It’s easy to find excuses for your own shortcomings. Blaming things that don’t go the way you’ve planned them on everything but you. That’s an easy and unfortunately very common thing to do. But that’s not going to get your forward, no matter what you do. There’s an inconvenient truth that we all have to learn to face: It’s all up to ourselves. And that can be applied to almost everything in life – of course also to photography.
You can always do more
I’m not taking myself out of the equation. My camera is slow, it’s loud, I’m living in a fairly small town and there’s never much going on around me. I constantly catch myself making these things responsible for missed images, lousy days without images at all and me not being happy with my work. But the truth is, that despite all that there are still millions of images happening around me that I would be able to take. And the reason I sometimes don’t spot even one of them isn’t because of all the issues mentioned above. It’s because of me. Truth is that 9 out of 10 times I could have done more. And unless I’ve done all I could have, I don’t have the right to complain.
Apply this to street photography
In street photography much of this comes down to perspective and how close you manage/dare to get to people. Just one scene can be shown in so many different ways. Even something ordinary like someone looking at the bus schedule can be turned in a good image.
When I was walking by this guy, this was the first image I quickly snapped of him. A pretty standard scene, nothing special and things like this happens all the time. I tried out another angle which looks a bit more mysterious. Even though it was better, it still didn’t have that “wow-effect”.
Still not being happy with what I managed to get out of this, I looked for a perspective no one would usually take when passing this guy. Something that is special.
So, in the end I came from a situation that looked like nothing special to a shot that at least was well composed and had more to it than just being a snapshot. While I certainly could have done more here, it illustrates how your effort is the only thing that stands in between boring and amazing results.
Making use of surrounding elements
The following set of images first presented itself as a woman obviously waiting for her train, again nothing special. But using elements around you to enhance your image or change the perspective can change the entire outcome.
The lighting was definitely nice but it wasn’t enough to turn this image into a keeper. Trying to find a different perspective I discovered stairs behind me and photographed the same scene, just from above.
A bit more interesting but still, there is nothing special and interesting about this image so far.
The steel pillars on the platform had these circular openings in them. She wasn’t standing close to one but with the reflecting window of the train I could get her face into the frame. This changed the whole scene. The woman didn’t move in all that time, but just me trying different things got me – again – from nothing to a well framed image with a little twist.
Turn boring into amazing
Now imagine how many people just standing around you pass every day. You could use each of them for an image well worth capturing. Even if nothing special happens around you, even if everything seems dull, you as the photographer have the possibility take in a special viewpoint and show your viewers something they haven’t seen before. It’s never up to others to make your images interesting. While it definitely is nice when that happens, it’s always up to you to make the image more interesting than it might seem at first sight. It’s always your job to give 100%.
You shouldn’t just apply this to your photography but this will also help you in life. Blaming others for your own failures and taking in a victim’s standpoint is easy. But once you realize how much you can accomplish when you show the self-confidence and put in the hard work, it becomes clear that it all comes from you. Don’t let other things or people define where your limits are. The only person who can do that is you.