Focus on one thing!

I find that when you’re out on the streets, everything moves so fast, and everything is a blur. You hold your camera, eyes wandering, and there is just an overwhelming amount of activity to absorb and process.

You panic and freeze and you don’t know where to start. You think that every photo you take will be subpar. And at times, you don’t even know what to capture!

I’ve been there myself. In fact, some days, I still find myself there. I am in the middle of the crowd, and I am blank on what to do. 

A valuable tip that I have is very simple – Focus on one thing at a time.

When you find yourself in the middle of the chaos, pause and focus on one thing. That thing could be a person, an object, a spot with interesting light, a colour, a pattern. Focus on that, and don’t worry about the rest. 

Jane Zhang Photography Street 2018-299-2.jpg

It is true that street photography is about reacting quickly to everything that is happening around us. But when there is too much chaos, especially when you are first staring out, being more selective could allow us to compose more effectively and create more compelling images. If we are trying to frantically capture everything we see, the resulting images may lack thought and creativity. 

For example, the next time you are out taking a stroll through the streets, choose a specific theme or element for your mind to focus on – e.g. colour, and then look for photo opportunities that showcases colour. Or it could be a person with character, then look for moments to take such portraits. 

When I often find is that, once my mind has something specific it is looking for, more moments will present themselves. I could find a colourful backdrop that I find interesting, then slowly work the scene to get various shots. I also anticipate a moment much more quickly and therefore have more time to set the shot up more creatively. 

How we react the things is crucial on the streets. With more practice over time, we can slowly learn and adapt to focus on several themes and elements at once. Our eyes and minds could be trained and with practice, they will react more quickly, and more aligned with what we envisioned. 

On the streets, there will be plenty of times that we have to react spontaneously. However, starting slow could help foster originality from the very beginning. The philosophy of taking shots without thinking too much definitely has its place, however, if you have a rough plan and idea of what you want to shoot, you can work with a clear direction, and that is extremely helpful when first starting out. 

It is similar to the purpose of a story. Before we tell a story, sometimes it greatly helps to know the reason why we are telling the story so we could tell it properly. There are days where I want to communicate the emotions of a scene and there are other times where I really want to explore and experiment with light and colours. 

The next time you feel overwhelmed by the chaos around you, try to focus on one thing – let me know how it goes! :)