My 2-to-1 Street Photography Ratio

Street photography by Craig Boehman.

Let me present one fact about street photography: it can be unpredictable. Plans don't always pan out. Systems don't always work without a hitch (or two or more!), methodologies fail. The best one can do is discover how one likes to shoot and try to follow through.

I've come to realize that I prefer taking candid photos whenever possible. To me, it's the best kind of street photography that I like to look at and create. But I still love my street portraits - something that India taught me to love and for so many reasons, the big one being connecting with my neighbors in some small way. Interactions are important to me because if all I did was candid street photography, I would feel even more like an outsider than I already am. This is why, in theory, I love the idea of shooting a 2-to-1 ratio of candid to portraits. For every two "sneaky" shots, I like to obtain one by permission or cooperation of my subjects.

As I already mentioned, shooting street photography is unpredictable and plans fail. But what I think is important is to develop a mode state of mind, a way to think of one's shooting style and preferences. This for me is far more important than what the actual numbers turn out to be in the final edits.

Keeping a ratio and similar preferences in mind help to keep me on track. And after a while, it becomes so ingrained that the numbers are never even worthy of any consideration - except in articles like this one.

That I love shooting candid street photography is enough. But also knowing that I can't shoot street photography all the time without some sort of interaction with my subjects is important too. The education system would be a good analogy to describe this: I major in Candid Street Photography with a minor in Street Portraiture.

My 2-to-1 ratio is a mindset, not an actual counting system. For those starting out in street photography, and for those who perhaps don't know what their preferences are yet, keep this in mind: once you determine what your primary focus is, all else falls into place. You'll be able to figure out what camera is the best for the job, what lenses. You'll discover the best turfs to find your subjects. in effect, you will have arrived.

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