Just Get the Words on the Page – Motivation and Photography

Stephen Greenberg

Just Get the Words on the Page - Motivation and Photography

It was very interesting to read through all the comments on your biggest struggles with your photography.

Thank you to everyone for opening up – there’s power and inspiration in everyone coming together like this and being open and honest. And it helps to hear we’re not alone in these issues.

I share a lot of your struggles, and my biggest one right now is slowing down. It’s getting tougher to leave behind the chaos and speed of regular life, clear my head, and focus when I’m out photographing.

It’s so hard to turn the brain off, slow down, and just go with the flow, but it’s so necessary.

David Robertson

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Challenge Results – Showing Emotion in the Inanimate

Elisa Carandina

Challenge #4 Results - Showing Emotion in the Inanimate

*The next challenge will be announced during the week, so keep an eye out for that!

Here are the challenge selections for Challenge #4 – there were so many entries (260 photos in total) that I couldn’t show them all – and I don’t think that would have been beneficial anyway.

So I narrowed them down and split them into categories: color, black & white, objects, and an example edit.

Just because some of your photos didn’t make it here doesn’t mean they weren’t good. I did my best to choose photos I related to. And there were some good photographs I left out because they didn’t really fit the challenge.

This was a hard challenge. Alec Soth spoke about not trying to force things with your photography, and I think this was a challenge that made people force things. But I still think it was an important challenge to open your eyes to this sensibility in your work.

Jonathan Snyder

But you can’t force emotion. It comes when it comes and it builds naturally.

While individual images can certainly have emotion to them, I think that the most effective emotions can be built up through a sequence and body of work.

It’s the time, the nuance, the intimacy, the succession of photos that ultimately can create the most emotion and we were lacking all those factors in the constraints of the challenge timeframe here.

So while there are many fantastic photos, it was sometimes tough to escape that forced feeling. But going forward, I think these sensibilities will grow naturally in your work.


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Important Tips for Candid Street Photography, Inspiration, May 15th

Quick Salon Updates

*If you missed it, there is a new guide called The 10 Commandments of Commenting (and Posting). It’s a 5-minute read that I highly recommend.

**Yesterday, I asked the question, “What’s your biggest struggle right now with your photography? Or aspect of it that you want to improve at?” I found the responses to be very interesting, so check out the comments and add your own.

***Challenge results will probably be next week along with a new challenge. We got a lot of entries!

Important Tips for Candid Street Photography

One of the most difficult but rewarding aspects of street photography is becoming comfortable with the candid aspects of it.

It is the early major learning curve, but once you learn to get through this, the sky is the limit.

Eventually, the idea of getting close and comfortable photographing people will start to feel easy and normal (to some extent), but there are some street photography tips and strategies that can get to you this point much quicker.

Overcoming Fear (and What to Say if You Get Caught)

This is a powerful thing to realize – if you can talk to people the right way about what you are doing, you will become much more comfortable with street photography.

The goal of course is to not have everyone stop you. You can get close and shoot in pleasant ways that will generally keep people from asking you what you’re doing, but it still happens, and the key is to be obvious about it.

When someone stops me, I smile and flatter them. I tell them I’m a photographer doing a project on the area and I had to capture the scene with them as they looked great. I smile and act like I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong because I wasn’t.

This goes a long way and usually ends in a pleasant conversation. I sometimes offer to send them the photograph as well.

But in the situations where the person is still uncomfortable, offer to delete the photograph and apologize. Legally you don’t have to of course (in the U.S., U.K., and most of Canada at least), but it’s the nice thing to do.

On a similar note, I also want to highlight that the more comfortable you look and act while photographing, the more people will disregard you.

Over time, you will figure out a way of carrying yourself out there, which will make this type of photography much more comfortable.

People will notice you no matter what, so acting sneaky from afar will get their attention, while smiling, getting in the action, and looking like you’re having a great time photographing will put people’s guards down so that they leave you be.

And finally, the only way to fully get comfortable is to just to get out there consistently and push yourself a bit more each time. With enough of this, it’ll eventually become second nature.

Linger and Let the Action Come to You

One of the reasons I love street photography is because I love to get lost and explore. I love to walk as a way to escape. The camera is just an extension of that.

But stopping yourself in an area with good potential and waiting for good things to happen is one of the most important things you can do.

Waiting gives you time for those special moments to happen, particularly in areas with interesting backgrounds and lighting. 

Those magical moments where both the background and subject look incredible – that is very often due to waiting in the right area.

What this also does is allow you to get closer to your subjects in a much easier way. This helps a lot with the fear of street photography. Because you are already there waiting, your subjects will be entering your personal space instead of you entering their space. This changes the dynamic significantly.

It also allows you to notice people earlier on since you will be more perceptive of your surroundings.

Walk Slow and Don’t Take Things for Granted

Taking this technique further, when working with photographers, I often notice that some seem constantly on the move looking for that new place and disregarding what’s around them.

Take it slow and try not to disregard anything. Many of the best photos are hiding in plain sight in the most mundane places.

Some of the most interesting photos are of things that you see every day and might disregard because of that.

So if you notice yourself thinking that you’re in a place where you can’t possibly get a good photograph, use that as a challenge and slow down to see what’s really under your nose.

I think you’ll be surprised.


David Herman

As a street photographer, you can benefit from a little acting if you are going to try to get close to a subject while being inconspicuous. 

And I mean acting subtly. You just want to pretend that you don’t notice the subjects right in from of you.

Avoid pointing your head directly at your subject or making eye contact. There is something evolutionary about eye contact that will make a person immediately notice you.

Instead, try to look through the person, as if you are looking at something behind them and slightly to the side. Act as if you’re focused on something else. This will tend to make you look like you are a little spaced-out or engrossed in something.

Maybe you are engrossed in a building or something happening across the street and the person just happens to be in the way. 

You can even aim up at a building first with your eye in the viewfinder, then move the camera to the person to take the shot, and then aim away from them again. This way, it just looks like you are looking around with your camera.

Karen Covey

I like to just look like I am walking around daydreaming, thinking about what I want to photograph, just lost in my surroundings, and looking in a slightly different direction from what I want to photograph. 

It’s sneaky but it works incredibly well.

When walking towards a subject, I will consciously ensure that my path intersects with then and then I will stop as if I am gathering myself or as if I see something interesting around them.

This is not how I always shoot, a lot of times I shoot directly but very quickly so that the subjects will barely notice, and then I will quickly move on. This is where a small camera and prime lens can help.

But the acting strategy is very important when needed. Sometimes there is no way around it and you just have to be sneaky to get the right photograph.

Travel Light and with Minimal Gear

Ian Gross

You can do street photography with any camera, from an SLR to a phone. But I highly suggest giving a mirrorless camera or any camera with a prime lens a try.

Lightening your load will give you much more energy to walk around and get in position for the right shot without being noticed. You will be faster with your camera, more intuitive, and more inconspicuous.

It will also allow you to carry your camera around much more often, which is the most important key for this type of photography.

Prime Lenses

There can be a fear of missing out when putting a prime lens on your camera. What if I miss that shot because I don’t have a zoom? Yes, you’re going to miss some shots without a zoom.

But I think this restriction will benefit you and allow you to come back with more great shots in the long run.

You will eventually learn to see how the lens sees. It will become second nature.

If you use a prime constantly, then you will get used to the perspective and it will make you much faster and more spontaneous. Because of the fast-moving nature of street photography, any tool that makes you quicker is a big advantage.

I prefer to use 35mm and 50mm (full-frame equivalent) prime lenses, which allow you to get close and intimate with your scenes.

Camera Settings and Street Portraits

We’ve covered both these topics in previous posts, so you can read them here (Camera Settings for Street Photography | Street Portraits).

It’s important to know your camera settings well so you can almost forget the camera is there so you’ll be able to focus more on the moments in front of you.

And street portraits are not necessary to do to be a street photographer, and they may make you more nervous than candid street photography, but trying street portraits can also be a good gateway into the genre.

Act Like You Belong

Jonathan Snyder

Always walk around with a smile and keep an air of confidence like you belong there and there will be much less of a chance of you being noticed or of people caring if they do see you take their photo.

The more you look and act like you belong there, the less people will notice.

Sometimes, if you stand in the middle of a sidewalk intersection, you will be so obvious there that people will give you no thought. It is usually the time where you try to hide and slink in the background that people will notice you.

And if you get caught, just acknowledge the subject with a friendly smile. If they are curious, complement them and explain what you are doing. Always act friendly and confident and never defensive about what you are doing.

Go With Your Gut

Part of the art of candid street photography is going for it – feeling that a moment is going to happen and then reacting and taking the photo without a thought.

Usually, these photographs won’t pan out or will be terrible, but when they work they will create some of your best work.

Photo Links!

Portrait Challenge, Inspiration, April

Portrait Challenge

*The due date for Challenge #4 is May 8th – you can email the photos to [email protected] with the title “inanimate challenge.” Also, don’t forget to get your Alec Soth questions in this weekend.

Thanks to everyone who submitted their work – and who pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to do this.

Some of you just took off with this assignment and created wonderful portrait after wonderful portrait. But I was just as impressed with those who were able to incrementally push themselves despite feeling a lot of discomfort.

It’s not easy.

This is a lifelong photography skill to develop. You never know when the perfect person will walk by you, so always keep this challenge in the back of your head and keep pushing yourself.

Think about this as only the beginning.

Here are some of my favorites from the entries. I tried to order them so they’d all fit together in a cohesive way.

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Engagement and All About Soth, Inspiration, April 24th

Linda Press

Engagement and All About Soth

(The portrait challenge recap will be next week – there were a lot of entries to cover)!

Don’t forget that the 1-hour Alec Soth Q&A is on Saturday, May 1st at 2pm Eastern time.

https://zoom.us/j/95233759381 – I’ll re-share the info on the site, on the events page, and through email as we get closer to the date. 

To keep things organized and efficient so we can get the most out of our time, if you would like to ask a question for Alec, please email it to me in the next week to [email protected].

I doubt we’ll be able to get to every question, so I’m going to choose and order the questions, get rid of duplicates, let you know the order, and will let you know when your turn is up to ask during the meeting.

Below I’m adding some info to familiarize yourself with Soth’s work, but before that I want to talk about something that’s incredibly important for this site – engagement.

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Challenge #4: Finding Emotion in the Inanimate

Challenge #4: Finding Emotion in the Inanimate

The Snapshot Aesthetic

We had an interesting conversation this week about the term snapshot and the snapshot aesthetic. It started off with the question of whether or not you think a snapshot is a good thing. You can read the thread and interesting comments here.

The term can be felt as belittling and a way to dismiss the effort that goes into photography, but I think that point of view can stop us from embracing the beneficial elements of the snapshot.

The idea of the snapshot and snapshot aesthetic is to embrace imperfections and chance and to go more with your gut and instinct. This can add a lot of feeling to your photography when it works out.

A good example of this is Daido Moriyama – and the most extreme example of his work is his book Farewell Photography, which is by far the weirdest and most fascinating book that I own.

This aesthetic is not something you have to embrace – compare Daido’s work to the measured photography of Joel Sternfeld for instance – but I think it’s something to consider exploring as you learn and experiment.

And it could particularly be useful in the next challenge.

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Bringing it Together, Inspiration, April 3rd

Taisuke Sato

Bringing it Together

I continue to be amazed by all the fascinating work coming in on a regular basis, and the weather is just turning for most of us.

I thought it would be a good experiment to go through the work of some members who have been around for a few months or more and pull some of their photos together in a somewhat cohesive way. An experiment with their permission (and in no particular order).

Generally these can be thought of as ‘Close to Home’ type projects although a few seem looser based that that.

I have no favoritism for color here, it just happened to be mostly in color.

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Camera Settings for Street Photography, Inspiration, March 27th

Salon Updates

Thank you for all who attended the Meet and Greet on Thursday. It was a lot of fun!

If you missed it, you can watch the recording here and you’ll get a lot of good information – particularly check out the beginning 12 minutes as I give a little talk about the site.

To give you a sense of where we are, we now have enough members to make sure this place will work in the long term and to hire some speakers (like Alec Soth!)

Alright, they may not all be like Alec.

I’m filling some last few spots in the site and closing it down for new signups for the indefinite future (except to replace members who drop off).

The next step is to focus on strengthening the groups and site, to get engagement up as much as we can going into the warm weather, to create some kick-ass work, and just to make this place as fun and rewarding as we can.

And I’ve said this a hundred times already, but please keep in mind that engaging with the work of others is the most important aspect of this site. Even if you don’t have the time to shoot, checking in occasionally and commenting is so important, and it’s easy.

Bookmark the site and check-in for 10 minute stretches occasionally, and it will make a world of difference for everyone.

Portrait Challenge Update

Photos for the portrait challenge are due in about 2 to 2.5 weeks for those who want to join in. I’ll give another prompt closer to the deadline, but please email 1-5 portraits to [email protected] with the subject title ‘Portrait Challenge.’

I know this has been a tough challenge for many of you, but I think this is an important process to go through. And next challenge (I think) won’t have anything to do with people. 

For those of you living in areas with less people, you’re still going to come across interesting subjects for portraits, just less frequently. And I don’t want you missing out on those opportunities.

Think about it, if you’re able to get just 3 fantastic portraits every year for 5 years, that’s enough portraits to fill out that aspect of a well-rounded project on your area. That’s all you need.

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Talking About Photographs, Part 2, Inspiration, March 20th

Paul Lewis

I love Paul’s photo here – a great example of how a simple environmental shot of a muddy road can have so much feeling to it.

The details and textures make this shot, from the textures in the muddy road to the snow embankment then mimicked by the stream of clouds. And then you have the trees, fence, and small mountains in the back – everything comes together here.

Talking About Photographs, Part 2

Happy first day of Spring! A great day for photographers.

So I plan to continue this series periodically with photos that catch my attention in the Salon (see Part 1 where I talk about my own work).

Just because I missed posting your work here, doesn’t mean it’s not as good as the photos here. There’s a ton I will inevitably miss along the way or be unable to post in these just to keep it from being overwhelming.

And keep in mind I usually write these posts a week or two early.

For some of the photos, I’ll be more detailed about and others I just want you to see.

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