Let me state it directly : on a full day street photography outing, there will be five scenes that provide the elements for a good photograph. All the rest will be about you surrendering to "click addiction", and produce shots that will inescapably join the 99.7% of crap pictures category. (related article : Robert Frank shot 99.7% of crap too.)
Five is evidently not an absolute number and my underlying point is that good scenes don't come up often during an outing. Indeed, street photography is more than a long procession of people walking, sitting or "lost in their thoughts" (though it represents the vast majority of pictures posted online). What is more then? Well, let's put it this way : I know when I see it and you know it too. Indeed, some scenes in life are just special, be it in terms of interactions, aesthetics, humour, mystery, poetry or emotions. But as talented as you might be, these are few, and you'll need to hunt the streets for long hours to find them.
King Kong contemplating a giant Oregon State University basketball player. Quite an unusual scene in front of the Eiffel Tower. Yet I feel that my timing was slightly off for the scene to translate into a good shot.
And then, even if you do spot these five scenes that matter during your outing, it won't automatically translate into five good street photographs. Indeed, you'll mis-focus some, be off timing on others, or simply not be able to translate your initial sight into a worthy two dimensional frame. This is where technique and vision step in and will eventually allow you to convert these five opportunities into one, maybe two good shots. Obviously, we are not talking about great shots yet, which probably come in only in a handful during a year.
Yes, street photography is extremely challenging so you need to maximize your keeper rate when these scenes do happen in front of you. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you getting ready and convert on these opportunities :
- Don't get frustrated. There are very few street photographers that can make a living purely out of street photography, which means that our time to shoot is often scarce. The odds to stumble on a great scene during the few hours you'll dedicate weekly to shooting are pretty low. Don't fall to frustration and "click addiction", patience is also part of the game, so accept it. Time spent on the streets is the variable that most impacts your keeper rate. Technique and talent only come afterwards. In the end, It is probably better to come back home with a few average shots than dozens of lousy ones that will just increase your frustration level.