So you’d like to do a bit more street photography but you are scared of photographing strangers? Most people feel that way initially. Here are some different approaches to street photography, I have tried them all and they all give different results. I have included some examples for each technique, I hope this will inspire you to go out there and overcome your fears.
1. Setting the scene and waiting for the subject to walk in
This works well if you have found an interesting composition and you just need a cool looking subject to complete the shot. If you don’t move and make it look like you’re photographing something else altogether then most people won’t notice you, especially in busy places like London. If you have a DSLR you can try the “Live View” setting if it’s available which will allow you to view the image at the back of the camera instead of holding it up to your eye and composing the scene through your viewfinder.
A swivel screen can come in very handy for this kind of shot because you can have your camera hanging down round your neck and the screen pointing up so you can see the image you’re about to take on the back of the screen. You can then pretend you’re Vivian Maier wandering the streets of Chicago.
2. “Shooting from the hip”
The results are very hit and miss but can look pretty cool. I often use this technique with a wide angle lens and when people are walking towards me. I just have the camera dangling round my neck with one finger on the shutter.
It’s useful to have the camera on focus auto focus in this case, and sometimes I just pretend to look completely elsewhere for added randomness!
This is what I look like when “shooting from the hip” or rather “shooting from the stomach”!
3. Doing it “Paparazzi style” on the long zoom
If you have a powerful zoom you can stand quite far from the subject and you’re less likely to get noticed. If you’re super shy, this is your chance to capture some great candid portraits without having to worry about introducing yourself.
4. Asking for permission
If the subject has spotted you, try not to just give up and walk away, as a minimum you could just give a big smile and maybe ask them if they don’t mind you taking a couple of photos of them. It usually helps if you say you’re doing a personal project on XYZ (for example your town, people at work, market traders…etc.). You’re not technically lying (maybe it’s just a 30 minute project!) and most people will feel quite flattered and will want to help, unless they really hate being photographed.
For a candid looking shot I just ask people to pretend I am not there and carry on as they were.
5. Taking a posed shot
So you’ve spotted this really cool potential subject and would like to take a proper portrait of them? Just approach them and ask them, what do you have to lose? They might feel a bit intimidated so to put them at ease by give them a big smile and some praise.
This is the most satisfying approach for me as I feel I have had a proper exchange with the person, even without doing a full “Humans of New York” style interview!
6. Shooting children (in a good way)
Before even pointing my camera towards a child I always always ask for permission from the parent first. The last thing I would want is to anger a parent by taking photos of their child, many parents are concerned about privacy or would at least want to be asked first and understand what you’re planning to do with the photos.