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The three “Fs” of street photography: Fishing, Following, and F**k!

When you are out in the street doing street photography, you need a guideline to help you understand how to approach your subject matter in street photography. Recently I read the fascinating book “Think like a street photographer” by the excellent street photographer Matt Stuart. In his book, Matt Stuart coins the terms “the three Fs of street photography,” giving a perfect description of the three main distinct approaches to street photography.

The key of getting good pictures is threefold: find a location that looks promising, track something with potential, or jump straight in!

Matt Stuart

I recommend reading this book if you are passionate about street photography. I found it unique and inspiring.

The three Fs are FishingFollowing, and F**k!

Why do you need the three Fs in street photography?

Street photography is the photography you do in the streets, avenues, and urban environments of cities of all sizes. Street photography is about the observation of human life in the street. You can take street photos with or without people and capture architecture or make abstract photographs. The primary subject matter can also be the dramatic play of light and shadow you find on the street.

By doing street photography, you control anything that’s going on around you, and you only control your camera. For this reason, as practicing street photography can be pretty overwhelming, the three Fs can help you to stay tuned in your purpose of capturing compelling street images.

The Fishing technique

The first of the three Fs is Fishing which means that when you find a location with an exciting background, people, and a great light, you choose to use this scene, then you wait for a compelling subject to enter the scene, then capture your street photo.

The fishing technique can be advantageous but requires time, dedication, and patience.

But, of course, it would help if you decided before how long you will wait for the hoped-for subject to come into your location. This way, you can wait for the amount of time you choose, and if nothing happens, you can find another place to try this technique again or even change with another of the two remaining Fs like Following or F**k.

I use this technique often, trying to wait thirty minutes or one hour. I can say that most of the time, the Fishing technique is advantageous. Remember that you decided to have the fisherman approach using this technique in street photography. So you go with your camera doing street photography as the fisherman goes with his equipment, and keep in mind that the fisherman doesn’t always catch the fish but always tries his best.

The Following technique

The following approach is the exact opposite of the Fishing technique. In this approach, you find a subject or a trigger, and you decide to follow this until a gesture or something unexpected happens or until the subject walks in front of an adequate background.

The subject you can follow

The subject you decide to follow can be a fascinating person, particularly well-dressed or eclectic, to create a juxtaposition or an unexpected scene to capture in your street photograph.
You can use the following technique whenever you find an exciting subject, but the scene or the background lack interest.

The trigger

The trigger is a subject that has the potential to trigger reactions once entering a scene. For example, a little fluffy dog walking past a group of people. There are infinite possibilities of triggers out there.

Remember that following is different from stalking, so be positive, don’t be creepy, and try to be like an invisible ghost. If the people you are interested in see you, be positive, smile, and explain what you are doing without problems. You are not doing something to be ashamed of, and there is nothing wrong in doing street photography and in photographing everyday life in a city. Be honest in explaining why you were interested in capturing him/her as a subject; most of the time, people feel flattered about it.

The F**k technique

This third technique sounds like “luck.” And it is also really related to luck. You are into the f**k approach when something unexpected suddenly materializes in front of your lens. You only have the time to get one picture or a few more without overthinking it, or you will miss the moment. You just have the time to think: “F**k, I have to raise the camera and take this photo!”.
When you get a photo with the f**k technique, it is an incredible moment, and you feel happy because you could get the shoot before the moment disappeared in a matter of seconds. While using the f**k technique, you should be aware of everything happening around you, tuned and aware of everything happening in the street, and ready to react and go for the picture.