Musicians practice. They tune their instruments and rehearse often before performing. Your camera is an instrument of seeing. Getting motivated to pick up your camera is harder in the winter. So, try going on a photo walk. Practice seeing, regardless of the weather.
Recently, instead of a self-assignment, I gave myself a “self adventure”, photographing while walking alone around South Beach in Miami, Florida. Walking alone is different than joining a group photo walk. It’s harder to make new photographer friends, but a solo walk often lets you take more images and cover more areas. You can plan a photo walk adventure anywhere. Mine inspired these images and a few tips so you too can walk away with some incredible photos of your own.
5 TIPS to Capturing Great Photos while on a Walking Photo Self-adventure
1. Carry less gear. Wide angle and normal focal lengths worked well. I could have left the 70-200 zoom behind. The only folks I’ve seen shooting on the street with huge lenses are either advertising photographers doing fashion shoots, people looking for celebrities on the street to photograph for print, or shooters who want to show off their fancy gear. Shiny and large lenses are a disadvantage on the street―they draw unwanted attention and comments. Street and travel photography is more effective when you travel light and are less visible.
2. Photograph in RAW, and ready the camera in advance by taking a test shot. I missed opportunities when I had incorrect settings dialed in, or had changed lenses and forgot to take off the lens cap. Had I taken a test shot first, I could have made some portraits that got away from me. I shoot RAW about 90% of the time now.
3. Take a mini-tripod. For early morning photography, HDR, time exposure and time lapse, a tripod is essential gear. So, I leave the 4 foot long tripod behind and take an 8 inch high mini-tripod that unscrews into two small pieces to fit inside a backpack when I’m done using it.
4. Ask for permission to photograph someone you don’t know. You’ll get one of two answers. When you practice this repeatedly, the “no” responses will bother you less. I watched two cab drivers on Sunday afternoon, playing Backgammon outside while waiting for fares, and then without disturbing their game got permission for a picture.
When people ask why, you can tell them honestly that your picture is for a personal project and that you are learning photography. Be extra careful with the homeless, that you are prepared to give something back to them, or to help, and do not be offended when people actively decline to be photographed.
To gain confidence photographing people, I like to chat with dog owners, to get their permission to pet their dog, then ask them for a photograph.
5. Have an adventure. Try to see something you have never seen before. Meet someone you would not ordinarily meet. Overdress for warmth and comfort. Reward yourself with a snack or coffee/tea break. Fill your memory card with images. Mark your personal calendar with the date of your next walk so you can practice some more and then just keep on walkin’.
by Jim Austin
All text and photos: © 2011 Jim Austin. All rights reserved.