When shooting street photography it can sometimes be difficult to not hesitate when you see something you want to take a picture of. Usually this hesitation stems from over thinking and sometimes from just thinking in general. When I am shooting I will often times see something great but then instead of moving towards the action and raising up my camera, i’ll think about what will happen after I take the photo. Ill think about if the subject will get angry or distressed. I even think about those people surrounding the subject(s) and what they will do once I have taken the shot. All of these thoughts are useless and only serve to cause hesitation which undoubtedly leads to missing the photo all together.
The short lesson here that can help beginners like myself and even seasoned street photographers alike is to not hesitate. Clearing your mind so that you are not boughed down by thoughts of “what if” is a key part of being able to capture great moments on the street. Some of my best shots have been captured without really thinking. I’ll see what I think to be an interesting subject or subjects and ill move my body towards them, lift the camera, frame, and click. That’s it. There is no thinking about the people around your subject(s), there is no considering the subject’s reaction, there is only see, compose, and shoot. Afterwords I sometimes don’t even know what just happened. I’ll immediately wonder if I even got a good shot or not because when I do it properly, it happens so fast that I don’t even have time to process the event.
Although its good to shoot with a clear mind and without hesitation, we have to undertand that this is not the only criteria for a great image. Of course you will still end up with mostly bad photos. I shoot bad photos weekly even without hesitating. Everyone does. That is just street photography in general. Even the best only get about 10 amazing shots a year.
The benefits from leaving hesitation and over thinking at the doorstep before you go out are self explanatory. You will become less afraid of approaching your subjects over time. You will have more shots to choose from. You will never miss a moment (not due to hesitation at least). You will even get better at street photography faster because you are shooting more by not psyching yourself out.
Now, all of this is good and fine but it’s really hard not to hesitate sometimes isn’t it? Here are some tips to help you avoid hesitating.
1. Do anything that makes you relaxed before you go out (ex. For me, ill have a cup of tea, or listen to mellow music. Sometimes (( and this is just laziness)) ill sleep or stay in bed right up until before I go out so that my mind does not have time to get filled with anxiety or thoughts that lead to hesitation)
2. Take a break. If you are out shooting and you find yourself thinking to much or hesitating to often then simply grab a water, sit down on some steps, listen to a song on your mobile device. Anything that will distract you for a short amount of time before you start to shoot again.
3. Shoot with a friend. This is one of many great reasons to shoot with others. When I see others shooting it inspires me to shoot more and hesitate less. Hopefully this works in the other direction as well. It helps take away the thinking and soon you’re just shooting and having fun.
4. Count (or something similar) in your head as you are roaming the streets. This will keep you focused but not overly so that it would cause you to miss the moments. Ex. 1,2,3,4,5 there is a good subject, 6, 7 approach, 8, 9 lift camera and compose, 10 click, 11, 12 walk away, 13, 14 etc… until the next interesting moment presents itself to you. You are basically filling your mind with the counting instead of the thoughts that may cause you to hesitate.
5. Take a deep breath. Remember that you are great and that this is hard and don’t get discouraged if you do in fact hesitate or over think. There will be plenty of amazing moments that happen in your lifetime. If you miss one, move onto the next using one of these five tips.
Have you ever hesitated before a shot? What are some tricks or tips that you do in order to not over think when shooting street photography? Thanks for looking and feel free to leave your thoughts, experiences and suggestions below.