How to become a street photographer
If you prefer spontaneity in your art, or just like your photography to have a raw edge to it that you simply can’t get in the carefully planned and set-up environment of a studio, then maybe street photography is the path for you.
Street photographers take their craft into the streets, capturing shots wherever inspiration may strike in the urban environment. Shots are often completely candid, taken within public areas, the subject does not need to be engaged with or even aware of the camera and, aside from being within a public surrounding, there are few precise rules to limit the creativity of a street photographer.
What sort of salary can I expect as a street photographer?
Street photographers aren’t like commercial photographers. For the most part, street photographers won’t have a client who simply wants a portrait like baby photographers might, in fact, a street photographer will capture images first, and find a paying audience second. The most common exception are photographers who are commissioned to capture certain street images, frequently street fashion – that might be the perfect fit if you have a passion for fashion, but if you’re more about the unmanipulated shot then you won’t want to be stuck in the relatively rigid box of fashion photography. The most common means of income for street photographers are books and prints or leading workshops, and to sell your products or services you need to make sure you have a strong presence in e-commerce, online and in galleries.
With all this in mind, there is no set salary for a street photographer – those who put more into their marketing will make more sales, those who shoot more often will have more material to market – which leads to the catch 22 of spending so much time marketing you have less time to shoot.
How do I become a street photographer?
Becoming a street photographer doesn’t require you to be making money on your creations. In the same way an artist is an individual who makes art, if you take street photography, you’re a street photographer! The most important skill for a street photographer is the ability to work on the fly. If you see a scene you want to capture, you need to figure out how to get a winning shot. This is especially true if your chosen scene is short-lived, like a person momentarily pausing in their busy day. You might also need to be a quick shooter before people spot you, as not everyone is a willing subject!
If you’re wanting recognition as a street photographer, then this comes back to marketing again. Try sites like Visual Society to build your portfolio and your brand of street photography, and of course, maintain your own website or e-commerce options so that you can build a loyal following of fans who will help your work and name spread.
What do I need to become a street photographer?
There are no formal qualifications needed to become a street photographer. If you’re a new-comer to the world of photography you might enjoy a general photography course to introduce you to your equipment, the common rules of photography and working with light, but mainly, being able to capture a meaningful street photography shot isn’t about the training you received, but your ability to see something photo-worthy in an otherwise normal scene. In this sense, all it really takes is practice, improving your observational skills and developing a style that helps define you as an artist. Street photographers work with all kinds of equipment, though small and inconspicuous cameras are often preferred. Some even work exclusively with smartphones!
Who are the best known street photographers?
Famous street photographers include Henri Cartier-Bresson who coined the phrase “The Decisive Moment” where he suggested that photographers won’t be able to capture moments they see – they have to learn to anticipate a great shot before it happens. A pioneer, of street photography, Bresson’s initial creative outlet was oil painting, which he cited as “photography without a camera”.
Vivian Maier shot almost 200,000 images throughout her lifetime all while working as a nanny. Maier died without her talent being recognised, and only since her passing have her negatives been discovered, printed and shared in exhibitions the world over.
A street photographer who added great artistic flair to his shots, Robert Doisneau remains highly regarded as one of the masters of street photography, with a lifetime portfolio that demonstrates a sense of playfulness and humour rarely paralleled.
Taking your art into the mean streets? What’s drawn you there? Let us know why the streets beat studios every time in the comments below!