Less Is More

The lesser you carry, the further you walk

When I first started street photography, all I need was my iPhone and Power Bank to charge up my phone. There was no additional lens, a second camera body or a tripod, and travelling light was essential. The lesser you carry, the further you walk, that’s my ideology. Unlike landscape, architectural or portraiture photography, you don’t necessary need to bring so much stuff whenever you go for a photo walk. All you need is a camera, a lens, and an open mind. 

With my Sony A7s + 35mm lens, I only carry two additional batteries, SD cards and simple cleaning kit in my bag, and that’s all I need. I covered an average of 8km in the city streets every photo walk session, usually places I have been to many times in the past. That will not be achievable if I’m going to carry excessive gear every time I roam the streets. I don’t need a second camera body, neither do I need a broad range of the lens. A tripod isn’t necessary, and same goes for reflector or flashes.

Only bring what is needed and work with what is available. Limit your choices so you learn to adapt and master it. If you are not decisive with your gear, you will not be critical on the street. 

Blend in, not stand out

I have seen street photographers carrying whatever equipment they owned in a huge camera backpack wherever they go for a photo walk, squeezing through crowded streets trying to avoid banging into people. Some even wore photo vest with badges of most major camera brands sew onto it, like a walking advertising board for a camera shop. From far away, their appearance stands out among the crowd of shoppers, office workers and tourists. It usually aroused unnecessary attention from people you were trying to photograph, leading to confrontation and so on. 

“The secret is to find a way to be invisible. From Henri Cartier-Bresson on, photographers on the street have learnt the feints and dodges and gestures that have allowed them to get very close and no one sees them. My practice is to be as effortless and quick as possible.” - Joel Meyerowitz

The biggest lesson I learnt from my 2.5 years of photographing the street is to blend into the surrounding. Being present and absent at the same time require practise, by not looking like a photographer is the first step to it.

Focus

If you plan to practise street photography on the day, forget about other genres and just concentrate on it. If you intend to do portraiture or long-exposure, stick to it. Don’t walk around with all the gears trying to cover everything in a day. You will probably end up being in the “Jack of all trades, master of none” category. Street photography requires a lot of walking, waiting, exploration and observation. At times, you have to react fast to a situation or a scene, making it hard to position yourself with bulky gears and bag. Physically, it is demanding to walk all day carrying a bag that is more than 2kg for some people, try doing it every weekend, you will know the differences.

Size does matter

Look into your camera bag now, what are the equipment you don’t need for street photography? Put them aside and see how light your bag is, change to a smaller bag if necessary, you will be surprised how effortless it is to walk the street with it. In street photography, size does matter. It will help you blend into the surrounding, manoeuvre through a crowded place and save you enough energy to come back another day. 

Using Format