How much would you say comes down to luck in street photography? Some images barely require any effort because they happen right in front of you, at the right place and at the right time. When I took this image I was pretty excited as it was one of those moments that would seem so unlikely to happen. Despite it getting an unusually high amount of likes on my Instagram page, I’m not sure if a lot of people understood what this image was supposed to be about.
I was actually trying to catch an umbrella from above that would fit into this pattern of black and white stripes. When I stepped out of the door onto the overpass I immediately spotted this guy. He was dressed all in black and white and his shirt was almost perfectly aligned with one of the stripes. I didn’t have to think much about a composition but instead just raise my camera and take the shot. Anyone could have taken that image at this point.
This made me wonder how big of a role luck plays in street photography.
Why are they so lucky?
I’m sure you have photographers you look up to. They are your inspirations and everybody should have those. You look at their images and sometimes you’re just in awe of the moments they have captured. How much talent and what a good eye do you need to take such images? It can even make you a bit jealous that these things never happen to you. They seem to be just so lucky…
But is it really luck? Are some photographers just stumbling across one great moment after another? Luck plays a very big part and a very small part at the same time, I think. Weather something interesting happens around you is purely coincidental. But just like in gambling, there are certain ways you can increase your chances of hitting the jackpot.
More time makes you luckier
We often tend to overlook the hours spent roaming around when we see someone’s portfolio. If a photographer has 20 brilliant images to show, it might seem like much. But if he or she has been shooting more or less everyday for several years, then 20 images is actually quite less.
No matter who you are, certain things are always going to be rare events. That’s why they make good images. But being out there, shooting as much as you can will obviously make them more likely to happen. The more time you spend shooting the more often are you going to be lucky. There is no shortcut to that. And even when you are not planning on doing something photography related, always take your camera with you. The street doesn’t wait for anybody.
The skilled eye
What also might be misinterpreted as being lucky is someone’s skill for seeking out special moments. Even if they happen – they do a lot more often than we think – you have to be able to identify them and not just walk right past them. You don’t just have to observe what’s happening but it’s also about analysing the potential of every element around you and trying out possible compositions.
If something out of the ordinary happens, everyone will be able take a photo of it. But it is the masters that can create great images even when there’s nothing special going on. Even though you are dependent of luck from outside, you make your own luck in street photography in a way.
The New York based photographer Jonathan Higbee is a great example for this. His series “Coincidences” is actually everything but. In interviews he revealed that he often waited days or weeks for certain things to happen. Yeah, ultimately he got lucky, but the brought his chances up to a maximum and made out the potential of a location beforehand.
A mix of both
In the end it is a mix of talent, acquired skill and luck that make a great photographer. But even though there is luck involved don’t assume that you can’t control the outcome of your photography. Even though there are so many elements that we can’t control on the street, what is being captured after you’ve pressed the shutter button is completely in your hands. That’s what makes it so hard. If it was all just a matter of luck, everyone could be a great street photographer.