So, you’re thinking of becoming a street photographer? What are the most important things to get you started? Find out!
As with every type of photography, if you’ve never done it before, you have a choice of either preparing for it through research until you’re ready to give it a try or simply jumping into it. This is exactly what Frederik Trovatten, now a passionate Danish street photographer living in Mexico City, did.
Hard Work, a Lot of It
First of all, let’s start with the very beginning. One day, Trovatten was on a small boat in Xochimilco, a 40-minute drive away from his current home in Mexico city, enjoying a day out with his mother, who was visiting him all the way from Denmark, when a nearby elderly couple caught his eye.
Now, if you’re serious about immersing yourself in street photography, you have got to be ready to process these moments very quickly and be able to take a shot of it, even if may not always be technically perfect. Trovatten took a photograph of the couple with his camera phone, as he did not pursue photography at the time, and realized that street scenes might just have been something that interested him enough to try photography.
After a few months of actively seeking photo opportunities around Mexico City, Trovatten bought his first camera, a Ricoh GR II, a small and discreet camera that worked well with Trovatten’s unobtrusive photography style, which was then followed with the equally compact Fuji X100F six months later. To have a very clear outlet for his newly found passion as well as his new cameras, Trovatten decided to start a 365 project, featuring a new image every single day for a year, which would also allow him to learn more about his cameras and how to use them to the fullest in achieving his vision.
Giving yourself a clear goal like that gives you a framework of what is expected and makes you focus on improving your craft through nothing but the hours you put into it, instead of seeking out new ideas or mindlessly shooting. If you know what you expect of your project, all you have to do is pick up your camera, go outside, and start shooting.
This idea is further reiterated by Trovatten quoting Ira Glass, the founder of This American Life, who said that “the most important thing you can do is to do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. It’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’ll actually catch up and close that gap between your taste and your skills.”
Observe and Learn, Not Intrude
Becoming aware of your surroundings and observing the scene around you instead of impatiently rushing by is something Trovatten learned early on in his family life. Being a younger brother of two years, Trovatten often found himself listening and taking in the information around him while his brother did the talking. Taking in what’s around you is something you can practice every time you go out; don’t feel like you need to rush from one location to another. Instead, set time aside to be more mindful about what you’re doing and why.
Dealing With Rejection
If you haven’t been involved in social photography before, you’ll quickly find that dealing with the general public will also mean that there will be times when strangers will react negatively and you will experience rejection. Don’t take this personally, because in any industry or job where you are faced with engaging with strangers, this will occur at some point, and as Trovatten noted, “the fear of rejection is usually a lot worse than rejection itself.”
The same way you’d spend time working on your composition and timing skills, enhancing your ability to deal with the public is just as important for street photography. Fear of rejection may hinder your will to experiment with interesting compositions or keep you from talking to strangers who may present you with a good photo opportunity. But, don’t feel like you’re alone in this, because many of us still feel nervous when engaging with strangers on the street! It’s all down to practice and the hours you put into it.
Since having started his endeavors in street photography, Trovatten has found himself reach a good engagement on Instagram, where he shares his street work, and his personal website features not only his street documentary work but also several learning resources and tools for street photographers of all levels of experience.
To inspire the rest of us, Trovatten leaves us with his thoughts on overcoming fear in street photography: "I am more afraid of being too scared to take the photo that is in front of me and not becoming the photographer I want to become than of getting rejected by someone I approach in the street."
Have you found street photography to be a challenging genre?
All images used with permission and courtesy of Frederik Trovatten.