How you can get the best pictures during your photography adventures and still feel good about them?

All images ©Michael

Some of the most important aspects of street photography that are often overlooked are "to be "engaged", "be yourself" and "getting lucky" in your photography.

With "engaged" I mean to be fully alert,100% committed to getting a potentially great shot, and open for some opportunism and willingness to communicate with the people around you or scenes you like to capture up close. 

But even more, the willingness of "eagerness" to get the shot happening before you.
This often means finding a fresh perspective, maneuver yourself in the right direction, and communicate with your subject if necessary, observing and waiting for the right gesture or decisive moment or both. Watch the light, notice the background and edge of your frame and use it. 
Sounds like a lot of work? Actually, it is!

A good way to start any photoshoot or portrait session is to say simply "Hello" how are you? 
Look people friendly in the eye and start engaging with your camera close to your face or eye explaining you like to take their picture.
Sure this does not apply to photographers using a 200mm or 300mm lens, you know the one you bought for shooting wildlife in Tanzania.

There are no limits to what you can or should do or use but let's stick to the street photography that we love because we get close to the local culture or just learn to communicate with people around you.

Sometimes just an acknowledgment and smile is enough to open the start of a mini portrait session. Adapt to the situation by reading the reactions and body language.
Show some genuine interest in what people are doing and get involved.
Walk on when you and your camera are rejected and there is no good feeling or feedback.
There is a saying "choose your fights carefully"

Share your first images if possible by showing the shot you did. When you end up using a lot of time perhaps give some donation for the pleasure. Or if possible come back next time with a print.

With "being lucky" I consider the fact that most street moments only happen once and you have to be very alert and engaged with the location and your camera choice of lens and settings to "get lucky", otherwise, you are thinking about all kinds of reasons not to take the picture and miss the typical moment.

It is impossible to stay in that observer zone, of course, all the time, but keep in mind what you are there for, taking pictures, work hard and take your time to look around and be a casual bystander or just relax and wait for that indescribable feeling of inspiration and curiosity to reappear.

"The more you practice, the luckier you get."

Rule #1 is to be THERE and look around and try to see things as they are or perhaps how you can make things happen that will produce the picture you are after. 
Yes, its hard work and a lot of fun when things come your way but you got to be ready and open to see the opportunity and be ready to step in to make it into an image.

Be fast and stealth and be an unobtrusive observer with a camera, and actually take the shot. Don't hesitate!
This is all very subjective and personal. It won't work for everybody and rightfully so. Photography is and can be a projection of your own personality and vision so if it feels awkward this could be a good sign and get you out of your comfort zone. 

Streetphotography can work in many different ways, as long as you are enjoying this genre. 
Notice that a lot of photographers like landscape photography for obvious reasons. Quietness, solitude, fresh air, and a basically static subject matter. 
Street photography is all about trying to capture dynamics, involvement with people, capturing the special moment, trying, failing, getting dirty and "being lucky".

Rule #2, Do It!

One of the pleasures of photography and actually anything you fully enjoy is that you are not thinking about something else in your life for a while.
Photography can be a perfect escape, a private moment that dissolves time and place and makes you live in the moment and connect.
It can take you into that zone of full alertness and being in the moment. 
Nothing beats that feeling of finding a golden picture and telling a good story.

Some people during my photo tours have second thoughts, or a minor culture shock while doing for example street photography or documentary work that involves serious poverty or facing other cultures, religions, and people in general.
We live in a time that everything we do is weighted by some sense of political correctness it seems for some and I respect that. 
Photography should make you think, evaluate your mindset and values, and often we think too much, while you are missing the spontaneous moment right before your eyes. 

Shoot it or not?

A naked boy with a stray dog on the main boulevard in Phnom Penh. 
A sensitive moment in many ways and luckily there are no private parts in clear view, so yes this image was a go for me. 
There is a huge contrast between the clean hard surface and the naked boy on his knees helping his dog with an issue in his pawn. 
Leaving the rest of the background out the image, the boy becomes more isolated and the focus is totally on the subject in a graphic direct way.  

A confronting moment with dire poverty and neglect.
Shoot it or not? 

I think it's important to show this kind of reality in Cambodia. 
Only a stone throw away from the big NGO's like Oxfam-Novib and Unicef and other help organizations. 
This is the result of billions of those dollars of aid funding for children in Cambodia?
Incapable of lifting the poorest people in Phnom Penh out of poverty right in front of their doorstep. 
This girl and her parents living in the slums, her situation is not improving at all and the aid projects are passing her by.
I worked as a photographer for some of the major NGO's here in Cambodia and know the drill of their policy's and self-preservation of writing slick-looking brochures and alarming reports in luxury glass towers overlooking Phnom Penh skyline.
It's beyond me why she has to live like this in 2020.

Read more:

Same story here but this girl is living in a fishing village and her parents are from the Cham minorities who are basically living like nomads on the big rivers and lake in Cambodia.
I like this picture for many reasons, the angle, her expression, and the boats as leading lines with the dark sky above. 
What will her future be like?

From along the railroad in Phnom Penh. People live there in a hard environment.
For this portrait, there was a short acknowledgment and unspoken understanding. 

The face of the man attracted me and also the even background gives it a strong sense of focus on him.

              Remember that we are trying to tell a story with our pictures.

When we actually DO use the pictures for a publication the context for the picture is much more of an ethical challenge at some stage of editing and publishing than actually taking the pictures. 

What is the message?

What is the context of usage? Perhaps it is just a great picture and it has no other meaning than to show the world and the people in it why we travel and explore the different communities to remember and to learn. 

Rule #3. 
Start taking or making pictures with your heart and soul and be yourself. 
Talk to people ask them how they are doing, smile, take your time and just don't forget what you intended to do. 
Take pictures, get close, be fast, be gone. 

Below you can find a selection of recent images from my Cambodia Photo Tours.
© all images by Michael Klinkhamer.

Morning in Phnom Penh near a very busy market and road. During the busy early morning, Brightly dressed monks go around the town to gather alms for the temple.
I especially love the intimate moments of people worshipping their religion right there in the middle of a busy street corner or at the storefront.
Traditional image with the older generation of Cambodians wearing sarongs and donating money to receive a prayer and blessing. ©MK.

I noticed these boys with their parents at the national museum in Phnom Penh on a Sunday afternoon.
I knew this picture could work out as a timeless image of youth and conditioning and conservative Cambodia.
All I had to do is ask permission from the parents in a casual manner and get on their level, so on my knees and take a few shots.
Important was pre-visualization and interaction. This means that you can see an image coming and then look at what's possible and be ready in your set up and lens choice.

This image is full of detail and story. The girl looking determined to walk with her mother who is breastfeeding while crossing a busy street covered up half for the sun. The coconut seller in the background pushing his heavy loaded cart in the streets of Phnom Penh. I shot it in an instant while crossing the road and trying to capture the chaos of the market.

This man is a Cyclo rider and waits for customers at the local market to deliver them with their groceries back home. I was attracted to his face, hat and watch. We exchanged a quick eye contact before I took the portrait.
Probably one of the hardest jobs to do in the heat, pushing the old rickshaw through the streets of Phnom Penh.

Character face of a long life in Cambodia.
                                Phnom Penh 2020©Michael Klinkhamer Productions.


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