How To Be A Documentary Photographer In 2020

Hey Gang,

It’s me Tim—duck n’ and rollin’ through life with my tiny camera and tinier sense of self——here to help you start your 2020 photographic journey. **Karate Chop—Hooya!


Hundreds of thousands of people have asked me for advice on how to be a better documentary photographer. In order to drown out the noise, I’ve taken it upon myself to write a shart little blarb on how to upgrade your documentary photographic skills in the new year——or decade as it were. This step by step guide comes from countless years as a documentary photographer—photographing everything from weddings to jugs & gasoline hoses.


How’s my copy? Am I doing ok?

To learn more—please read ahead for more details!

I’ve isolated (IMHO) the most important skills you need to be a successful documentary photographer. These 5 simple easy steps have been tested by myself and carefully inspected by multiple focus groups in order to correctly engage my target audience—i.e. you, the reader (are you receiving?).

To keep things organized and in a flowing mathematical order—I’ve carefully listed these steps out 1-5 as in 1,2,3,4,5.

And here———we——————go.

Step 1 (Number 1): Get A Camera


If you wanna duck n’ roll into the new year like an alcoholic semi-pro wrestler—best be getting yourself a camera——preferably one that takes photos.

In my experience—its hard to take pictures of something without a camera. I’ve walked around and looked at things most of my life—but—sans google glass y magia—it’s very hard to catch light with your hands, lasso, or eyelids as it were.


To summarize—get yourself a camera that works.

Step 2 (Number 2): Take So Many Photos That You Risk Losing Friends


I know if you came to this blog—chances are you’re the type of person that wakes up in the morning and says to yourself, “I want to be the weird annoying person at every party, event, and family gathering that’s always taking pictures rather than engaging in conversation or connecting with the people around me.” No? Not you? Maybe you want to be the creepy guy that’s always down at the lake with his camera? Cool.


I’m proud of the reputation I’ve earned as a documentary photographer. I wear the furrowed brows of strangers, flying middle fingers, and looks of dissaproval like badges of honor. These are the true testaments of my photographic abilities.

Step 3 (Number 3): Get Good At Being Invisible


Remember that scene in Harry Potter where he puts on a cloak and he’s suddenly invisible? That’s what you need to learn how to do—except without the fancy cape, magic, incredible story, magic school, John Lennon glasses/haircut, heroic journey, friends—and while having a camera around your neck (preferably pointed at your subject).



Candid photography is all about catching people off guard—peering into their souls with your camera. It’s not easy being invisible but here are a few tips on how to get your Harry Potter on. Start off by not screaming or yelling—that tends to get peoples’ attention. Also “speak softly and carry a big stick or—something (tripod?). No, in all seriousness, it helps to use a small camera. Yes—size does matter—the smaller the better. Tuck it into your sleeve and pretend to wave.

Step 4 (Number 4): Minimal Editing Required


We’re talking about documentary photography—candid photography. You shouldn’t have to edit your photos. If you aren’t getting the shot in camera—you’re doing something wrong. No amount of editing is going to make an image great. I’d rather be taking pictures of someone flipping me off than sitting in front of a computer tweaking the levels and adding another adjustment mask. Good——Grief. 


Step 5 (Number 5): Do The Work And Expect Nothing


Taking candid documentary style photos has become one of my greatest joys. What started out as compulsion—has become a way of life. I do this every day—I put in the work—and I expect nothing back. Maybe someday people will appreciate that you document the lives of your loved ones—your friends, family, strangers. But for the most part, nobody is going to pay attention to you except other togs who are just as insane as you. So enjoy the chaos, the nonsense, the beauty in the beauty of it all. I’m just passing through and this is my awkwardly long yet stiffly proper princess wave.




This is all just a great strange dream. 

If you made it this far—pause. Hold on——wait for it.

Can you hear that??

I’m slow clapping between keystrokes—yes, I type that fast (or slow?). Clearly this was some sort of writing exercise gone awry but we all made it through with our shoes on.

Thank you for reading and good luck with your 2020 Photographic Journey.

Please don’t ever take me seriously.

Peace Out





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