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Eric Kim
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The beauty of "creative constraints" in photography

I was having a chat with my friend Josh White about cameras in photography. He made a great point: why is it that we as photographers always talk about the camera we want (that will apparently make us more "creative") rather than using the cameras we already own to create art?

I'm currently re-reading "Letters From A Stoic" by Seneca in which he tells a story of a sculptor who was able to make a beautiful statue regardless of the material; marble, stone, wood, or gold.

I think this is a beautiful analogy for our photography. I think we can make beautiful art regardless of the tools or instruments we have. Rather than goading for what we don't have, let us try to make the best with what we have.

I know a lot of photographers who wish that they had expensive digital Leicas or some other camera. But these photographers are better off using the cameras they already own and going off and making images, rather than wasting valuable time, attention, and energy into wanting what they can't have.

The best example I think in street photography is the emergence of "mobile street photography", in which photographers from all around the world are only using smartphones to make beautiful images.

But some people say: "Oh, but a smartphone isn't a 'real' camera and that it has limitations. It has shitty low iso capability, you can't print it big, and it isn't as responsive as a 'real" camera."

But these limitations can actually help our creativity. They call it "creative constraints." If your smartphone has poor image quality, then it forces you to only shoot in good light. If your smartphone has a slow autofocus, you can focus on just shooting people who aren't moving.

Let me take this analogy further; let's say your camera has a long minimum focusing distance (a Leica can only focus up to 70 centimeters). Sure it would be nice if it could focus closer, but that constraint forces you to be more creative with your compositions.

The prime example of creative constraints in street photography are prime lenses (sorry for the bad pun). By limiting your field of view, you are forced to capture reality into your limited frame in an interesting and novel way.

Also if you think about it, the art of photography itself is about constraining reality into a single frame. What you keep out of the frame is more important than what you decide to leave in the frame.

I recently got my laptop stolen in Paris, and I first was upset. But it is probably the best thing that happened to me, as now I'm restrained to doing most of my writing on my smartphone (I'm typing this on my smartphone as we speak). I've found the restriction of not having a laptop has helped me be more creative to use my smartphone in novel ways.

Let's take this idea further: restricting yourself to either color or black and white is another great "creative constraint". By only shooting in color, it forces you to try to make images that have good color combinations. By focusing only in black and white, it forces you not to be distracted by colors.

Another great creative restraint is by restraining the area in which you shoot. Very rarely are world travelers the best photographers. All of their photos end up being touristy "National Geographic" shots of landmarks in Asia and other "exotic" countries. A photographer who is doing a long term documentary project in his or her hometown generally ends up making more interesting photos, as they are forced to create more interesting images out of "boring" subject matter.

Creative constraints will set you free in your photography and life.

See what other constraints you can create for yourself, like only shooting one type of subject matter, or focusing only on one project. Strip away the superfluous and extraneous, and you will create beautiful art.
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+Neil Ta​ shares his experiences shooting the streets of Cuba on his film Hasselblad xpan, lots of great insights!
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Contact sheet: Amsterdam, 2015
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Learn from the Masters Lesson 5: Emotionally detach yourself from your photographs

“Sometimes photographers mistake emotion for what makes a great street photograph.” - Garry Winogrand

Imagine this situation: it is a cold and rainy day. You are out shooting on the streets, and you are feeling miserable. You haven’t got any good shots all day, despite the fact that you left your warm (and dry) house to take some street photos. You are about to give up and go home when you see a little girl with a red umbrella about to jump over a puddle.

You think of the famous photograph of Henri Cartier-Bresson (man jumping over puddle), and get excited. You hold up your camera, and wait patiently. The girl then jumps, and you click. You quickly look at your LCD screen and you realize: “voila!” You just captured the “decisive moment.” You are excited.

You then rush home, quickly download your photos to your computer, post-process the photo, and then upload the photograph to your social media website of choice. You cross your arms, and think that it is one of the finest photographs you have ever taken. You are excited that perhaps, finally, you will get over 100+ favorites/likes on this image.

A day or so passes, and you only got 10-15 favorites/likes. You throw up your hands in rage and think to yourself: “These people on the internet wouldn’t know a great image if it hit them in the face!” You then continue about your day. A week or two go by, and you revisit the image. You then look at the image and tell yourself: “Hey, this image isn’t quite as good as I remembered it to be.”

What just happened? You became emotionally attached to the backstory of how difficult it was to get that image (and the emotion you felt of being excited). This confused you into thinking that this was actually an “objectively” good shot.

This happens to the best of us. We get too emotionally attached to our shots, because we were there. We experienced it. It feels alive and vivid inside our memories.

But the problem is that our viewers have no idea what the backstory of the image is (unless you write a long caption, which I generally advise against).

So what is the solution? Try to emotionally detach yourself from your photos. When editing (selecting) which images to “keep” and “ditch,” ask your peers to be “brutally honest” with your work. Another tip: don’t refer to the photos you take as “my photos.” Refer to them as “the photos.” The difference? Calling them “the photos” detaches you emotionally from them, so you can be more critical and objective when editing your shots.
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If you love dogs and street photography, don't miss out the work of Siri Thompson! http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2015/07/14/of-raising-dogs-and-pursuing-reflections-an-interview-with-siri-thompson/
(Interview by A.g. De Mesa. All photos by Siri Thompson) Siri Thompson is a photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She constantly photographs her city in a manner inspired by her photographic heroes while putting her own unique twist. Siri also has a soft place in her heart for animals. Her photos
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Amsterdam, 2015
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Are you in Amsterdam? Awesome and sorry on behalf of our weather gods. 
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Learn the theories behind composition from Henri Cartier-Bresson 
I am excited to share this new presentation I just put together on the theory of composition in street photography, drawing from the wisdom of Henri Cartier-Bresson. You can see the entire presentation below: Slideshare Download PDF Learn more about composition: ; If you want to learn how to
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If you're feeling like your street photography is in a rut and you want to find inspiration and your style, don't miss out on my London “Discover Your Unique Voice in Street Photography” Workshop (Aug 21-23)! Only a few spots remain, don't miss out! 
ARE YOU STUCK IN A CREATIVE RUT AND LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION TO TAKE YOUR STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TO THE NEXT LEVEL? Do you feel that when you look at your street photographs, you have a hard time defining your style? Do you dream of creating unique and eye-popping images that stand out from the crowd?
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Hey guys while the blog is down enjoy the open source ebook: "The Street Photography Composition Manual". Free pdf download here :) : https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxslI7nEWY93ZDEyOGNqNVBZTkU/view?usp=docslist_api
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Hey streettogs, if you want to find your own voice in street photography and meet other passionate street photographers, I have a few spots left in my London, Stockholm, New Orleans, SF, and LA workshops! Spots are selling out fast, don't miss out!
If you want to conquer your fear of shooting street photography, meet other passionate street photographers, and take your work to the next level consider joining one of my upcoming workshops! I have taught over 40+ workshops, across 17+ countries, to over 500+ students who have stepped outside of
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"Learn From the Masters" Lesson #1: Get closer

“If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough.” - Robert Capa

One of the common mistakes that many beginning street photographers make is this: they don’t get close enough.

We have many fears and provide a lot of excuses for not getting close enough in our street photography. We are worried about pissing people off, we are worried about making other people feel uncomfortable, and we are worried that strangers might call the cops on us (or even worse, physically assault us).

However realize that this is all in your head. By getting closer to a stranger, you won’t die. In-fact, I have learned that in photography (and life), with physical proximity comes emotional proximity.

It isn’t enough to use a telephoto or zoom lens to get “close” to your subject. That is fake intimacy. By using a telephoto lens, you are treating your subjects like zoo animals, and your photography is a safari hunt.

In street photography I generally recommend using a 35mm lens (full-frame equivalent) for most photographers (Alex Webb, Constantine Manos, and Anders Petersen shoot with this focal length). The human eye sees the world in around a 40mm field-of-view, and I find that shooting with a 35mm lens gives you enough wiggle-room around the edges of the frame. A 50mm is fine too (Henri Cartier-Bresson was famous for using it for nearly his entire life), but in today’s crowded world, I find it to be a bit too tight. A 28mm is fantastic too (William Klein, Bruce Gilden, and Garry Winograd have used this focal length), but realize that you have to be close enough with this lens to fill the frame.

As a rule-of-thumb, I try to shoot with a 35mm at least two-arm-lengths away (or closer). 2 arm-lengths is 1.2 meters (around 4 feet). Therefore I always have my camera pre-focused to 1.2 meters, set at f/8, ISO 1600, and I simply go out to find moments to shoot.

The .7 Meter Challenge

To truly get comfortable getting closer to your subjects, try this assignment from my friend Satoki Nagata: For an entire month, only take photos of your subjects from .7 meters (1-arm-length). For this assignment, switch your camera to manual-focusing mode, and tape the focusing mechanism of your lens to that distance. By setting yourself this “creative constraint,” you will learn how to better engage your subjects and get them comfortable with you shooting at such a close distance.

Start off by asking for permission, then once you feel more courageous, start shooting candidly.
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+R.G van de Stouwe RGSphoto-art agreed only guidelines
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Street photography Shootout: iPhone vs Samsung Galaxy s6, who will win? 
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