10 Things I Learnt from Daily Shooting

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A Guest Post by David Powell from Shoot Tokyo 

Dave.jpegHere are a few lessons I have learnt from daily shooting… I hope you enjoy.

1. “Do or Do Not…. There is no Try”

A lot of people shoot daily as they are lucky enough to have a career in photography. Others embark on a 365 project while others just take photos all the time. I decided after I started ShootTokyo that I wanted to shoot daily as a way to try and rapidly improve my photography.  

Shooting daily isn’t hard. It does require dedication, creatively and planning. It actually gets significantly easier with time as well. When I first started I would rack my brain for something interesting to photography but now you can put me just about anywhere for 10 minutes and I can find lots of ways to photograph it.

2. Bring your Camera Everywhere

To capture great images you need to have your camera with you.  People always ask me where I find the time to shoot. Honestly I shoot whatever is in front of me where ever I am going. Most of the great shots you will take aren’t planned or set up. Events or situations unfold and you capture them.

Having my camera with me allowed me to capture the events of the March 11th Earthquake in Japan as I was experiencing it and share it with my family, friends and ultimately strangers worried about their loved ones in Tokyo. 

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Having a camera allowed me to capture this woman checking the news about the earthquakes while on a break.
 
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3. Take Pictures of People

One of the most interesting pictures you can take is of people. I’ll let you in on a secret. Most people love having their photograph taken. Many photographers are very shy about asking people if they can take their photo so they end up trying to sneak a shot. This is just something you have to get over.  While most people like having their photo taken, they also like to know it is happening. I have found that 9 out of 10 people will say sure and give you a big smile or pose of whatever you are looking for when asked. The approach I have taken that seems to work is being genuine and I simple ask ‘Do you mind if I take your photo?’. Often I will ask them to continue doing whatever they are doing and I take my shot. I also carry these business cards that I call ‘photography cards’ that I give people and let them know they can email me and I will happily send them a high resolution photo for their troubles. Probably 10% actually email me but giving them a card makes the interaction more ‘legitimate’ and puts people at ease.

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I have learnt to not be shy about asking if I can take someone’s photo and I am so pleased with the results I can get now… Check out this hip chick at Shibuya’s Hachiko…

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This beautiful girl passing through Shibuya Station…

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and dogs…

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4. The Less Gear you Carry the More Photos you take

This is a lesson I learnt the hard way after dragging excessive amounts of camera gear across Tokyo and when I was traveling. Typically I would leave the house with my Canon 5DMKII. I wanted to ensure I would catch any shot so I will make sure to bring a good assortment of lenses; 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 50mm, 135mm and maybe my 70-200mm. I would also have an assortment of filters, a flash or two and other odds and ends. At the end of the day, I spend all of my energy lugging gear around that I didn’t spend nearly as much time shooting. The reality is you can make great photographs with whatever gear you have granted you know how to use it.

Now more often than not, I leave the house with a single prime (fixed focal length) lens. This allows me to focus on taking pictures and bringing out my creativity to capture the shot I need with the only focal length I have. I carry the most minimal of accessories; extra card, extra battery, an ND filter and a cloth to wipe the lens. That’s it.

Do I miss some shots due to my limited gear? Sure, but what I missed is easily made up by all of the other shots I get.  

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5. Force Yourself to Shoot one Lens for a Week

A big part of making #4 work is knowing how to use your gear. I realized I would often carry multiple lenses as I didn’t know how to get a shot or the shot I wanted with the tools I had. I would feel like I was limited with a 50mm so I would want to make sure I had a 70-200mm if it was far away, and a 24-70mm in case I needed to zoom to capture what I needed, or maybe a 16-35mm in case I needed to capture it wide. I now shoot almost exclusively prime lenses. With my Leica M9 I shoot a 21mm f/1.4 Summilux, a 35mm f/1.4 Summilux and a 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux.

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The reality is you can capture a great shot with probably any lens you have with you provided you understand how to use the gear you have.  What I mean by this is what shots work for a given lens. What angle or distance do you need to be at for this particular focal length to give you the perspective you want.  I was great at shooting my 50mm lens but I really struggle with my 35mm and had just purchased a 21mm and did not really understand how to get the most out of it. I forced myself into a lens rotation where I shot a single lens for a week. I’ll be honest, it was incredibly frustrating for me. At times I wanted to just switch to a different lens as it was impossible to get the shot I wanted or needed but after a few days it became much easier to get the shots I was looking for and soon I was able to pre-visualize the shots before I even lifted the camera to my eye.  Now I can walk the streets at ease with any of my prime lens and come home with a card full of shots that I am happy with.

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6. Develop a Personal Style

There is no right or wrong with photography. Some people love flashes.  Others just shooting with their iPhones. Some love to photoshop their pictures for hours. Do what you love doing.  One thing shooting daily has helped me to do is develop a personal style of shooting. When I first started I was always watching people and trying to see if I could shoot like ‘them’. This was helpful to get me to learn to use my gear but once you know how to use your camera, you need to develop a style that is yours.  I don’t have a name for my style but I like a lot of selective focus and clean, natural pictures.  I do next to no post processing on the photos. The most I will do is clean up any dust spots, crop a little, or adjust exposure but for me photoshop on my Mac is to correct little imperfections but not for making pictures.
I like to use very narrow depth of fields to tell my stories. There are no hard and fast rules to what you can and can’t do, should or shouldn’t do. Learn the basics and then decide how you choose to apply them.

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I love to use a narrow depth of field and throw primary colors out of focus.

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I’ve learnt to love photographing people once I got over the initial fear of asking people if I can take their photo.

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I love combining shallow depth of field with lots of contrast like in this picture of ‘Dark Shibuya’…

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7. Shoot out of Airplane Windows

I have never been one of those people who shoot out of airplane windows. I have flown probably close to 1,000,000 miles in my career and can’t believe all of the subjects I have missed; Alaska, Mt Fuji, the slums of Mumbai, Chicago skyline, arrivals in Boston. This is something that I started doing this year and I have been so pleased with the results.

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8. Try new Things

Try different types of photography as you are trying to learn what it is you like. I was surprised to find out how much I enjoyed photographing the moon, how easy it is and that I already had all of the things I needed.  If you want to learn how to photograph the moon, read THIS. (link to: http://shoottokyo.com/photograph-moon/ )

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I also developed a love for HDR. This is the only time I am using software to modify my images. HDR can easily be overdone so I need to be careful but I found I really enjoyed it. My inaugural post on Shoot Tokyo was on HDR. You can read it HERE.

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Panning is a great way to bring motion and movement to your photos to make them come alive.  If you don’t know how, read THIS.

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9. Shoot at Night

I do the majority of my shooting at night. I am surprised how many people stop shooting when the sun goes down. What you need is a tripod, a low ISO and some practice. There is so much to photograph when the sun goes down.

Like light trails…

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Evening construction sites…

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Cities

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10. Backup Everything

I can’t stress this point enough.  I had a serious run of bad luck with Macs last winter and this spring.  I actually had 5 complete hard drives failures on my Mac(s).  Each time I was able to get Apple to do a complete replacement of my machine but it kept happening.  They were never able to root cause the problem but I am running safe and sound on a Mac outfitted with Solid State Flash Drives. I am very paranoid by nature so I was fortunate enough not to lose a single photograph throughout these issues. This experience just reinforced what I already know; backup everything, often and to multiple locations. I have friends and know fellow photographers that have lost their hard drives without backup.  I can’t imagine the feeling of losing all of my photos but I am do my best to ensure this never happens to me.

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Currently I backup using Apple’s Time Machine to Western Digital drives connected with FireWire. I do this as I travel often and the backup drive comes with me. A lot of people stop backups while traveling is when you can run into an issue such as losing a drive, downloading a virus, or having a laptop stolen. When I pull the data off cards and onto my Mac it is backed up before I delete the data off of the cards. I also have several additional drives that I rotate copying my entire ‘pictures’ folder to once a month as an additional backup.

I hope you found this useful!

Dave Powell is a blogger and photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. He writes Shoot Tokyo photography blog. You can see more of his work at www.shoottokyo.com or follow him on Twitter and Google +.

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  • Kerri – Glad you liked it. Not to be a grammer nazi either but learnt is a word. It’s a verb.- past participle, past tense of learn (Verb) – Gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught. Commit to memory.

  • What a great article, thanks for sharing David! With so many photographers out there these days, it’s important for everyone to develop their own style, as per point six. They’ll only achieve that by being true to this article.

  • raghavendra
  • Lenny

    Good article. I have one question. You said, “I also carry these business cards that I call ‘photography cards’ that I give people and let them know they can email me and I will happily send them a high resolution photo for their troubles. Probably 10% actually email me but giving them a card makes the interaction more ‘legitimate’ and puts people at ease.” It sounds like a good idea but how do you keep track of who is who so you can send photos to the correct person?

  • Thanks David. I’m struggling to get our and shoot on a regular basis. I “rack my brain for something interesting to photograph” as well. Hopefully I can take some of your advice and get out and shoot more often.

  • really awesome article, thanks for sharing. I never thought of asking people to take there photo and hand them a card. I really like that idea and think I will start using that method!

  • Lina

    Thank you for sharing ….

  • Really well written. Thanks for sharing.

  • A very good thought provoking article which I am going to use as the basis of my photography for the next few weeks and see how things turn out.

  • Delia

    Thanks for sharing Your experiencie ! Good article 🙂

  • Great article and advice. I have missed many good photo opportunities just because I was either too lazy to bring that camera along or I just dismissed the thought thinking that there is nothing interesting capture. One great moment of a great photograph or MEMORY that I still regretted not taking (just because I was too lazy to drag my camera along although I have it in the car) was the scene of the girlfriend of my good friend kneeling along a dark long corridor with a beautiful light at the end of the corridor praying in front of the place where they have put the ashes of my friend who have just passed away due to throat cancer. I watched that scene and I hated myself for not having my camera with me. The thought of that moment still brings a tear to my eye….. I am learning and this article has definitely has helped. Still not a good photographer but would welcome comments and tips. I am currently relocated to Beijing and have a page in Facebook on the places I have visited. You are welcome to visit at LAOWAI in CHINA or http://mynikonni.blogspot.com. Cheers

  • Bill

    Can’t believe how much we think alike! I call my almost daily shooting “taking my camera for a walk”. One thing I will definitely take from your tips is using one lens for an entire week. I, too, have the tendency to take too much with me and look forward to a lightened load. I also like the idea of the card, which I’m going to do in the morning, before I take my camera for a walk to an encampment reenactment. I’m also not a big fan of post processing and don’t hold it against those who like to sit in front of the computer and manipulate their photos. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Thank you for sharing your your tips, and reading this articles triggers my love to photography again. (^.^)

  • Thanks for sharing, It’s good shoot

  • Inspiring article! Practice makes perfect…

    See KHUSELA

  • Great article, Dave. Although I am not a street photographer, my “photo philosophy” is very similar. Just about that “bring your camera everywhere” – I can imagine that in case I was a street photographer and I agree with you, but my Nikon DSLR with one lens is about 1,5 or 2 kgs … perhaps in the future, when I sell it and buy something small like Leica or so 🙂
    By the way, great photos!
    Greetings from Prague 🙂
    Jiri

  • Natasha

    I have two questions:

    1. So you typically don’t edit your photos that you post here in your articles? Or at least not heavy edits?

    2. Could you post underneath the pictures that you use in your articles what settings you used to take the picture.

    All your pictures are great, but some are absolutely beautiful and I’ve love to know how you took them! For example the Dark Shibuya, the street scene with the cars at night and the city at night shot.

    Thanks for much for writing these articles!!!
    N

  • This is a brilliant post that highlights the power of getting out there and shooting. Thank you for sharing.

  • Dianne Budarz Interlande

    So inspirational, thank you for sharing.

  • Kinson Cheng

    It’s not as easy to ask strangers to take their pics in other countries, it’s easy for you as you are a foreigner in Japan, and most Japanese people won’t say no to that.

  • Giovanni Vidotto

    Very helpful…

  • Alan Lee

    Really enjoyed the article! I just started the habit of bringing my camera pretty much everywhere I go. It’s meant that I’m taking more time to take in the view around me, rather than just rushing by. By just taking pictures everyday, it’d meant that I had more opportunities to make mistakes, and rectify them. I attended a wedding on the weekend and I was pleased enough with the improvements, which is due also largely to the fact that I’m kept familiar with the camera from using it more often. So daily shooting is definitely a great way to improve!

    However, I must confess that I’m still way too shy to approach a stranger on the street to ask if I can take their picture. I’m from Asia too, and I’m wondering about your experience in Tokyo is like. I would think that Japanese would be reserved and hence be more inclined to decline having their picture taken.

  • Clive Rowland

    thats true to some extent but it can also work the other way. Asking people if you can take their photo is dependent on many different elements, but mainly its down to how you ask and behave, some days I just cant do it, other days people are virtually posing without being asked.

  • Vehrnon

    i sent this link to my girlfriend who has recently started photography seriously and she loved it, thank you very much… i used to do a lot of photography when i was younger, had a colour darkroom, spent hours in there… thing is i was not a good photographer though i enjoyed the process a lot… but that was the film days now with digital there are so many doors open and its great… now i need advice if its ok to ask : – my girlfriend needs to get a mirror-less camera for all the right reasons, she loves shooting people and is bloody good at it but carrying a huge DSLR with her (she is pretty small) is a drag and more importantly, in India when you pull out such gear people simply do not act natural, don’t know if this is the same other parts of the world… also, as a young woman in India she gets pictures that maybe older male photographer looking photographers just don’t end up getting… anyway, her heart is set on a mirror-less so wanted to know what views you or anyone else has… again, thanks for a lovely article 🙂

  • Caroline Cannings

    Really helpful

  • Mario Oostendorp

    A great article and how do you become better at creating beautiful images by using your camera use it every day. I was shown a Photography Journal site Blipfoto where I upload 1 photo a day every day,today will be my 860th with out missing a day. Since going out and shooting everyday I am now seeing my images and not looking for them. My photography has improved so much that I have won awards in Club competition and a National competition. Thank you for sharing

  • Chryssie’s Greece

    good post ,thank you for sharing

  • Vinicius Mimão

    The link “write for DPS” is broken!

  • One of the best articles that I’ve read in a while… Great ideas to help improve skills.

  • MMD

    I bring my canon 100D with 18-55mm lens everyday to work. Only on certain occasions I will bring my Canon 5DmIII….

  • Mark Smith

    Thank you so much for this post, I recently have been very frustrated with my photography. Everyone I know tells me how great they are but I have posted some of the same pictures for photo critiques by photographers that have been doing it longer than I have and then have been torn apart. Reading this has helped me realize that I just need to stick with it and find my style and improve.

  • rob Lamont

    Great post! I personally think the best way to learn is to try different things. Think logically and learn from what works and of course what doesn’t.

Some Older Comments

  • Natasha August 20, 2013 10:09 am

    I have two questions:

    1. So you typically don't edit your photos that you post here in your articles? Or at least not heavy edits?

    2. Could you post underneath the pictures that you use in your articles what settings you used to take the picture.

    All your pictures are great, but some are absolutely beautiful and I've love to know how you took them! For example the Dark Shibuya, the street scene with the cars at night and the city at night shot.

    Thanks for much for writing these articles!!!
    N

  • Jiri Ruzek August 18, 2013 08:55 pm

    Great article, Dave. Although I am not a street photographer, my "photo philosophy" is very similar. Just about that "bring your camera everywhere" - I can imagine that in case I was a street photographer and I agree with you, but my Nikon DSLR with one lens is about 1,5 or 2 kgs ... perhaps in the future, when I sell it and buy something small like Leica or so :)
    By the way, great photos!
    Greetings from Prague :)
    Jiri

  • Pieter August 13, 2013 07:41 pm

    Inspiring article! Practice makes perfect...

    See KHUSELA

  • kabkeo August 12, 2013 10:55 am

    Thanks for sharing, It's good shoot

  • Jeni August 11, 2013 03:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing your your tips, and reading this articles triggers my love to photography again. (^.^)

  • Bill August 10, 2013 11:06 am

    Can't believe how much we think alike! I call my almost daily shooting "taking my camera for a walk". One thing I will definitely take from your tips is using one lens for an entire week. I, too, have the tendency to take too much with me and look forward to a lightened load. I also like the idea of the card, which I'm going to do in the morning, before I take my camera for a walk to an encampment reenactment. I'm also not a big fan of post processing and don't hold it against those who like to sit in front of the computer and manipulate their photos. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Rodney August 9, 2013 12:52 pm

    Great article and advice. I have missed many good photo opportunities just because I was either too lazy to bring that camera along or I just dismissed the thought thinking that there is nothing interesting capture. One great moment of a great photograph or MEMORY that I still regretted not taking (just because I was too lazy to drag my camera along although I have it in the car) was the scene of the girlfriend of my good friend kneeling along a dark long corridor with a beautiful light at the end of the corridor praying in front of the place where they have put the ashes of my friend who have just passed away due to throat cancer. I watched that scene and I hated myself for not having my camera with me. The thought of that moment still brings a tear to my eye..... I am learning and this article has definitely has helped. Still not a good photographer but would welcome comments and tips. I am currently relocated to Beijing and have a page in Facebook on the places I have visited. You are welcome to visit at LAOWAI in CHINA or http://mynikonni.blogspot.com. Cheers

  • Delia August 9, 2013 02:57 am

    Thanks for sharing Your experiencie ! Good article :)

  • John Messingham August 9, 2013 01:47 am

    A very good thought provoking article which I am going to use as the basis of my photography for the next few weeks and see how things turn out.

  • Roshan August 6, 2013 09:38 am

    Really well written. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lina August 5, 2013 12:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing ....

  • Dan Frigo August 5, 2013 11:50 am

    really awesome article, thanks for sharing. I never thought of asking people to take there photo and hand them a card. I really like that idea and think I will start using that method!

  • Justin Cooksey August 4, 2013 05:10 pm

    Thanks David. I'm struggling to get our and shoot on a regular basis. I "rack my brain for something interesting to photograph" as well. Hopefully I can take some of your advice and get out and shoot more often.

  • Lenny August 4, 2013 01:04 pm

    Good article. I have one question. You said, "I also carry these business cards that I call ‘photography cards’ that I give people and let them know they can email me and I will happily send them a high resolution photo for their troubles. Probably 10% actually email me but giving them a card makes the interaction more ‘legitimate’ and puts people at ease." It sounds like a good idea but how do you keep track of who is who so you can send photos to the correct person?

  • raghavendra August 4, 2013 12:06 am

    The more u take more u learn!

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/p/story-through-pictures.html

  • Pieter August 3, 2013 07:07 pm

    What a great article, thanks for sharing David! With so many photographers out there these days, it's important for everyone to develop their own style, as per point six. They'll only achieve that by being true to this article.

  • Dave August 3, 2013 11:25 am

    Kerri - Glad you liked it. Not to be a grammer nazi either but learnt is a word. It's a verb.- past participle, past tense of learn (Verb) - Gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught. Commit to memory.

  • Kerri August 3, 2013 07:52 am

    Enjoyed all the info. Your shots are wonderful, I have gained more knowledge here, and now I will put it into action. Thank you.
    Just one small thing, call me the grammar Nazi, if you will, but "learnt" is not a word, "learned" would be the right way to say that. Sorry but I could not help my self.

  • Shannon August 3, 2013 04:14 am

    Thank you for an inspiring article. I'm sort of on a quest to find out what I really like to photograph and to fall in love with it again. I am one of the fortunate ones where I have a job as a photographer, and I love it, but I'm trying to figure out what I enjoy about photography away from work. You've given me some really great ideas here - Thank You.

  • Tom August 3, 2013 02:15 am

    I could tell by the tight depth of field that you were shooting fast glass, but a 50mm f/0.95 lens!? Wow!!! That's an $11,000 lens on a $6,000 body. One day...

  • Frank Villafañe August 3, 2013 01:28 am

    David,

    I can certainly identify with the "loads of gear to cover any situation". I used to take all my gear on a backpack to all my shoots. Now, I take the gear and leave it in the car. While on walk-about, I take the essentials (basically, what you listed in your post) and shoot 1 lens, usually the 28mm prime. If I need a longer focal length (i.e. zoom), I step in closer; if I need a wider angle, I step further back. I'm finding a certain liberation in this. I've also taken to planning which lens I will take on a shoot and shooting ONLY that lens. A little thought before-hand is essential.

    Loved the article and the points...and the "Shoot Tokyo". I will definitely check out your website.

    All the best.

    Frank Villafañe
    Urban Industrial Imaging

  • Elindaire August 3, 2013 12:33 am

    Great article, good read!

    http://500px.com/elindaire

  • bill m. August 3, 2013 12:26 am

    Good solid tips. Like using one lens a week. Also enjoyed Mike B's approach for explaining why he is taking street shots. Possibly the best and most honest approach I have heard to date. This is my favorite site, not only for photos, but the comments.

  • Jef August 2, 2013 11:06 pm

    I am now inspire to take photographs everyday. thank you.

  • Ryan August 2, 2013 03:54 pm

    I just had a problem with #3 today! I saw a guy that would perfectly framed with a really cool look and hesitated on asking him to take a photo. Then, he moved on. Never again!

  • marie August 2, 2013 11:47 am

    i absolutely love this article & totally agree with all of your points! i have been taking one "good" photo of my daughter every day since she was born. She's 21 months old now & my photography has totally improved since first starting. There are so many opportunities of things to shoot in our daily lives - you just have to pay attention ;)

  • Adam Kielich August 2, 2013 09:37 am

    I've never been one to get good shots out of an airplane either. I guess it's time I make another serious effort to try. I'm inspired by you picture.

  • lisa August 2, 2013 08:15 am

    Very good advice. I say this in the nicest way possible... learnt isn't a word. The correct word is learned. But you're a photographer, not a writer, so we'll let you off the hook :-)

  • Carmen Cheung August 2, 2013 07:08 am

    Great tips, I especially like the first tip! I really want to do daily photography so I will for sure remember these tips.

  • Nicolay Nickelsen August 2, 2013 06:12 am

    Very interesting and thank you for sharing your insight and experience. I am one of those too shy to ask people, and yes I will get over it..

    I'm on my second "daily project". I agree it's an interesting journey, seeing how I develop as a photographer and I recognize the ups and downs from challenging myself.

    I first took a photo every day at 9am wherever I was at that time. I ended the "project" after 999 days.
    nn9am.tumblr.com

    A week or so later, I missed the routine, the challenge, the need of capturing the photo of the day. I had broken then chain on my 9am project, so I decided first to capture the sky of the day, quickly found this to be too limiting, or not inspiring, so I went with a looser photo a day. It works, but I think I've lost something I had with "9am".
    nn-daily.tumblr.com

    Yes, I need to start asking people.

    Thanks,
    Nicolay

  • Eric August 2, 2013 05:40 am

    I really enjoyed this article. I couldn't imagine bringing my camera everywhere with me, and even having an iPhone, I rarely use it to take pictures.

    Your approach is so different from my style of photography, but it is nice to be reminded that everyone comes to this art from a different angle.

  • Cameron Kline | Tokyo Photographer October 23, 2012 07:30 pm

    Sound advice Dave, and I particularly like what you're saying about forcing yourself to shoot with only one lens for a week. I think it's something everyone should try as well.

  • Miguel Rozsas January 6, 2012 05:14 am

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I will try as soon as possible (I mean, this very night) your hints to photograph the moon and until this weekend I will try with panning.

  • Glenn January 3, 2012 05:50 am

    Enjoyed your article.

    Thanks for reminding me to get over being hesitant to ask a person if taking their photo is okay.

  • Leigha January 1, 2012 04:38 am

    It seems so long but it's only been one year since I've been to Japan. If you'd like to see my blog I kept while I was visiting, visit www.chacottgirl.blogspot.com

  • Sharon December 30, 2011 12:54 pm

    Your photos are so moving. They make me want to cry. I pledge to do better in 2012

  • Byron December 7, 2011 03:30 pm

    Enjoyed this infomation very much You made some very good points
    about not being shy when asking to take some one picture. good work !!!!!!

  • Claudia September 27, 2011 01:25 am

    Good advice all around, thanks.

  • Egle September 21, 2011 11:42 pm

    Loved all the tips, they are so simple, but you need someone to remind them once in a while. And thanks for shooting the moon tips, unfortunately, can't nail it yet, but still have hope :)

  • Marilyn Armstrong September 20, 2011 03:20 am

    I totally agree with you. It also helps to understand the culture you are dealing with. I was at a pow-wow this weekend and traditional Native Americans will generally refuse to let you take their picture because it takes a piece of their soul. Younger, less traditional, NA will probably say yes. And it's OK to take pictures of the dancers in the circle, or the Drum performing, but not just people per se without checking first.

    I think we should always check first anyway, simply good manners!

    Your trying to be sneaky is likely to raise a red flag, but if you are direct, honest, up front and will take "no" for an answer if that's what you get, it usually isn't a problem.

  • Mike B September 19, 2011 01:28 am

    I live in NYC. My way of getting street shots is to either look for people walking their dog and ask if I can get a picture of their wonderful pet and usually I get a willing shot of the pair. Or I just tell people that I a new parent and am documenting the city as it was when they were little (the truth by the way). I have never had someone say no to that I have even got photos of armed national guard troops on the subway right after 9-11 with that approach. People just want to know your intent and I think they are surprised and honored with the idea that you see them as part of history and the city.

  • Paul September 18, 2011 07:55 am

    Great article, inspirational! Thanks

  • WindCharm September 15, 2011 01:15 pm

    I am so grateful for this article; owing that I live in a two b/r apt and hv limited transport. It forced me to get clever; to think like like a man, but KEEP all the ideas he throws out....ha..ha.. .As for real ideals; If You don't have to far to go, then stay where you are.....HOME.....there is 10 or more things on my table than I could shake a tripod at that would photograph 'pretty-as-a-picture.

    But seriously, get a diff perspective on the same old-old-crap you see everyday; but now you don't have to clean it, this time you shoot it!!!! and let Nature run her course [sorry, no lofty words for closin' up.] Good Shootin' &
    Stay focused.

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Photography Blog September 15, 2011 10:39 am

    This is a fantastic post. I wholeheartedly agree! I take my camera most everywhere and have learned to STOP taking every lens with me. I mostly shoot with my 50mm f/2.8 (my favorite) and it's really taught me how to move to get the shot that I want. When I first started, I would miss out on opportunities by juggling lenses like crazy.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Kimberly

  • kandiTolentino September 15, 2011 04:22 am

    i really like your article. i also love your photos.

  • Bent September 13, 2011 09:19 pm

    Hello David, hello everyone. This site, and it's articles, are the best.

    Me too, I really liked the business card idea! I have ordered some today.

    I was in Cuba this summer, on vacation. Children, youth and adults in Cuba are beautiful, and sometimes I really just want to strech out my hand and shoot. But for me there is a limit there. I just cannot go up to a cuban child - or adult - extend the camera and take a picture. When tourists do this I get angry with them. I have seen tourists walk into schoolyards, gathered the children there (who are only ever so willing to be photographed), they shoot some photos and then leave without even thanking the kids. Who are they to abuse anyone's privacy rights?

    I am probably more conscious on this than most, and actually it bothers me. But being an independent journalist I need every now and then to take photos with anonymous faces. Your advice is actually a help to "getting over it".

    Thanks,

    Bent

  • Maureen Kovacs September 13, 2011 07:39 am

    Great article, very inspiring. I really like the business card you developed. Did you buy the logo or did you make
    it, really creative. I try to give out my card as much as I can, you never know who you hand it out to. I go to horse shows in my area and the people there are very open to having their photos taken. Thanks again.

  • Dave September 12, 2011 02:38 pm

    Thanks for all of the great comments everyone. Glad it was useful for you.

    PJMixer - I like that you are doing a 100 strangers project. I want to do one of those some time. It's a great way to learn.

    silverboarder25 - I find honesty works so if they ask why I would say I am a photographer and I find 'your look' or 'your outfit' or whatever interesting and want to capture that and I am happy to send you a copy. I try to approach approchable people. I do it in Japan and other places when I travel and have had pretty good luck. I did it a lot when I was in Boston with similar results. I am going to try it out in NYC and Germany next month.

  • pjmixer September 12, 2011 08:31 am

    Great post David. I'm a daily photographer and enjoy the challenge of street photography and I applied your simple tip in no. 3 for my daily shot on Thursday - thanks - http://www.flickr.com/photos/pjmixer/6128464515/in/set-72157625263391575/

  • Donna September 11, 2011 12:32 pm

    I will read your contribution to this site now. I know you meant 'learned'. I am a teacher.

  • Peter Ray September 11, 2011 01:42 am

    Is "learnt" a real word? Isn't the past tense of learn, "learned?" It seems this article is set up to flog that very expensive camera ($7,000!).

  • Rafael September 10, 2011 04:05 pm

    so this article rocks big time, i just love your night shots and i would love to get shots like that. im a complete newbie and i cant get a photo like your " Evening construction sites" ... either i get too much noise because of the high ISO or the picture gets blurred because of the low exposure....
    i have a canon 60D with Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens and i think im wasting that gear by shoting at day only with portrait mode (yeah, not manual mode for me ;(...)
    if you can give an advice of shoting at night that would be awesome :)
    thx agan for this wonderful article

  • Marilyn Armstrong September 10, 2011 01:30 pm

    I should add that it's very different approaching people when you;re working. It's much easier for YOU. It's the same for your subjects. Approaching people without an official reason, as a photographer, just because you want to take a picture, is very much harder from YOUR point of view then when you have a story to report.

  • Marilyn Armstrong September 10, 2011 01:22 pm

    Not to be argumentative ... but ... my reporter (TV) husband interviewed people on the street for 40 years. I think that half the people living today in New England were interviewed him at one time or another. It was a LONG career.

    Yes, some people said no -- usually because they were camera shy -- but most said yes. It wasn't because it was for TV ... it was in spite of it. In my limited journalistic career (just a few years), most people will allow themselves to be both interviewed and photographed if you ask nicely AND are willing to answer their questions. They don't want to find themselves on America's funniest whatever. No one wants to be made to look a fool. And some people don't want to be seen for reasons that are better left unexamined. There are plenty of rude people but I have lived in 3 countries,Wherever I went, there have always been many more pleasant and decent folks. Being polite counts, If you are friendly and non-aggressive, people respond in the same way. We pick up cues from each other. Even here, in the good ole' USA.

  • Mr. Jules September 10, 2011 12:37 pm

    People in Japan are very different than people in North America, sure over there 90% will let you take pictures of them cause they are very civil, polite and respectful.
    On the other hand in North America, I would say maybe 30-40% will say yes, the rest will tell you off or give you the finger or worse ( business cards or not )
    You are very lucky to live in Japan.
    And finally one thousand photographers have written about the same things in other articles.
    Repetition is so boring.

  • Anwer Qureishi September 10, 2011 06:24 am

    Excellent post, applicable to both budding photographers and photo buffs.

  • Marilyn Armstrong September 10, 2011 05:55 am

    I actually went out and most bravely approached a woman I didn't know ... Okay, she was obviously a young mommy with baby in carriage and two big dogs on a country road around the corner from home -- not exactly a frightening group -- but it was my first approach. It went fine, I met a neighbor for the first time and I got some neat shots of mom and especially of the little one. My husband was a TV news reporter for 40 years, so he laughed at me since that was, from his point of view, basic reporting 101. Although some reporters don't ask ...he always thought good manners and maintaining a good relationship with his viewers required it. He also commented that those big TV cameras could scare people, so explaining what you were doing always calmed people down and lowered their suspicions.

    AND finally, I backed up ALL my pictures ... every last one of them! So you made a difference. Isn't that nice to hear? I think I'm going to buy a second external drive so I can back up twice. Better safe than sorry.

  • Charlie September 10, 2011 05:48 am

    Problems, problems. Which lens should I use with my M9... ;)

    Seriously, a thoughtful article and very timely for me.

  • Angela September 10, 2011 05:04 am

    Excellent tips, I should bring my camera with me more often.

  • jong araneta September 10, 2011 02:52 am

    nice tips...a lesson to learn.

    i tried shooting outside airplane window (off flash) during my vacation last july in philippines and i love the results.

  • max September 10, 2011 12:36 am

    i read just about every DPS offering, and this is by far the most useful and, yes, inspiring. Thank you.

  • Rae September 9, 2011 11:51 pm

    very nice article. i also live in tokyo, and experienced the earthquake. in fact my school is REALLY close to where the fire started..... and i love how i can tell where u took the pics!!

  • David September 9, 2011 10:39 pm

    Are you making money on these images? If so do you need a model release? Or do you consider them editorial and no release necessary? Just curious.

  • Lou September 9, 2011 09:47 pm

    Quite possibly my favorite read to date on DPS
    Thank you.

  • Varun Raj Minocha September 9, 2011 08:45 pm

    A really nice article. Was a good read.

  • Mark September 9, 2011 08:42 pm

    Great post! Love the tips. Inspired I am.

  • Martina Tierney September 9, 2011 06:40 pm

    Wonderful article for newish photographer. Lots of useful advice, backed up with picture examples. More please!

  • foobar September 9, 2011 06:40 pm

    How can anyone take those tips seriously.

    "Shooting out of an airplane window" Really?
    "Shooting at nigh", DUH!
    "Develop your own style", well, no shit sherlock ...

    Sometimes I ask myself why those people with the shittiest skills and the most horrible pictures are allowed to write such dumb articles and so many people follow them like they are gods.

  • Fuzzypiggy September 9, 2011 06:24 pm

    I love point 2. Yes I am very shy and am on the brink of finally trying to go up to people and stick my lens in their face. It's heartening when you say 'most people like having their picture taken' and the idea of knocking up a couple of dozen cards on the printer at home to give people to legitimize it, is a great tip!

    Here in the UK, things have got very paranoid lately and the Police and trumped up security guards are forever picking on photographers for no other reason than we look like easy targets. Street shooting in London is a pain, in 2 years shooting part-time, I have been pulled up 5 times and questioned about what I am doing, also thrown out of public areas at least 3 times by trumped little jobsworths with nothing better to do when they see someone with a DSLR, even though tourists with compacts next to me are left alone!

  • mac September 9, 2011 05:51 pm

    "With my Leica M9 I shoot a 21mm f/1.4 Summilux, a 35mm f/1.4 Summilux and a 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux."

    That's about $30,000-worht of kit, without the 5D2 + lenses. What do you do for your day job?! ;-)

    Great article, Dave!

  • Marilyn Armstrong September 9, 2011 03:18 pm

    I lost a hard. Actually two, on different computers. The first time, everything was backed up. I didn't lose anything. The second time? Some of it was backed up but it had been several months. I lost a lot of pictures and I have never ever stopped regretting it.

    NOW I back up. I post things on websites partly to preserve them. I back up to flash drive and external HDs. I back up everything and often. It is a lesson that no one should learn the hard way.

    I think I'm going to try and work more at night. I never have, and you have rather inspired me to give it a try. I have everything I need, so all I need do is.... DO it!

  • Sarah C September 9, 2011 01:39 pm

    Awesome. Many thanks. Really interested in HDR, but will totally be discovering panning. Got a few of those by accident and appreciate the explanation!

  • Fatah September 9, 2011 01:05 pm

    Thank you Dave.. your lessons are very helpful and your work is inspiring

  • Lito September 9, 2011 12:35 pm

    Two thumbs up...I am a noob photographer and have not been carrying my camera lately. This helped me decide otherwise. Thanks.

  • celeste September 9, 2011 11:47 am

    Fantastic tips.many I do but not all.I can improve...so thanks!!!
    Terrific information
    And I always shoot out of planes.I love the shapes and difusion.
    Celeste

  • Paul P. Amora September 9, 2011 11:46 am

    thank you for sharing this...lots of learnings we got from you.

  • Bill September 9, 2011 11:29 am

    Solid tips. Thanks for sharing.

  • Karen September 9, 2011 11:24 am

    Great tips! Thank you for this. Especially the tip about getting over your fear about asking people if you can take their photos. I had thought that the answer would usually be no. Good to know your experience is different. This was a very helpful article.

  • Scottc September 9, 2011 11:22 am

    I agree with most, not all, of the 10 points of this article. I really don't see what shooting out of airplane windows has to do with the topic, the included photos are nice but most aircraft windows? Who flies that often?

    I also think that most (at least those of us jobs) realistically don't have much time for "daily" shooting. No doubt it's a great way to improve our photography, but who can do that these days? There's no way I can commit to taking one worthwhile photograph a day, I work 12 plus hours a day.

    The "365" theme is obsolete, "do what you can when you can" is more realistic.

    I noined a 52 project this year and can't even keep up with that. Work just doesn't leave much for afterwards these days.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5349288759/

  • Fred September 9, 2011 10:51 am

    Loosing images is like loosing a good friend. With all your bad luck with your macs dying, you might want to look into a line conditioner. Most people have surge protectors and a few have battery back up. If you have old wiring or a live some place where the power isn't so secure, a line conditioner is a good option. Hope that helps.

  • Mei Teng September 9, 2011 10:48 am

    Excellent tips. I really agree with tip #4.

  • Dianne Ward September 9, 2011 10:36 am

    Great article and tips! Fantastic shots to accompany it, thanks!

  • Linda Brinckehroff September 9, 2011 10:16 am

    Great article.
    Just one thing I'd like to add - There is no reall backup unless it is redundant (a 2nd copy) and it is off site.
    Broken pipes, floods, fires, failure to read the backup - in 40 years of software engineering, I've seen it happen many times that the backup is lost.

    After downloading my compact flash cards, they are copied to my hard drive, then the hard drive copy is copied onto Passport Drive A. This is then taken to my husband's office. Passport Drive A is exchanged for Passport Drive B in my husband's office. Drive A stays at the office and Drive B is returned to me and I copy the new images again onto Drive B.

    If your backup copy is in the same place as your original copy, you don't have backup.

  • John Daley September 9, 2011 10:08 am

    Great post Dave. I enthusiastically agree (although I"m ambivalent about airplane window shots and I still can't bring myself to embrace HDR (yet) but everything else is spot on.) This is what I would tell any aspiring photographer. Now I can just point them to this post..

  • Craig September 9, 2011 09:09 am

    Great article full of some very useful advise. I'm still VERY reluctant to approach people in the street (maybe it's a British thing) but it's one that I would like to overcome.

    It definitely got me thinking about the shots I take and how often, I really need to take my camera with me more often and your one lens limit sounds like the ideal way to start.

  • Amber September 9, 2011 08:13 am

    Excellent advice! Thank you for the bit of motivation. Also really appreciate your take on photographing people, been struggling myself with this as I've converted to a fixed lens Canon G12 for backpacking ease. So I have to get up close and personal!

  • Joel September 9, 2011 07:29 am

    Cannot agree more! Great article.

  • Robert September 9, 2011 07:04 am

    Excellent article! All things I do now from expeerience but could have saved a small fortune had someone told me years ago.

  • v September 9, 2011 06:58 am

    oh yeah, i got tired of carrying lenses - i went micro 4/3rds. now i can focus

  • hugh September 9, 2011 06:57 am

    I keep telling myself that I need to start carrying my camera everywhere.. I even got a bag to down-size what I carry..
    Maybe I'll start.
    Tomorrow, maybe.

  • v September 9, 2011 06:55 am

    great post, i loved this:

    I do next to no post processing on the photos. The most I will do is clean up any dust spots, crop a little, or adjust exposure but for me photoshop on my Mac is to correct little imperfections but not for making pictures....Learn the basics and then decide how you choose to apply them.

  • george September 9, 2011 05:55 am

    Hi David,

    Great article. A lot of valid points here. The only thing i think i do not fully agree is to shot in any single place. Unlike you if i am left in one place for 10 minutes or 1 day if i do not like it i do not shoot it. For me the place needs to mean something needs to evoke some feeling otherwise the result is just a meaningless picture. But it is just me.

  • Randall Murrow September 9, 2011 05:49 am

    Thanks for this, I've been needing a serious kick to get out and shoot on a daily basis instead of tying myself down to the computer and "working" all of the time. Noticed the X100 around your neck as well, that's my new tool to hopefully put my goals into practice! Cheers, R

  • Justin September 9, 2011 05:39 am

    Great Article! As someone who's just getting into photography, these are great tips.

  • Steve Davison September 9, 2011 05:15 am

    Great article - inspiring stuff.

  • Mojtaba Onsori September 9, 2011 04:25 am

    I'm really shy when i want photograph people,i took my camera's out when nobody couldn't see me,and i'd go some where to take pictures of the animals,on jungles and son on:D
    But that helped me alot,all of those!
    Sorry for my english!
    Thanks!

  • zahed September 9, 2011 04:19 am

    David, thanks for the advice. very motivational - just the thing to help me improve.

  • C.B.UPARKAR September 9, 2011 03:58 am

    David,

    Many thanks for sharing. I was surprised to note the commanalitiy in your suggestions. I do prctise many of these ideas. like carryig camer everytime, take picture of people etc.Shooting from aeroplane windows, has been my regular practice. It has given me some of the most interesting subjects. From sunrise to sunset, lightening, cloud formations, landscapes, sea shores and so on. Hongkong airport has been my favourite location to shoot aircraft s of so many different airlines during stopovers.

  • Santhosh September 9, 2011 03:30 am

    I love photography and own a lot of gear.But these days i am obsessed with shooting in prime wide angle lens and whatever you have said is absolutely true.Great HDR and panning shots.Bokeh in certain photos is good.

  • Ania September 9, 2011 03:20 am

    very interesting and helpful, thank you... love no.5 in particular, about shooting with one lens for some time in order to master it :)
    I'm currently in Morocco and I have to say that I have a totally opposite experience with asking people if I can photograph them, 9 out of 10 will say NO when asked... some can be quite unpleasant, some will say yes and then ask for money... so most of my people shots are done from "hiding" ;-)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mytidbits/6126866864/in/photostream

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer September 9, 2011 03:12 am

    I started my photography career while living in Tokyo and went through the carry all lenses stage as well. Then as you suggested I would go out with just a single lens to save weight, increase mobility, and force myself to only look for a certain shot.

    Do you think Tokyo is the best city in the world for street photography? It was my favorite type of photography to do there.

  • Verena September 9, 2011 02:23 am

    I really liked your article! I've also started to take pictures daily and I'm already improving a lot. I find it most rewarding to take pictures of things that people take for granted or don't notice because they're just going about their daily business. Yesterday for example I took a picture of something I used to walk past every day for at least 2 1/2 years: http://experimentsinexperience.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/temptation/

    Now after almost a month I tend to walk around constantly thinking of how something would look like through the viewfinder of my camera if I don't have it on me or if it's still in the bag.

  • Larry McDonald September 9, 2011 02:10 am

    If you ask someone if you can take their pic, and you give them your b card with your email so they can ask for the pic. You do that say 20 times to diffrent people. How do you match their pic request to their pic?

  • mapgirl September 9, 2011 01:46 am

    I loved this article and the photos, in part because I'm definitely in a photography funk. I'd love to take pictures of people but have felt it would be an intrusion. But--starting today--I'll carry my camera with one lens and challenge myself to photograph people wherever I am (always asking permission). Frankly, it makes me nervous just thinking about it. But my plant macros have gone stale, so I could really use the change. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Johnny Yau September 9, 2011 01:35 am

    I like to know if we need always to shoot in highest MP as the camera can offer? Because lower resolution would make faster transfer of files to a computer. Thanks

  • ErikKerstenbeck September 9, 2011 01:33 am

    Love this article - I used to carry my entire kit on my back, see something, think about an appropriate setup, setup, compose, shoot and continue on. While this often yielded great shots, not only was it heavy, but time consuming. During a recent engagement shoot, I only carried my trusty 70-200mm f2.8. Even this simple shot of a bottle of Champagne held by the Fiancee turned out well - it was set up and execute within 1 minute, then we moved on!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/le-reve/

  • Silverboarder25 September 9, 2011 01:28 am

    Yuri, maybe someone can back me up or correct me, but I believe it's legal as long as it's a public place. I think I read that somewhere... anyone verify/deny?

  • Silverboarder25 September 9, 2011 01:24 am

    Thoughts on when you ask someone if you can take their picture and you get the response "why?" Just curious.

    I had great success with it in the Tsukiji fish market this past May. There, it was simply a matter of raising my camera and pointing at it since I didn't speak any japanese. It was actually very rewarding to ask, as I recieved plenty of smiles all around whenever I asked (9/10, like you said), I actually had some stall owners hold up fish and show me some neat things that I hadn't seen. I know I saved myself some of those awkward chase off's about no pictures, because I saw fellow tourists get them.

  • wbp September 9, 2011 01:23 am

    "Shooting at Night

    What you need is a tripod, a low ISO and some practice."

    Surely you meant high ISO?

  • AC September 9, 2011 01:10 am

    What a super article. Maybe I will lose my shyness over photographing people someday.

  • Jeff September 9, 2011 01:09 am

    It can be hard to go out and take pictures daily if it's not your job, especially for those of us with children. So I always try to find interesting things to shoot within a short walk of my home. i took this picture only a few hundred yards from my front door: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff_levitt/5870979093/

  • TrentReznor September 9, 2011 01:05 am

    Funny, recently stumbled upon your site and read that exact same article. Some good advice in there.

  • Yuri September 9, 2011 12:57 am

    While shooting a crowd, how do you ask permissions from all these people? Is it legal to post a picture with many people without their permission?

  • Sarah Bell September 9, 2011 12:56 am

    Love the shots...thanks for the inspiration.

  • Sam Cox September 9, 2011 12:22 am

    I love this article with its superb images and excellent advice!

  • Kristen September 9, 2011 12:17 am

    Love.it! Great tips! Thanks for the article

  • Vera September 9, 2011 12:15 am

    Thank you for sharing these, love the photos you shared just as much as the lessons themselves :)

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