The world can be split into two groups. Those who do (make, like, appreciate) street photography and those who don’t.
Polar opposites in one respect, but most likely united in another; that nobody in either group cares about your street photography.
You might get a lot of likes on your Instagram posts, but what do they mean? That people hope you’ll see their name and go check their work out? That your #hashtags are being found by bots?
If you’re trying to sell your street photography, and of course sell can mean a few things here, I’d be more concerned with whether anyone is actually buying.
Before people buy, they need to care. And they probably don’t. Here’s why.
Most people don’t care about anybody’s street photography
How many times have you gone into somebody else’s house and seen street photography on the wall?
You see plenty of landscapes and cityscapes. Some of places the homeowners have been, some not. Some taken by them, and again some not.
You see plenty of portraits too. Most often of family members. Because having a portrait of a stranger – or even a friend – on your wall is a bit odd. But no street photography.
People just don’t like individual, contextless, random street photographs enough to buy them like they do landscapes, cityscapes, and portraits.
The group of people who don’t do (make, like, appreciate) street photography is the vast majority of the world’s population.
It includes most of your friends and family. If these people don’t care about any street photography, they certainly don’t care about yours.
And they most likely never will.
Most street photographers only care about their own work
Come into my house right now and you will see some street photography on my wall.
But it’s all my own work. And it’s just a bunch of simple prints held there with tape because I don’t even like my own work enough to frame it.
The purpose of me putting it up there is to celebrate a small win. Because seeing old photographs that I’m pleased with reminds me that I can do this, and that keeps me motivated to keep doing it.
That doesn’t mean I’m looking only inwards. I am genuinely impressed by what many other street photographers are doing. If I like a photograph on Instagram or Twitter, it generally means I do like it.
Like, actually like it. Sometimes it’s even enough to make me comment too. But it’s never enough to make me want to buy it.
You know this because you do photography too. You see an image somewhere that stops you in your tracks and your first thought is never to put it on your wall.
It’s to make your own, equally as good if not better, and put that on your wall.
How to get people to care about your street photography
Remember we have two groups of people: those who do (make, like, appreciate) street photography and those who don’t.
Forget about the people who don’t. If they don’t care about any street photography, you’ve got too big a task convincing them to care about yours.
Those in the former group, however, are already halfway there. They care about the concept of the thing you’re doing. They just don’t care, yet, about what it is you’re doing.
So how can you get them to do so? Well, you’ve got two options.
The first is to just keep doing what you’re doing – keep making your photographs, keep writing your articles, keep pumping out your social media posts – and hope people who haven’t cared up to now will suddenly give a shit.
The second is to spend your time working on something they want.
I can’t tell you what everyone wants, but I can tell you what I would want if I’m to care about your street photography.
Give me more than a photograph
Everyone has a camera and anyone can take a photograph on the street and tag it #streetphotography.
Plenty do. If that’s all you do, do you wonder why nobody cares?
People like stories. So give me one. One of the three suggested here.
The story being the photography
It could simply be the story behind a single photograph.
Or go a step further and create a photo essay or project. I’d care about that over a single image every time.
Or go mental and put together and self-publish a photobook. I’d buy that over a wall print every time.
The story behind the photographer
Tell me your story. Instead of using your social media to show me only your photography, use it to tell me who you are too. It’s harder to care about your work, no matter how great I’m sure it is, when it may as well be coming from a robot.
Conversely, if people know you and like you, they’ll care far more about your street photography even if it’s nothing special.
Posting only your work into people’s feed becomes shouting into the void. Use a platform’s live video and disappearing stories to get yourself out there at least as much as your photography.
The story that helps the reader
Tell me a story that helps me improve. Because we all want to improve.
Remember how if I really loved your work I’d want to do something to a similar level myself rather than buy yours? Help me do that. Help me get better.
That could be by giving technical advice or it could be by creating work that moves and inspires me to be better. You’re not creating rivals to your work. You’re creating fans of you as a person.
I still won’t buy your photography. I still won’t put your prints on my wall. But if you help me get where I want to be, I will remember who you are.
That’s more than I can say about the people behind most of the #streetphotography I see posted online.
People need to care before they buy, but they need to know who you are before they can care. Helping people is arguably the best way to take that first step.
If you can’t or don’t want to help, at least tell me a story.
Anything that gives me more than just a photograph.
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