I’ve been using some version of “street” photography as practice and exercise for all areas of my photography since I started taking it seriously in 2015, but I’ve never been as focused and regimented about honing my approach to street photography every day as I have been since the start of 2018, when I decided to give myself an entire year to “make it” as a photographer.
Although I don’t know that I’ve “made it,” yet I definitely think that allocating as much time as I did to pursuing my passion has left me with some very interesting results, in my workflow, my clients, and my images themselves.
Part of my industrialized direction towards street photography involved keeping notes on the time of day, conditions, and my feelings while out and about shooting street. These notes helped a lot when looking back on my work at the end of the week, and helped plan out new shots, or plans to return to previous compositions at a different time for a change in light, or the kind of character that would be out and about.
I learned that some photographers would use their Instagram story for a similar kind of note taking, using short video clips to record first a wide shot of the scene and the light before moving the attention to the back of their camera screen to show what precisely they captured — showing that their work was a true reflection of the moment, how light was manipulated through exposure settings, and sometimes to show a burst of images taken before settling on the one they were waiting for.
I started doing the same and compiled them into a highlights reel, which keeps Instagram stories for longer than the usual 24 hours. I was surprised at first how often I actually reviewed the videos myself, keeping track of the kinds of things I watched out for, and also using the wider context not usually available in the still images I actually end up with to review the scene and spot potential for how I could have approached things differently.
Not every single keeper has a video to go along with it, due to either my not remembering or simply wanting to only focus on photography and my phone therefore being switched off. You can watch my highlights reel here (Sorry for the quality — it was the highest Instagram videos will save as. You can also watch the clips here):
After a while, I even received messages from some of my followers who enjoyed seeing not only how often I was updating my story with fresh inspirational content but how that content itself changed in their view now that they could see the kind of environment I was working with. People were offering me advice, or asking questions about why I exposed a certain way to render some things as shadow/highlight, or how long I’d waited at a particular spot.
Even though I know that this is already a form of note-taking photographers use when it came to the end of the year I was very proud to have an entire year’s worth of video to playback, starting from January all the way through to December. I think it’s a neat timeline of some of my best work and shows the progress I’ve made especially with my composition.
From around July, these videos become less frequent as I started photographing more and more on film, and as of this article film has taken over as my main medium for personal and street photography, with digital remaining for commercial and client work.
I think it will be interesting to switch from taking these videos for street to maybe recording some BTS for my fashion photography, or even weddings and other photojournalism; I’ll have to see how everything works out.
About the author: Simon King is a London based photographer and photojournalist, currently working on a number of long-term documentary and street photography projects. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can follow his work on Instagram and you can read more of his thoughts on photography day-to-day over on his personal blog. Simon also teaches a short course in Street Photography at UAL, which can be read about here.