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50 Things I Try to Avoid in Street Photography

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I am a huge proponent of negative learning, that you can learn more by taking on the opposite approach. Philosopher Nassim Taleb calls this “via negativa”. It is the idea that the best way to gain “happiness” in life isn’t chasing what makes us happy, but by vehemently avoiding what makes us unhappy (a long commute to work, a horrible micro-managing boss, poisonous and negative “friends”, and an expensive house mortgage).

I also believe strongly that one should never listen to “rules” of anything in life (especially street photography). However, below is a list of things (which has personally helped me) I avoid in street photography . Pick and choose what resonates with you, and leave the rest:

50 Things I Try to Avoid in Street Photography

  1. “Chimping” (checking the LCD screen) after taking photos on the streets
  2. Using more than one lens for street photography (I prefer a 35mm)
  3. Mixing my digital and film photos in a project
  4. Letting the number of “favorites” or “likes” dictate whether a photo is good or not
  5. Letting criticism affect me negatively. Rather, I try to use it to empower me to find weaknesses in my work.
  6. Uploading a photo online publicly without having at least 3 people critique it in-person first
  7. Spending a lot of time looking at photos online ; rather I spend more time looking at photo books
  8. Leaving the house without a camera
  9. Hesitating before taking a street photograph
  10. Cluttered backgrounds
  11. Showing my bad photos (I have tons of them)
  12. Shooting more than one type of film at a time (Kodak Portra 400 for color, Kodak Tri-X for black and white)
  13. Going a full day without taking a photographstreet-photography-tips-01
  14. Involving myself in online debates about the definition of “street photography”
  15. Meeting my photography friends without some new work to show them and get critique on
  16. Charging money for my photos
  17. Taking a photo of someone on the streets without saying “thank you” by smiling at them
  18. Focusing on single images. Rather, I try to focus on projects
  19. Looking at gear review sites (when I’m bored) unless I’m serious about buying a new camera
  20. Owning more than one lens for my camera (only a 35mm)
  21. Caring about sharpness
  22. Bokeh in street photography
  23. Forgetting how lucky I am to be able to go out and take photos
  24. Taking boring photos
  25. Taking check-in luggage when I travelstreet-photography-tips-02
  26. Comparing myself to other photographers
  27. Developing my film for at least 3 months after I shoot it
  28. Uploading photos online until letting it “marinate” for at least 6 months to a year
  29. Falling into the trap that buying a new camera will make me suddenly become more “creative” and “inspired” in my photography
  30. Not asking for permission to take someone’s photo in the street (Editor’s note: yes double negative here so he DOES ask for permission in other words)
  31. Checking comments on my photos more than once a week
  32. Spending more time on social media, and less time out shooting on the streets
  33. Leaving comments or critiques on other people’s photos that are shorter than 4 sentences long
  34. Only taking photos of people
  35. Taking photos of homeless people
  36. Taking photos of street performers
  37. Deleting photos (unless they are really nice or the photo is boring)
  38. Taking the film out of my camera when someone asks me tostreet-photography-tips-04
  39. Shooting to please my critics
  40. Ultimately shooting for anybody else but myself
  41. Making excuses when a photo doesn’t work
  42. Taking photos without emotion
  43. Recommending zoom lenses in street photography
  44. Recommending lenses longer than 50mm for street photography
  45. Shooting wide open on the streets (generally at f/8-f/16)
  46. Recommending selective color or HDR for post-processing street photographs
  47. Keeping photos that I think are good but really aren’t
  48. Shooting in bad light without a flash
  49. Sharing more than one photo a week on social media
  50. Recommending that you should listen to everything in this list. Rather, make your own! 🙂

Editor’s note: what things do you try and avoid when you’re doing photography of any kind? Share your list with us in the comment section below!

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Eric Kim
Eric Kim

an international street photographer, educator, and blogger. His passion is teaching street photography workshops and building communities all around the globe. You can connect over on his blog Eric Kim Street Photography or see his portfolio on his website.