Thank you for reading my 7 steps towards improving street photography. I hope that they provide some useful guidance, without making you feel pressured. Ultimately, the approach to street photography – like most genres of photography – is entirely up to the individual. My 7 steps are simply intended as changes to overall approach, that have resulted in more enjoyable – and more productive – street photography for me. I hope they help you too.
So, it’s time for the last step!
Step 7: Know When To Stop.
I’ll start by saying this is something that will be different for everyone. Some might not need to stop at all. But others – myself included – do need to know when to stop, or take a break, at the right time.
I’ll also clarify that we’re not talking about permanently “stopping” here – please, don’t do that! By “stopping” I mean stopping for the day, or taking a break from street photography for a while.
So, why would you want to stop at all? Surely the key to street photography is to have your camera with you at all times? After all, you never know when that unexpected shot is going to come your way.
That is true. And taking your camera everywhere is something we can get very used to. But what’s mentioned less is how that can potentially affect your photography in other ways too.
Street photography is hard work. If I’ve got my camera with me, I’m constantly looking for the next shot. I’m always wondering whether I should hang back for a moment, or whether I should be photographing something I’ve seen. As long as you’ve got your camera there, it’s harder to truly switch off and relax. It can be a fine line between passion and obsession. The pressure of a near constant hunt for new shots can easily lead to tiredness, and maybe a stagnation of our own work as we burn out and stop improving.
In my personal experience, it’s got to the stage where I needed to take a break. Something that was meant to be a therapeutic escape from the stresses and pressures of everyday life was beginning to add to them. I was feeling under constant pressure to go out “because I should be taking more photographs”. It’s exacerbated by the constant stream of images we see on social media – a regular background reminder that everyone else seems to be out and about with their camera, even if you’re not.
But, it’s ok to relax and take a step back. It’s ok to stop for the day if you’ve had enough. And if you’re feeling burned out on photography, it’s alright to give yourself a bit of time off from taking photographs. It could be for a week, or just half a minute. But having a rest can actually help you to improve, once you get back out again – it allows us time to reflect upon how we can step things up creatively. A period of rest has, for me, allowed me the chance to reflect upon my own work, notice where I’ve made mistakes, and see how I want to take things forward. I simply don’t get the chance to really slow down and think about these things when I’m out scouring the streets, camera in hand.
I’ve even enjoyed going out without a camera at all – and simply being, and looking. Madness, some of you might say!
But I’d imagine this is potentially the most contentious of all my 7 steps, and like I said – it will be different for everyone. If you don’t want to stop – don’t. But if you’re feeling tired, burned-out or under pressure – just remember that looking after ourselves is the first step to looking after our abilities as productive, happy photographers.
Thank you for reading!
Taking a break 🙂