Jean-François Cléroux | Flâneur & Lens Creative
Different Lens, Different Story!

Forced Learning

How I got into Street Photography

I forced myself to learn new skills every year, two skills actually. Usually, one in the fall for rainy days and one in the spring to inspire and motivate me. Flowers/Digital Processing, Birds/Mastering RAW, Street Photography/B&W Photography, Fine Art Landscapes/Darkroom, Fine Art/Digital Printing.

Wait, what? Darkroom. Yes, that was the “Darkroom” you saw there. I won’t get into the long list of why I chose each of those two topics/subjects to learn year after year (and new ones since) but let’s touch on the darkroom.

Jerusalem – Jean Francois Cleroux

To this day some of the best prints in the world are old-fashioned B&W Analog Prints. Not those we do on RC Paper but those toned Fiber Prints or even those Platinum Prints (OK and carbon prints and others). The point is those prints are all very special. How was I going to learn how to make similarly exceptional prints when I did not even know how they were made, or how they even actually looked like up close. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom in the last six years of my schooling. My teacher was an exceptional photographer and he drove me to make great RC prints. But, as good as my prints may have been, they were not at all like some of the exceptional prints I have seen since in galleries. So, back to the darkroom I went to learn from two other exceptional analog photographers and printers. I worked hard taking 3 college darkroom courses over a two-year period. During that time, I read up on what makes great B&W prints, what qualities do they have, or need to have. And, what makes great B&W Images in the digital world. I worked on my Digital printing and strived to make them as near as I could to perfect analog gallery prints.

I learned a lot and had a great time being back in the darkroom. I made some good friends. And most importantly, I became a much better Digital B&W (and Color) printer.

The point is I pushed myself into learning Digital B&W Printing using magazines, books, classes and lots of Internet research. Oh, and during that time I did a ton of digital printing and even learned how to create better RAW images that would result in better quality prints.

After I finished my quest for better B&W digital printing, I next chose to push myself out of my comfort zone by diving into Street Photography. The ‘photography’ component was not out of my comfort zone as I had done years of news and sports photography, but despite not being shy, I still didn’t feel comfortable capturing images of complete strangers without first asking for their permission.

I stumbled across a one night “Introduction to Street Photography” class offered by a local Street Photographer, took the class, and fell in love with Street Photography. Literally as simple as that. Using the same techniques and drive that I had for other learning opportunities, I threw myself at Street Photography and never really looked back. I still work on some other photography, some art projects and such, but more and more I find myself wanting holidays in large cities rather than beaches and tourist locals and traps.

Since then, I have travelled the East Coast of the U.S. hitting Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, some of the West Coast including Vancouver, Seattle and Portland and some European cities like Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Venice and others. I was even in Jerusalem, and as much as I loved my tour of Israel including Masada and Petra, Jordan, it was Jerusalem and Palestine I fell in love with. I didn’t have to think very long about why that was, it was the amazing people I met and the incredible photographic opportunities.

Now I find myself already booked on another trip to Paris in October. Partly to get some me time, but also to get more shooting in and, to take two back-to-back 3-day workshops with Valerie Jardin while I am there.

If you want to get better at something, throw yourself at it. And not with a little bump, but with enough force to make a big crash! Learn what you need to learn properly, give it time so you master it. Not become a master, but rather shoot it without having to think about what you need to do, what settings you should use and so on. Do it long enough so that it’s at least second nature and comfortable.

Also, very importantly, learn all the different ways and techniques required for the genre you have chosen. In Street Photography, learn shooting blind, from the hip, point and shoot, dive in, and the various other techniques including some clandestine methods. You will inevitably like one style more than the others. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you only tried the technique, you hated the most? Do some research and give yourself some boundaries that fit within your persona and ethics whether you shoot pure Street Fashion, RAW Street Photography, Street Portraiture, Cityscapes, or some other variant.

If after that time you do not really like this new quest, you have taken, its ok, nothing you have learned will have been a waste of time. All the skills and techniques you learn make you a better photographer in almost every other genre. Street photography is no exception. Many Wedding Photographers and Photographic Story Tellers owe their success to street photography.

It’s time to make some noise, what will you throw yourself at?

See you on the streets!

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Eifel Tower from Trocadero Square

Eifel Tower from Trocadero Square

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