Planning is key in photography. It’s the essence of any efficient workflow. It is also one of the most valuables assets of a professional photographer. But what if someone in the niche goes rascal and rogue? Street photography requires a different approach when it comes to planning, because you need to be ready to take a picture at any moment. Talking about "what to pack for X type of photography" is an obvious way to plan "expected results" when making studio-type photographs. Which is why exploring this particular topic in the context of street photography is so curious.
Since I have a trusty camera with me at all times (like my phone), I stopped "planning" – and everything went nuts. How come? Because I'm always seeking out that special candid picture. This practice always leads me to the next great shot, and the next. The pursuit never ends, and hopefully it never will.
There are two scenarios for my street photography. The first one occurs daily and mingles perfectly with my personal, professional and academic life. And then there’s the one that happens when I’m travelling or when I go on photo walks with other fellow photographers. The later requires a bit of packing and some useful apparel.
In this piece, I’ll talk about some of the things I carry when I’m doing street photography of any kind – from a regular walk or drive in the middle of my regular work day, to the things I take with me when I’m travelling abroad. Perhaps the only difference between the regular daily companion of my camera and the packing I do for travelling is the inclusion of elements that enable me to shoot all day without failing in terms of photographic tools (and physically as well).
So let´s break it down.
Something to Capture Photographs, of Course
Currently I use my trusty Fuji X100T, but my daily companion used to be the Canon G1X. Both are great street photography cameras due to their portability and inconspicuous nature. After realizing the benefits of always carrying a camera, I started dedicating myself almost exclusively to social photography. But before that I used to use a DSLR. Back in the days of heavy gear, my DSLR always wore small prime lenses like the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM and the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM. Nowadays I also enjoy shooting film from time to time, and my gear consists of the now sadly forgotten Pentax K1000 and Yashica Mat-124 G. Even my phone has given me the great joy when making some nice photos, even though it’s not the most powerful thing on earth.
Don’t take clothes for granted when doing street photography, especially if you’re going for a full day of shooting. For me, useful cargo pants, a cap and comfortable shoes are the way to go for long photo walks or travelling. Clothing is the only thing I really think hard about and even plan for long walks. I say “useful” pants, because they will facilitate your movement. Try to wear neutral colored clothes as well, so you can blend into the crowd when visiting foreign cultures and avoid the “tourist” look.
Even when I carry a bag with my Yashica, some film, and the X100T with the TCL-100 attached to its lens, my most valuable asset will still be useful clothes. They’re the only thing that let me to work swiftly and comfortably in the streets.
Public transportation maps
Public transportation is a great way to move from place to place. The urban experience of moving around like this is vast and rich, but it can also be confusing. Having a metro system map on my phone has saved me several times, especially when I’ve been in countries where people speak a language different than my own.
PDF Portfolio on Phone
Street photography is best when it’s candid, but sometimes you'll have the good fortune of meeting magnificent strangers in the street. A conversation can be valuable to both parties. Also it is very likely that you'll want to make a portrait of these characters. Not all people will get you into their trust circle easily, so explaining and describing your work using a portable version of your portfolio is a great idea.
Some people use amazing looking postcard prints, but I stick to an easy-to-access PDF version of my portfolio on my phone. I use PDF because browsing on the web is not so cool – and as I said before, my phone isn’t very powerful. Even though this PDF tool has been handy for short-notice situations, I'm considering making a pocket-sized booklet of my portfolio.
My trusty Fuji has a huge problem, and I hope they have corrected it with the recent release of the X100F. The problem is that the batteries on this amazing camera run out pretty quickly. My solution is simple: I just carry extra batteries (and, just in case, an extra SD card). The good thing about these batteries is that they’re fairly small, so I don't mind having them in my pocket all day. I also don't shoot a lot of pictures, so I carry the extra battery as a contingency.
I have little to say about my packing methods, but I’d love to hear about how you do it when you’re preparing for a day of street photography.