Why Travelling is Important for Street Photography

Why Travelling is Important for Street Photography

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travel street photography cover

Introduction

In my recent post about my street photography ‘sins’ I touched very briefly upon how a change of location can often serve to help overcome the problem of getting bored with street photography. I felt like this was a subject that deserved an article of its very own, so I’ve put together a list of some of the reasons why I feel travelling and visiting a new place is so important for your street photography. Read on for more…

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New Inspiration

I’ll start with the obvious, when you travel to a new place for your street photography, you see new things! It’s a great way to broaden your horizons, and new sights are a great new source of inspiration, Having your eyes open to a new world is a fantastic way to get yourself out of a creative rut, to experiment, and perhaps change or alter your street photography style too. Perhaps in your home town or city you’re normally a night street photographer, and the new place you travel has fabulous colours or light that inspires you to start shooting in the day? Or maybe you’ve travelled to Tokyo or New York, and the bright lights stimulate you to shoot at night instead of the day? The opportunities really are endless and exciting!

You Can be Braver

Travelling forces you out of your comfort zone. It takes you away from home turf, familiar surroundings, and people you know, and launches you somewhere totally new. Without the burden of your background or being known you’re free to express yourself without bumping into people you know and with less chance of repercussions. It’s a similar theory to why younger people are encouraged to ‘fly the nest’ or travel away to university. A new place presents you with a clean slate to do what you want, and the opportunity to take risks and be bold with your photography. If total strangers think you’re a weirdo does it really matter? You’ll be off again in a few days!

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It’s Exciting!

The first hour, half day or day you’re shooting street photos in a new city is amazing, and a fantastic photographic rush. Everything seems so exciting and different, and you can go into crazy tourist photography mode! When I get into the groove like this I feel that I begin to produce my best photos as I’m more likely to take a chance on shots and be more experimental. With digital there’s really no harm in taking too many shots, so the fact that travelling to a new place can encourage this and really get you into the zone is a really great thing as far as I’m concerned.

There’s No Complacency or Boredom

It is very easy to become bored with the city or town you usually photograph. Familiarity breeds contempt, and you start to take the city for granted because you’ve seen it all before. This can often sap your creativity, and you can stop visualising photos because you’ve got into a negative mindset. A change of scenery in a new place can change all that instantly! All of a sudden the negativity has gone, and the world seems new and exciting again. I really cannot emphasise enough how important travel can be to rekindling your passion for street photography. It doesn’t have to be to all that far either – just try a new city near you that you’ve never explored before!

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You’re Not Going to be There Forever

The fact that you’re ‘on the road’ in a new place encourages you to take more risks and try harder with your street photography, as you know that you have to make the most of your new location while you’re still there. This feeling of “I’m not going to be here forever” is a great driver to keep on shooting as you start to feel tired, and is another nice ‘push’ to really work your location to the max and take risks.

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Different Light!

If you’re able to extend your travels for street photography to other countries or continents, you’re likely to find that new locations can offer you an incredible new experience of light. From personal experience, I’ve found that the sunlight around the equator (particularly around the golden hour) offers a unique look that just can’t be replicated in northern Europe. Likewise, the incredibly low watery winter sun in Britain and other more northerly climes has its own distinct look that may prove an amazing departure from what you’re usually used to, and a real source of new inspiration.

New Colours!

Similar to my previous point about light, you may well be amazed at the new colours available to you if you venture afar for your street photography. Within your own country there may simply be cities that are more colourful and vibrant than you are used to, and this experience will probably be heightened to the extreme if you are able to travel to somewhere more ‘exotic’ for your street photography. The colours in Cuba, Mexico, Brazil or Morocco for instance would be an absolute treat for a colour street photographer!

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New Features

Your new street photography destination will almost certainly have some kind of feature or architecture that is interesting to you as an outsider, but which locals quite possibly take for granted. For instance, if you come from a landlocked town, visiting seaside city or one with a port is going to present you with a new experience and potential backgrounds to your street photos that you might be able to use in an entirely new way. Another example would be the city’s landmarks, like a famous square, statue or building. These new sights can often inspire you and kick start your creativity. And it doesn’t even have to be a famous landmark either, in the new city you’re visiting perhaps you’ll unearth a gem of a location that seems interesting to you, but which a local person wouldn’t look at twice.

You Can Act Like A Tourist

This may seem like a strange point to you bold and brave street photographers out there, but the feeling of being a tourist in a foreign city can actually be very useful to street photographers. Your camera and ‘foreign-ness’ (particularly when visiting other countries) is often a good excuse to take street photos, and can be a helpful way of deflecting potential conflicts that may arise if someone gets upset with your photos. People tend to ask less questions of tourists or visitors taking photos than those from their own country, and almost expect it. So, if it helps you, finesse your tourist ‘look’ and shoot away happily!

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Travel to Improve Your Street Photography

These are just some of the reasons I’ve found as to why travel is so important for your street photography. It really is a great way to fire up your creativity and get inspired to make some great work. Obviously not everyone has the luxury of the time or money to be able to travel far and wide to exotic places, but if you do your best to at least try to get out of your home town or city to another place near you, I can almost guarantee you’ll get something from the experience. I’m not saying you should neglect street photography in your home town, so use your travelling experience as a way of developing your skills and keeping your photographic eye in. One of the best oft-used quotes about photography says “If you want to take interesting photos, stand in front of more interesting things”, and I couldn’t agree more. So get out there, hit the road, and start shooting!

Have you had similar positive experiences travelling for street photography? Let us know in the comments below!

5 COMMENTS

  1. I fully agree with all your statements here, Digby, and I would add one more: traveling far from home will not only ignite the spark of photography back inside you, if you had lost it, but it will also let you see your own home under new light once you go back, letting you start fresh in your own environment. At least, that’s what happened to me: going thousands of km far from home let me rediscover the pleasure of shooting in my own neighborhood once more!
    Some street captures from my last trip to South Korea can be seen here: http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com/2016/05/fragments-from-south-korea-i-people.html

  2. I totally agree with all your statements, Digby, and I would even add one more: going far from home, to places you have never visited before, will not only ignite back the spark of photography (if you had somehow lost it) but will also let you see your own place under a new light once you are back. That’s exactly what happened to me: I went thousands of km far from home only to rediscover the pleasure of photography back in my own neighborhood.
    Here are the street captures from that trip, to South Korea: http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com/2016/05/fragments-from-south-korea-i-people.html

    • Cheers Gonzalo! Yes, you make an excellent point about how travelling makes you rekindle your love for your own hometown/city. It’s absolutely true for me and often gives me a lot of new inspiration when I’m back. Nice photos from South Korea!

  3. I did not believe before that travelling is important but after reading your post my point of thinking is changed. Travelling is very important in a life. That’s give you a small break form daily stresses like job stress, family stress and more. Travel the world and enjoy the every moment of life as much as possible.

    Thanks for sharing that type of important information.

    • Thank you for your kind words nknikhil150! Yes, travelling (and most importantly taking a break) is absolutely essential in a happy life, I couldn’t agree more!

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