let it flow.
Enjoy your photography, try a different (longer?) lens, or even a compact. Set yourself a project, not necessarily "street" but some sort of theme or topic,
Most of all, keep shooting and enjoying your photography. :)
Editing is a huge part of street photography. Forget that you might get 'one keeper a roll'. Get one or two keepers a year and go from there. All the big street photogs shoot a number of rolls a day but are usually known for very few really good shots. Bruce Gilden once remarked that street is so hard he figured he got about 25 really good ones after being at it for over 40 years. I don't think that all shots in Winogrand's Figments from the real world are all at the same level either, but he's still my favourite photographer.
Another thing that might help is to not look at it picture by picture. Try to find stories or themes, things that interest you. Build a portfolio around that theme, if all images work together they don't all have to be 100% ace to tell the story. Take a look at Twirl/Run from Mermelstein for instance: most are forgettable but all of them put together it's very strong. I'm hoping that ten years from now, when I look through my negative sheets I'll find similar themes that may proof interesting. For now I think I've amassed three keepers ;)
That and 'get closer' :)
Braver has it right. Getting a good street photograph is one of the toughest things to do in photography. Gianni Berengo Gardin, not well known is the USA, but one of the best if not the best street photographer, say a street photographer iw doing well to shoot 2 great shots a year. You can check out my street pics on facebook: facebook.com/JOHNELDER.PHOTOGRAPHER I try very hard to edit my work without mercy and to post only my best work
99.999% of all street photos suck, so I wouldn't feel too bad. No one just picks up a camera and immediately starts making good street photos. I've been shooting for 3 years pretty consistently (2-3 X a week at least at about 5-10 rolls a week) and I still haven't got a shot that I'm completely satisfied yet. Here's some pretty good advice that I found and try to follow :
I just keep at it and constantly challenge myself.
I'll add that you're in the right frame of mind if you can criticize your own work as you have. I believe that being honest with yourself and being able to recognize a good street photograph (made by someone else) is an important step towards making better street photos yourself.
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