In his book Think Like a Street Photographer Matt Stuart makes this observation:
“If you don’t have a camera on you at all times, you’re not really a photographer; you’re just someone who saw some stuff and told people about what you saw.“Think Like a Street Photographer – Matt Stuart
It goes without saying that great photography opportunities on the street do not just happen when you have a camera, primed, set and ready to capture an image. Imaging opportunities arise all of the time, many of which will occur when you don’t have a camera as I have experienced to my photographic detriment more times than I can count.
To see what I mean take a walk during your lunch break around any town or city without your camera and just watch and observe people. Every time you see something that could be worth photographing say “snap” to yourself. See how many ‘snaps’ you have collected by the end of your lunch break. If it’s less than 10, you’ve not been observant enough.
Of course, just because you have a made a ‘snap’ does not mean it could have become an amazing image but any time you could have pressed the shutter, had you had your camera with you, there was the potential there for another image for you to add to your portfolio. As Matt Stuart says, if you don’t have your camera with you at all times, all you will have is a story about the one that got away.
A case in point is the image below.
Back in 2017 I used to spend two or three days most weeks working in London. On my way back home I would often walk to the station, a route which took me through a Monopoly board of London street names. Sometimes I would have my camera with me and sometimes I would not. On this particular occasion, luckily, I did.
My route took me through Covent Garden, one of London’s oldest markets and now home to a number of trendy shops and restaurants. For some reason the advertising hoarding caught my eye and I stopped to take a look. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman about to walk across my line of sight in front of the poster. Instinctively I drew my camera up and made a single image. I didn’t look at the picture on the back of the camera but walked on, taking a few more images before heading to Marylebone station.
It was only when I was on the train heading home that I looked at this picture and realised I had a ‘keeper’. I loved the way that the woman walking in front to of the poster had a similar stride, was wearing similar boots, was holding a bag and had her right hand up to her face, almost exactly mirroring the model in the poster. The phrase “walk this way” immediately came to mind as a title for this picture.
This is still one of my favourite street images, made in my very early days of exploring street photography. Had I made this today I would have used different camera settings (a higher shutter speed and ISO to freeze the image more) but I’m still pretty happy with this photograph.
More to the point however, I would have not had this image or frozen that moment in time, had I not had my camera with me!