San Francisco’s Travis Jensen has some advice for how to develop your own street photography moxie:
Try not to get caught up on perfection. I spent years obsessing over it, lining things up just so and making sure everything was tack sharp. If the frame’s a little crooked or your subject is a little out of focus, so be it. The images Hipstamatic produces are far from perfect and can be very unpredictable, and that why I love the app. It helps you let loose—and that’s where true style comes from, in my opinion. Embrace Wabi-Sabi.
Being sneaky leads to trouble. I’ve seen this backfire on people many times. I’m usually very open when shooting on the street. Sometimes I ask before taking a shot, and other times I shoot first and ask later. Trust your instincts.
Get close, be bold. In the immortal words of Robert Capa: “If it’s not good enough, you’re not close enough…” (Though I don’t think one can compare street photography to snapping photos while dodging shell fire on the beaches of Normandy.)
Try shooting solo or in small groups. Too many people can taint the photo well, meaning people will go out of their way to avoid the circus. I find I get my best images when lurkin’ solo or with one or two other people at most.
The key to good photography is light. Light is everything—study it. If I see something interesting and the light isn’t right, I usually just walk right past it. I’ve seen pictures of garbage cans look like majestic shrines under the right light.
Don’t be afraid to approach someone. People usually ask me how I go about doing this: I simply walk up to an individual or a group of individuals I find interesting, introduce myself, tell them that I am a photographer and would love to take their picture. I’d say eight or nine out of every ten folks I ask say yes. Street photography is the perfect cure shyness.
Study the work of other photographers. Maybe take a little something from everyone’s work you admire and apply it to your own. That’s what I do, and I find that over time this practice leads to you finding your own style. I like being able to look at a photograph and know who shot it without seeing a byline. Some of my favorite photographers include: Jerry Berndt, Diane Arbus, Gary Winogrand, Andres Kertesz, Fred Lyon, Boogie, and Brad Evans.
Fresh off his work with Brad Evans on the #iSnapSF Field Journal, Travis is preparing to launch his next series, “A New York Minute: 96 Hours On the Streets of the Big Apple.” The series of 26 Hipstamatic images (all John S. and BlacKeys SuperGrain) will be featured at a pop-up restaurant in San Francisco. Check out Travis’s website for more info!