We street photographers, all will make mistakes no matter what. At one point we’ll commit it. Here, I wrote a list of common mistakes we do, but with one twist. Aside from the mistakes the photographer does, I will also share with you the same mistakes we do as the audience. This is my attempt to help all us be aware and avoid these mistakes both as the Photographer and the Audience.
Lack of communication
PHOTOGRAPHER: I’d probably take an image before that has left someone out there scratching their head thinking what the hell is this image trying to show? That my friend is the lack of communication. And it even hurts when someone tells you this right in your face. But you know, that’s a reality.
So how do you create that connection with your image and your audience? Sometimes we see a scene and out of impulse we take that photo but you know at the back of your mind it tells nothing. Just a person sitting on a bench with its back facing you. You need to identify these things and start looking for scenes that speak with you. Scenes that tells a story. It doesn’t have to be complex, the important thing is you have to start learning to learn how to photograph an image that communicates.
AUDIENCE: Street photography is subjective. What the photographer see, does not mean the same for the viewers. The problem here is how audience corrects the photographer on how the image should be done. Now, I understand if their’ criticizing the image. At a certain point, getting your image criticized is healthy. What I find wrong is how the criticism is done. Looking for deeper meaning from the image while the photographer simply just want to show you as it is. Acknowledging the small details and juxtapositions in the image MORE THAN the subject itself. Imagine you show a photograph of a family with a cat on the stroller, yet your audience focuses more on the squares and circles in the background. These are just bonuses, prioritize the subject. Learn to read the image efficiently. Check this LINK what I mean by reading images.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Little understanding of what street photography is, and just completely diving into it and thinks he/she is doing it right. I’ve seen quite a number of these honestly. I’m actually fine with it cause it is, in fact, part of the learning process. We all will make mistakes one way or another, early on or late in our photographic journey. It’s normal, but we all have to do our research and study the style or genre we are doing.
AUDIENCE: One time, I’ve seen an image from a Facebook group about street photography. The image was clearly photo-manipulated. Layers after layers of images stacked to form one photograph. Guess what, it garnered positive feedbacks, likes, and it was even selected for the photo gallery of the group by the group’s Admin.
I’ve nothing against the image. It’s, in fact, a good image BUT it does not fit the group’s description, even the rules clearly stated no manipulation is allowed but still, the Admin considers it a street photograph. If an Admin backs it up, it will send a message to those who are new to street photography that it’s ok to manipulate a photo. That’s what I’m concerned about.
Failing to edit
PHOTOGRAPHER: One of the best, if not the greatest skill a street photographer should have. And I don’t mean Photoshop/ Lightroom or whatever editing software. I mean carefully choosing the image you want to show and not to show, as well as sequencing the set of photographs to tell a story. I’ve discussed this plenty of times, I think. Probably on some of my articles here but mostly with the people I speak with about street photography. One of the greatest mistakes of street photographers is failing to edit and personally, this mistakes damages your portfolio.
If you’ve taken a bunch of images and you’re back at your studio, just lay it all in front of you. Select the best ones, and go stare at all of them again. Do this until you are able to select the best image of the bunch. Simple eh? Not really, even though you’ve selected the best among the bunch doesn’t mean it’s worth sharing. I’ve had some pictures that never made it see light because it still lacked a few things and to me, it felt not worthy of sharing. Maybe marinate it a bit? Who knows.
AUDIENCE: Hey, we're just here to look! Well not exactly. As the viewer, we sometimes just let ourselves pass by the images we see. Some are enough to grab our attention but where we fail is when we don’t realize why or what actually caught our attention for a moment. We just stop, stare, and move on. I say, take a moment to understand what made you look. Criticize it, analyze, question it. My point is if you’re intrigued by an image, find out why. It’s a shame just to let it pass.
Too much focus given to the technical things
PHOTOGRAPHER: Let me say it first. I’m guilty of this. I’m guilty of taking too much of the precious time deciding if I’m going for a manual rather autofocus or using a wide rather than a tele lens, should you use follow composition rules or break it. Dealing with all of these makes me wonder, as a street photographer, shouldn’t I be already taking the photos by now rather than thinking about all these technical stuff? I mean, I’m about to miss the shot!
I know self-fulfillment is very important for us photographers, and this involves what camera you use or how you use it. The more we are comfortable without gear, the better (in theory) the result is. But really, what’s the point of being a street photographer if you don’t even have a photo? You want to use film and take it slow, sure. You want to use a tele so you don’t disturb your subject, sure. You want to use manual focus, why not? If it works for you, it works for you. Can’t we just take the photo?
AUDIENCE: Much like the viewers looking things that are not in the picture, some people would rather know what camera and the camera settings the photographer used to take the photo. Honestly, I am offended by these kinds of things. There are a right time and place to ask these things and it’s just a matter of knowing it. As a viewer, we should know how to read what the photograph is telling us rather than zooming into the images to see how sharp the edges are. Stop crediting the camera for how good the image is. Know who and not what took it.
So there you go, I hope this list helps us all be aware of the mistakes we make both as photographers and audience. Having all these in check only do good for us so I hope that we all keep these things in mind. Now let’s take some photos!