Street Photography: Capture the Life of Your City
An Online Skillshare Class by trashhand

Image by Trashhand

I signed up for Skillshare, an online community

of more than 2 million people, back in March, when I wanted to learn more about what was going on in the photo world. Skillshare offers more than 17,000 classes on everything from drawing and painting to calligraphy and cooking, and they’re offering Feature Shoot readers two free months of unlimited Premium classes. Of course, Skillshare’s photography classes are among the most popular, and the other day, I decided to take one called Street Photography: Capture the Life of Your City with Trashhand, one of their most popular instructors of all time.

Image by Trashhand

Trashhand is one of few people who can truly claim to be not just a photographer but also an influencer. His work is followed by well over half a million people on Instagram alone, and he’s contributed to campaigns by some of the world’s leading brands. He’s trendy, sought-after, and current, and yet his work is somehow classic and timeless.

Trashhand’s Skillshare course is hands-on. He teaches us to capture the spirit of any given city through four main shots: the lookup, the street portrait, the motion blur, and the night photo. These can be made absolutely anywhere in the world where there are people walking around. Also important: they tend to be the four main shots brands ask for when commissioning a big project.

Image by Trashhand

Watching Trashhand navigate the streets of Chicago reminded me so much of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1952 introduction to Images à la Sauvette (The Decisive Moment).

As the Magnum co-founder famously put it, street photography is all about coincidences. The right person walks past the right building and turns his head at just the right instant. As someone who writes about photography, it’s easy for me to feel romantic about this idea and to attribute great photographs to twists of fate.

But Trashhand showed me the practical side of what we now call “the decisive moment.” It’s not some stroke of divine inspiration that makes a photographer click the shutter at the perfect moment; on the contrary, Trashhand does absolutely everything to ensure he catches it when it finally arrives.

He wakes up before the sun and stays out until well after dark. He’s on LaSalle Street before anyone’s had their morning cup of coffee, and he’s wandering around the “L” stations long after almost everyone has gone home. Every second counts; when he’s walking, he’s photographing people, and when he’s stuck at a red light, it’s all about the passing cars.

Trashhand at the “L”

When Trashhand finds a piece of architecture that he feels he must photograph, he waits around without moving a muscle until someone walks into his frame. Maybe twenty interesting and beautiful people walk past that one building over the course of an hour, and maybe Trashhand photographs all of them, but only one— the one character who seems almost too good to be true– makes it into the final edit.

Trashhand waits for a shot

Image by Trashhand

Trashhand encourages his Skillshare students to go out, make pictures, and upload them in sets of four, according to the four-point shot list. Trashhand knows shooting in the streets can be daunting at first, and he’s there every step of the way.

One student expressed concern about asking permission. It’s the question every street photographer seems to be afraid to ask when they get started. Trashhand responded right away: “You have every right to take a picture of anyone as long as they are outside [in a public place].” He clarifies that while legally you’re in the right, the rare stranger will get upset, but it’s almost always worth the risk.

Image by Trashhand

I am not a photographer, but Trashhand’s Skillshare class makes me wish I was. All the mundane things in my life– the coffee shop down the street, the houses I pass when I walk my dog, that one lady who reads books on her porch on summer days- suddenly seem like the most fascinating things in the whole world. Last night, I even caught myself walking on the very edge of the sidewalk so I could see everything, just like Trashhand does when he wants to get as much of the street in a shot as possible.

Image by Trashhand

At the top of this post, I described Trashhand as an “influencer,” but perhaps his influence can be felt most on Skillshare, where he’s built an extraordinary community of professional and amateur photographers. Students from all over the planet– Mexico, Toronto, Stockholm, and Lisbon, just to name a few– take time to ask questions, to learn new things, and to share their wisdom with others.

My favorite comment, though, is from Verne Ho, a director at a design company who says he was “too intimidated” to pursue photography before he came across Trashhand’s Skillshare class. Over the course of six months, he worked and worked until he established his own voice. By the time he reached out to thank Trashhand for the class, he’d collected a following of his own.  Now, two years later, he has 33.5 thousand followers on Instagram. Well, maybe 33.5 thousand and one, since I just hit the “follow” button myself.

Image by Trashhand

For professional and hobbyist photographers alike, the Skillshare community is a tremendous resource. You can take classes at your own pace and on your own schedule. All students have the opportunity to study with established photographers like Trashhand and get direct feedback about their work. Feature Shoot readers are invited to enjoy two months of unlimited free classes on Skillshare Premium.

Skillshare is a Feature Shoot sponsor.

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