Despite going through a bit of a creative struggle at the moment I’d like to share 4 tips with you on how to keep your shooting process as consistent as possible. I’m sure you’ve heard about “being in the zone”. You stop thinking too much, compositions present themselves everywhere and you take image after image. It’s this magical state where you become one with the street. It’s hard to get there every time but here’s what helps me achieving it more frequently:
1. Your Phone
Before we get to what happens once you’re outside, let me give you the first tip: leave your phone at home.
I probably don’t have to tell you that most of us spend way too much time on these little machines. I used to take out my phone a lot when shooting on the streets. Checking where I was going, texting friends or scrolling through Instagram while waiting for the right subject to come along. Over time I realised that it always threw me off a little bit. I always had to refocus and get my mind back on to the streets.
Leaving your phone at home or at least putting it in an unreachable place does three things: It eliminates distractions which throw you off your game, it lets you forget about time and it enables you to get lost in the city. The last two points are something which I really grew to love over time. Having no clue how long you’ve been out already, not following a map or pre-set route…Only following the light and your intuition. Embrace that uncertainty and I guarantee the shots will come.
2. The Warm-Up
Do you remember gym class in school? The thing I always hated the most was warming up. It seemed to have no purpose and honestly speaking was a pain in the a**. What my 10-year-old self didn’t know is that you can’t just start things from 0 to 100. No matter what you’re doing, warming up before you head in is essential.
I don’t know if it’s only me, but I often feel a little hesitant to raise my camera in the beginning of a shoot. This shouldn’t be the case when the right scene comes along. So, start your photo walk with taking 10 to 15 easy shots. They can be wasted shots; it doesn’t matter. If you’re shooting film just raise the camera and frame, but don’t take the shot. The point isn’t getting good images but getting comfortable raising your camera. After those warm-up images you’ll be used to the movement and ready for what’s to come.
If you’re feeling especially uninspired sometimes, try taking 15 images you would really hate in the beginning of your photo walk. You’ll find that this is harder than it sounds. There’s often more out there than it sometimes seems at first glance.
3. The Right Pace
A lot in street photography comes down to the way you move. Partly because of the impression you make on your subjects, partly because of the opportunities you can create for yourself.
Maybe this is something that depends on personal preference, but I’d advise you to walk slowly when shooting. Let life on the street pass by instead of rushing through it. When you’re walking so slowly that you’re feeling slightly awkward then that’s just the right pace. It gives you the chance to pay much more attention to every square-meter around you, resulting in more images you can take. And let me assure you, you won’t look stupid. I’ve literally tried to walk in slow motion and still couldn’t avoid overtaking people. Just as there’s always someone better than you, it seems like there’s always someone slower that you too.
Often it’s also helpful coming to a complete stop. If you haven’t seen anything good in a while just stop and start observing your surroundings. You will look closer than when you’re walking and probably spot more scenes than you expected. Have you seen something? Go follow it until you feel it’s time for another stop.
So, whenever things aren’t going you’re way, try to slow down. It works wonders.
4. Always Be Ready
The last tip for getting into the zone is something which I copied from Joel Meyerowitz in the short film “Joel Meyerowitz 1981 Street Photography“.
To make it quick, it is always keeping your camera above your belly button.
In street photography you have to be ready to strike any time. In order to do so it’s advisable to keep your camera relatively close to your face. I actually like holding my camera down next to my pockets, but the time it takes and the attention it draws to pull it up make it a bad position to have it in. Apart from that, it’s also much easier taking a quick and unnoticed shot when holding it chest high.
You can use a neck strap, hold it with two hands or just keep it there with one hand. The only problem with the last option is that sooner or later your arm will fall off. So I usually hold the camera up when there’s many people around and a shot could come any moment. When there’s not much happening it’s okay to keep it low with hanging arms and relax.
Combine that with the 3rd tip and you’ll be unstoppable! You’ll get more shots and better shots more easily which will get you closer to the zone image by image.
These were 4 tips that often help me increasing my hit-rate and getting into the zone. What are your thoughts? Have you tried similar things or have other tips? Let me know down below or on Instagram.