Photography

I have been taking pictures of interesting things I saw for a long time. But I don't consider photography as a hobby until summer 2017, when I started to switch my mindset from recording as much information as I can to creating a beautiful / interesting frame.

Street Photography

I'm very interested in taking pictures of people in the public spaces. This is usually called the street photography, but it does not have to be on the street per se. To me, it means the subjects are in our everyday life, showing frames that are either visually appealing or telling a story.

There are two things that I like about (street) photography. The first is it encourages me to observe more carefully in my everyday life. Humans have strong attentional bias, and it is very hard for us to notice many interesting details unless we are actively looking for them.

I wouldn't say I'm starting to see a completely different world. But subtle details sometimes do turn into interesting scenes — contrast in color, depth, atmosphere, age, mood, light and shadow; framing, reflections, geometry, patterns, etc.

The second reason that I find street photography fun to do is that it requires me to move out of my comfortable zone. Street photography means taking picture of strangers. Sometimes I ask for permissions before hand, sometimes afterwards, and sometimes I just take a picture and walk away.

In any case, I'm intruding the private space of some strangers (Although technically in many countries, it is perfectly legal to take picture of anything in the public spaces). Most of the time, people will not be mad at what I do, and the worst thing that could happen is that I am asked to delete the photo.

Yet, it is really uneasy to initiate such interactions. I'm not sure if an extrovert will find it natural, but I know many people share my feelings. I definitely missed a lot of interesting scenes due to hesitation.

If it is out of your comfortable zone, then why bother? Frstly, it is a great satisfaction if you managed to get an interesting picture. The same rule actually applies more generally to many things (such as traveling) in our life — many (potentially higher) rewards are hidden beyond our comfortable zone. We can stay in our comfortable zone and miss the whole world outside or we can try to jump out occationally — it is just personal taste and some kind of balance.

If you are interested in street photography. There are a lot of YouTube videos and vlogs showing how different people approach it (in different ways). Some people like to ask permission before taking pictures, while others prefer candid photography. Do also check out Bruce Gilden, who uses a big flash when photoshooting people in the street.

If you want to avoid interactions, you can sometimes pretend to be a stupid tourist taking picture of everything around, or a scene behind the subjects or even doing a panorama. But please do not hide the movements that you are taking pictures (e.g. shooting from the hip). Finally, remember to do the homework: there might be places where taking pictures even in the public is not allowed.

Why Taking Pictures?

A question that is sometimes discussed among my friends is Do you (or anybody) actually look at all the pictures you have taken? I actually organize all my photos and have them in the cloud, and I will occationally show one of them to friends. But most of the picture will probably never be seen again. Then why bother taking pictures?

But on the other hand, why not? It cost almost nothing to take pictures digitally nowadays since almost everybody has a smart phone with a decent camera that is always at hand. Furthermore, taking (good) pictures is actually harder than it seems to be, so one need to practice (a lot).