Last summer I decided to organize an exhibition of my photography work in my hometown Novi Sad.Read More
We want to travel to far exotic places and make amazing photos. We want that new camera or lens that will make our pictures brighter, shinier and, we hope, much better than before. But a wise man once sad:
"True freedom doesn't lie in the maximization of choice, but, ironically, is most easily found in a life where there is little choice."
— Steve Hagen
Photography, as a medium, is filled with almost endless possibilities. What camera you use, what lens, what format what genre you prefer, how you post process your pictures... the list goes on and on...There are just too many choices that can be overwhelming and can distract from focusing on how to make good photography. So, I decide for this small project to limit myself to shoot only from the small balcony of my apartment(only 2 square meters) with a view to the ordinary street in my ordinary small hometown.
Once you set yourself a limit, your mind starting to work in different speed. Because you cut yourself from endless possibilities, you must push the boundaries of what was left of choices. Smaller the boundaries, you must try harder. And there, I think, your creativity muscle start to grow.
Take for example street portrait. That`s fairly easy. You take your camera, a good pair of shoes, and you wander the streets of town until you see some interesting face...paff. you shot it and move on. So, the workflow is simple, and mind is not struggling at all. I`m not saying anything against street portraits, don`t get me wrong.
But, whenever you set yourself a limit, you hit the floor very quickly. After a first few hours, it seems that you exhausted all options. You hit the floor of your first level of effort. Then you must start to push yourself harder, and try to see different angles, different perspectives and composition combinations. And, tighter the limits you set for yourself, you need more effort and time and work to get some decent results.
So here are results of this small experimental exercise project.
There is no excuse. A good photographer can make good photos almost anywhere, anytime. All excuses are left to people who doesn`t want to push themselves beyond ordinary average efforts, and without that, it`s almost impossible to get good photos.
“The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.”
If you google for a term street photography, your browser will show you a lot of photos. Nobody can say how many street photography photos exist in this moment, and even worse - thousands and thousands are coming on our screens every minute. Yet, what about quality of these photos? I will tell you, honestly, most of them sucks - they are far, far below margin of even decent street photography.
So, why is it like this? Why we want to have thousands of photos in our streams or websites with few likes on social networks that will went almost unnoticed. I will also point here, that number of likes or faves are mostly measure of how many followers you have, not how good your photos are. It`s a sick game of getting really, really small virtual pleasures in our minds, with every like or fav we receive. I think we’ve mixed up pleasure of actually taking photos with pleasure of getting likes. And as number of photos on the internet grows, guess what - quality of these photos exponentially goes down. If you look at the masters of photography, they are all remembered with couple of photos, not more than 5 to 10. And behind them is their whole life-work, sometimes decades of really hard work with camera.
There are at least two things I see here. First, we are easily satisfied, like children. Then, we are lazy. As always, we want great results but without hard work that is necessary to achieve this. It`s like we want to have great shaped body, but we don`t want to go to the gym. So, imagine this… you are at the corner of two streets in your hometown, and you found this great wall that can be used as a background for your next masterpiece. So you pull out your camera and wait a bit. A few strangers pass by, you take a few shoots and you move along to next great spot. Sound familiar? How about you bring small chair with you on that square, and you sit and crouch and jump and lay down and try everything you can think of with camera for 5-6 hours? You take 3000 thousand photos from every angle imaginable of that square, in different light condition, different time of day, with different people, and combination of people, cars, bicycles, cats, dogs, birds, street signs… etc. I guarantee you, you will have at least few good shots, maybe even one great. So next time you go out, take your patience and determination to make great shot, and I can assure you - you’ll certainly have one.
Nothing. Boring scene. I was sitting on top of some stairs, enjoying my cigarette as usual, and searching the area with my eyes for something interesting to come up. My camera was sleeping next to me. I`m sure you all have these moments. You steal some time from your routine life and go out shooting, full of enthusiasm. Suddenly, you realise nothing is happening, nothing interesting at all.
And it seems that harder you want something to happen, less are the chances. Old masters of photography use to say: ‘... Just sit and wait and look around… something will happen. ‘And it happened. Two girls came up and started to take some pics of each other, with their shiny smartphones, of course. Blah… boring. After observing them for a few minutes, I couldn’t resist myself.
“Hey” I said “are you taking photos for instagram?”
“You should find some clear background.”
“Why?”, they asked.
“Well”, I said “you are wearing black, and your background is messy, and also dark grey… so it will not make photos look great.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, trust me… I know…”
They have continued to take pics with their smartphones. Waste of time, still I was thinking to myself. I open my mouth again. That's me. Smooth talker...
“Also, you should try different angles… there are many photos from the eye level, and they all look the same… if you want to stand out from the crowd on instagram… you have to be a little different… try to crouch, or put phone a bit higher...”
They started to laugh.
“Hahahaha, how about you take a few photos of us. You have that big camera, and it looks that you know what you are talking about.”
That`s why I love streetphotography, you never know what can happen, once you are out there on the streets.
“Ok”, I said, “but I`m just an amateur, I cannot promise you anything…”
They laughed again, coming closer to me.
I turn around and spot this big yellow wall behind me. Great, I was thinking, a small twist of luck. Gods are with me today. So, that's how it started and became a situation in which they jumped and spinned their heads, while I was shooting like a maniac, a real machine-gun work with my Nikon. It was such a good time for all three of us, maybe 30 or 50 minutes, I completely lost the sense of time… After I finished shooting, we exchanged our facebook profiles and I promised that I will, of course, send them the photos. It was great fun and experience! And all that came out from completely boring situation, just because I threw them few words and initiated a communication.
If you run around with your camera desperately trying to find something interesting to shoot and nothing is going on, maybe it`s good idea to sit at one spot, relax, and wait until something interesting comes to you.
If you see some interesting character, try to wait until he is in front some less messy background, or you can try to ask if he can move to a desired place.
When life throws at you unique photographic opportunity, shoot a lot, shoot to death, unless you are as good as Bresson and you can take perfect photo at first click, and even Bresson works the scene, shooting multiple times and trying to find the best composition, angle and moment.
Sometimes, only difference between nothing to shoot and a good photo opportunity is in starting a conversation with a complete stranger. Maybe that idea looks now terrifying to you, but believe me, you have nothing to lose… Just be sensitive to people around you, and throw few casual words if you see a chance for good photo. Sometimes that's all that separates you from boring scene to full streetphotography session, and a lot of fun!