How to Take Photographs, According to a World-renowned Street Photographer

Mariah Tyler

At 80, the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama has been taking photographs for decades, publishing nearly 150 books of his work. His photographs are known to be in-your-face, black and white images with grainy, high-contrast and his fast-paced shooting style has influenced a generation of street photographers. Typically, an entire roll of 36 shots in less than 100 meters. The snapshots simultaneously refuse to disclose their exact location but reveal everything about the people and place. In his newest book, "Daido Moriyama: How I Take Photographs," he discloses for the first time his methods for snapping photographs on the streets of Japan in a one on one interview with Takeshi Nakamoto.

Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

Moriyama’s photographs are imperfect by traditional standards, but the imperfections are what gives them value and interest. Daido Moriyama defines a snapshot photograph as an “accidental moment”. There is a unique quality in his approach to snapshots and through this new book Moriyama guides the reader through his thought process of taking photographs. He reminds us to look at subjects from every angle, even if that means circling the block and going back down the same street in the opposite direction. New angles can instantly change our perception of a place. While touring around it’s easy to forget to stop and stand still, he recommends standing still with camera in hand and wait for something to come into the viewfinder.

Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

Photographing travel may just be a checklist of sites and scenes that are familiar to us but Daido explains why it’s good to mix-up our shots and try snapping in a new way. Moriyama discourages being limited to the stereotypical “postcard” pictures – a perfect landscape. He explains how the details of places give more essence to the memory and experience of being there and to look for window displays, ads and other objects unique to the city. But Moriyama through years of avoiding the postcard picture, confesses that it’s not totally wrong to take the “postcard” landscapes and landmarks solely because it’s been photographed countless times before.

Let Moriyama's intriguing images of Japan be a reminder of how to look at things — everything — and snap memories of them as we travel. For a more detailed guide on how he sees through the lens, "Daido Moriyama: How I Take Photographs" is available on Amazon.

Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
Daido Moriyama © / Courtesy of Laurence King Publishing