For years I’ve been trying to justify the fact that I am actually a professional photographer, however just because I don’t get paid for my images, I’ve never thought I could actually claim myself as a professional.
After researching this on the internet, to actually claim to be a professional photographer you are required to earn 100% of your income from photography. However, the reality is, as the market is so saturated with the latest mobile phones and top notch digital cameras, everyone calls themselves a photographer. Because of this, most professional photographers have to supplement their income.
So my partner is a professional photographer and she does get paid for her photography, however she is also supplementing her income in other creative ways. After travelling around the globe and taking lots of different photos she said to me, “your type of photography is called street photography” so now I have a label, I am a ‘Street Photographer’.
So what is my interpretation of a Street Photographer? Basically it is being able to walk around the streets, down an alleyway, where you shouldn’t really be, looking for interesting situations with people going about life. If I’m lucky enough to capture a photo without being busted, I often get a different look than I would if I stopped and asked for permission. To be honest, I rarely get the photo I want if I get people to pose.
One of my favourite photos is featured at the top of this blog of me in Bangladesh catching a hairdresser doing his thing. Once he spotted me, he then came out and posed for me and I got one of the most amazing photos. Sometimes getting someone to pose works in your favour.
The other thing I love about Street Photography is the fact that you don’t actually have the ability of capturing the same photo twice. The conventional photographer would set up their tripod at a certain part of the day and collect that perfect morning photo just at the right time. That is what I call a true artist, but not my type of photography.
Another one of my most favourite photos on my recent trip to China was simply walking through an alleyway watching the hustle and the bustle. Watching the motorbikes come back and forth, I took the same photo 25 times and got 25 different genres of street photography.
Another one was being in Dhaka, the most densely populated city in the world located in Bangladesh. I stood on the side of the motorway on an island, taking photos of people jumping onto the buses. A policeman with a rubber hose was hitting the side of the buses as they were illegally slowing down to pick up passengers. I stood there for an hour taking what seemed like hundreds of photos, just to be able to get one taken at the exact moment. I ended up getting an amazing photo of a muslim girl smiling at me from the bus window.
My favourite photo I ever took was in 1999 when I was travelling through India. I was hanging out of the back of a bus and three little girls were looking up at me. I was trying to take the photo on an old Sony Cyber Shot five megapixel camera. One of the three little girls just kept on moving, she would stop and the other one would move so I had a split second to get the best photo I could.
To get a good photo you need to use the right camera settings and you need to be able to adapt to the environment. However, you can’t beat capturing a moment in time verses having a perfect photo. It is all about shooting a raw image that would be hard to replicate. I liken it to, adrenaline with a camera!
The photo of the three Indian girls is my favourite. It isn’t perfect and that’s the part of the street photography I love. You don’t need the perfect moment, you can have a blurry subject, like a motorbike, or three little girls moving. As long as you manage to get one focal point or tell one part of the story in the photo, it all comes together well.
Maybe you have been taking snapshots for years and you’ve never really thought of yourself as a photographer! Why not label yourself as a street photographer, set up a Flickr account and show people your genre of pictures and images that you like to take.
Another side of photography that people often underestimate, is in the editing of a photograph. Personally, I used to think that editing a photo was cheating. In today’s world however, I believe you are missing out if you don’t edit. My partner is absolutely spot on at editing images. She puts her custom Lightroom presets over the top of my images I have taken, the transformation is unbelievable! The presets bring out the colours and the subject that even I didn’t see at the time when I was taking the photos. It makes my street photography come to life in ways that I never imagined.
The trick to my street photography is never ask for permission to take a photo, but beg for forgiveness if you get busted, then ask for permission to take the photo again. This way you will gain two or three different looks from the same photo shoot. Pretend that you are a happy tourist taking snapshots to show the family back home and never claim you’re a professional.
I have had great joy telling people I’m a street photographer and I’ve travelled the world capturing amazing life and culture on the streets. Check out my portfolio.