Here’s a tipster In which our hero divulges the secrets to his superpowers, or tips for shooting street portraits.
Recently I’ve decided to dabble in taking street portraits. I’ve been shooting street photography (or candid photographs of strangers in the outdoors… sometimes it’s not so much a street as a path through a park or garden) for almost a year and have been getting the itch to try something new.
Now, there’s two ways you can go about taking a street portrait:
1. Just take the shot without asking and walk on. Some find this rude, others will smile and laugh to themselves, even others will speak loudly using various profanities concerning you and “who do you think you are” etcetera (ask me how I know they do this last one!).
2. Politely ask if you can take the person’s picture.
I should now confess that I used to be a terrible introvert. Some days when I’m feeling particularly down it creeps back out. On those days, my wife forbids me from going to shoot pictures as I get terribly grumpy. Those days aside, however, I’m perfectly fine just snapping shots of unsuspecting passersby or walking up to a complete stranger and asking if it’s ok to take their picture.
The trick was to just do it. After a while, I gained a certain level of confidence and I no longer cared what the person would think of this wild-eyed, wild haired maniac waving an antique camera in their face and asking to take their picture. Nor did I fear what they’d say. The truth is, the worst thing they can say is: “No.” And when someone says “no,” it’s good to just leave it at that and move on (this I don’t know from experience, it just seems logical).
Now, if you’re one of those alpha people who isn’t afraid of anything then this doesn’t apply to you. However, if you’re a bit shy and aren’t comfortable with approaching strangers try this: When I first started taking street photographs I did a Mug Shot Project. I started at work and asked co-workers if I could take a picture of them. At the end of the roll, I was eventually comfortable enough to ask strangers to pose for me. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: start within your comfort zone.
Another tip on making it easier to approach people and shoot either of the afore mentioned ways I picked up from Garry Winogrand. I read an interview of him some time ago on a webpage I can’t remember just now (but I pinky swear this pertained to him). When Winogrand would go up to people and take their picture he would smile. He’d smile the whole time: as he approached, while shooting, and as he proceeded on to his next shot he’d nod and smile. It creates a connection with the subject letting them know you appreciate their contribution to your art as well as puts them at ease while you invade their personal space. Also, I like to add a quiet “thank you” as I proceed. Because, well, my parents raised me to be polite.
Should you ask and the subject acquiesce, take your time. Make it right and make it count. Maybe bracket a shot or two (if your gear allows for it). Because there’s nothing worse than finding out you wasted your own time and someone else’s.
Who you take pictures of is entirely up to you. Typically, I find myself snapping shots of people who look “interesting.” Offhand, I couldn’t tell you what makes them interesting to me. Sometimes, it’s their facial features. Sometimes it’s what they’re wearing. Sometimes it’s a lucious, majestic beard. Something will just strike my fancy and I’ll have to take their picture.
Here are some “interesting” people:
So whether you’re shooting under the radar or you’re introducing yourself to strangers, I hope you find that interesting something that draws you to them. Feel free to post your street portraits below, I’d love to see them!