Along with interest in street photography can also come a desire to travel further, which often does not come cheap. However, there are ways to plan a successful and safe street photography trip on a budget.
For those who are already lucky enough to live in cosmopolitan areas, street photography can cost just a cheap bus ticket or subway ride and a cup of coffee. However, there are a lot of photographers who live in rural areas or small towns and dream of the iconic street shots that they have seen from all over the world.
There should be no shame in admitting that money is a big factor in photographic travel, whether you work full time and use photography as a hobby or if it is one of your passions that you want. develop and succeed.
As a genre, unfortunately, street photography earns next to nothing – unless you’ve made a name for yourself among your peers and making money from selling print or books and education – this is why a strict budget for travel can be especially important. Money aside, you’ll also want to make your trip a photographic success, which of course translates into something slightly different for each of us.
To the adventurous soul, it may seem like a regression or an unfortunate compromise to even consider a trip within the borders of their current country. For example, if you live in the UK but are fascinated by the combination of futurism and tradition that is often found in street photography in places like Japan, you might have a hard time considering your own country as an equally inspiring destination.
However, the cities around you should not be reduced, especially during times of restricted international travel. Instead of waiting for your desired destinations to allow entry, it’s worth taking a look at what’s actually available to you right now. It also allows for a good return to photography in public spaces after many lockdowns and restrictions.
Seeing the country you live in through a new perspective can elevate your street portfolio. The behaviors of foreigners, as well as the local culture and way of life, are probably already familiar to you. So you just need to blend in with the background and create work that inspires you.
The beauty of this strategy is that most of the time your financial burden is just a cheap round trip ticket, whether by bus or train, or you can even use your own car. The pressure to book a hotel is removed, unless you plan to stay out for more than a day. If you are traveling light, you can even bring your own refreshments and just enjoy a cup of coffee while you take a break and watch city life go by.
Plus, if you’re traveling during off-peak hours, traveling to your own country can be even cheaper. This means you’ll want to arrive just after the morning rush hour and come back in the late evening to avoid rush hour. It also gives you enough time to explore any city of your choice throughout the day or even capture the crowds that come and go.
Plan short trips with maximum return
When it comes to international travel, especially if the plane trip is only a few hours and not a full day, short trips can be more beneficial than long ones. Much like weekend getaways, short trips that can be strategically planned during off-peak tourist seasons to reduce travel expenses are sure to keep you more alert and engaged.
The few days you have planned for your trip will keep you going and make you make the most of the time. Simple things like getting up early to go out on the streets will keep you energized throughout as you know that the time you have left on that trip is precious.
If you are planning a short trip, which can last anywhere from two to four days, be sure to choose your flight time wisely and plan accordingly. If you arrive early in the morning you will need to carry your belongings until you can check into a hotel but that also means you can immediately dive into the street photography. In that case, consider having luggage storage available to keep your items safe throughout the day while keeping your own movement light with just the basics.
The closer a chosen luggage storage is to a central point – such as a train station, airport or central tourist sites – the more expensive it tends to be. Make sure to look for storage options that are affordable but may be further from the city center.
If you are arriving late at night, it is important to research the public transportation options available to you. Ideally, join a local Facebook group to ask for advice or directly contact someone you know lives there, especially if you don’t speak the local language.
Speaking from personal experience, my friend and I had situations where our planned train trip from the connecting station had to be abandoned because that night the train was not running as we thought we had been looking for. . This meant that we had to try to find a taxi but none served the station at such late hours.
We did manage to download a local taxi app though, although the language barrier took us a long time to find it and our fare was three times what we expected.
Likewise, make sure your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb is aware of your late arrival. Small hotels may not have an all-night reception, even if you have reserved a room. Always from personal experience, it happened to me once in Berlin. Luckily, after knocking and ringing the bell vigorously, a sleepy-looking receptionist let us in.
Obviously, the later you arrive, the less time you can spend filming the first day, with an additional night spent in your accommodation. However, if you have trouble concentrating and need to rest after a day of international travel, this can be a good option to feel invigorated and ready to face the first full day as soon as you wake up.
Also, it is always useful to print or capture important directions, maps and travel routes or download a map offline. This way, if you are unable to connect to the internet, you have all the information to navigate on your own or request help from a local.
Strategically plan developments
It’s always tempting to choose a hotel in the heart of a city, but it can be a costly expense, especially if you’re visiting tourist hotspots like Venice. Instead, consider accommodation that may be further away but still offer easy access to your desired photo location via public transportation.
For example, when I visited Venice with a friend, we booked an Airbnb near a train station that leads directly to Venice. Even taking into account the cost of the extra train on top of the accommodation, it was still cheaper than booking a hotel right in the city center.
We also made sure that a larger grocery store was nearby so we didn’t have to pay the higher prices that smaller stores tend to have. The train ride was only about half an hour each way, which didn’t take us much time each day.
If you book accommodation further away from the tourist spots, especially if it’s an Airbnb hosted by a local, you can get a better idea of the way of life in that particular country. You will be able to see “normal” neighborhoods and definitely visit shops and cafes frequented by locals, which gives a different feel to the area, people and culture. If you stray from what are presented to you as must-see tourist spots, you’ll experience more of what life is like in your chosen destination country.
A general openness to seizing new opportunities and directions throughout your journey can lead you to experience more than what is visible beyond the surface. For example, if you allow yourself to come into contact with people you meet along the way, you might discover or present to yourself something that you wouldn’t have discovered on your own. Using the knowledge of locals combined with your own research can allow you to capture a diverse portfolio of images.
Plan, but not too much
Street photography in its essence is spontaneous, transient to a certain extent, and requires observation of the environment wherever you are. You can’t easily plan specific shots, but you can give yourself direction to the themes you want to explore or key places you want to visit. This can make the trip more manageable and enjoyable, and always gives you the flexibility to react to anything you notice along the way.
A simple plan to reach a particular location later in the day gives you direction, both figuratively and literally. A simple structure of the day ensures that you know in which direction you need to go and how far you are ready to go on foot or using public transport.
Likewise, if you’re on a budget, you can look for grocery store locations if you want a cheap bite to eat, or just bring your own that you can prepare in the accommodation of your choice.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many places or a strict schedule as this is a street photography trip, not a family vacation. Just take advantage of the fact that you can photograph this unfamiliar city and be flexible to explore the small streets and corners along the way. You will be surprised at what you can find or people you can meet out of the blue!
Image credits: All photos are from Anete Lusina.