Even while street portrait photography is both enjoyable and gratifying, capturing a stunning shot is not always simple to come by. You could find it difficult to locate the correct subjects and the right settings – or you might feel uncomfortable photographing people as you pass them on the street – for your photography.
Taking street photos is something I like doing for myself, and in this post, I’ll reveal all of my favorite strategies and approaches for achieving stunning images. The techniques I teach you to include how to work with varied backdrops, how to capture intriguing postures, and how to approach people in order to get a rapid image. After completing this course, you will be able to generate images that are both engaging and expressive on your own accord.
So, whether you’re a newbie street portrait photographer or you just want to improve your existing talents, continue reading!
1. Keep your photos simple
Keeping things simple is your best friend when it comes to street pictures. Simple subjects, simple backdrops, and simple compositions should be your goal.
As a result, before clicking the shutter button, take a close look at the situation. Are there any aspects that are superfluous? Is the background basic enough to draw the viewer’s attention to the subject? Is the overall composition well-balanced and free of clutter?
If you detect any sections of a composition that aren’t required, try to get rid of them. Moving a few steps to the right or left can accomplish this goal in some cases. Sometimes you’ll need to come near to the action, move farther away, or climb to a higher elevation.
Pro tip: Including a cluttered, complicated background in a street photo is one of the easiest ways to damage the composition. A cluttered backdrop will make your image appear flat, will swallow up your topic, and will divert the viewer’s attention away from your subject. Personally, I prefer backdrops that are simple, bright, and bold, such as this:
2. Break the world into elements
Although the composition is an essential component of street portrait photography, it is frequently a source of frustration for newcomers. After all, how does one go about arranging the parts of a scene in such a way that they have the appropriate amount of dynamism and balance?
What is my recommendation? Make an attempt to break the world down into its constituent parts. To persuade yourself that you are merely arranging the universe in a novel manner.
After all, 3D eyes and brains complicate things that don’t need to be complicated, and – as I described in the last point – the finest street pictures are often the simplest of subjects. As a result, you must observe the world in a straightforward manner.
You may divide the world down into its constituent parts (e.g., roads, windows, doors, bricks, roofs, people, etc.). Alternatively, you might take it a step further and consider the world in terms of geometry (e.g., squares, circles, rectangles, and so on). Either strategy can be effective; the important thing is to choose one and stay with it.
After that, you may start putting together your composition. Look for connections and links between the various aspects. Consider how they may work together to create a more balanced composition throughout the frame. Keep in mind that you just need one or two fascinating things to create a good photograph. It is possible to create a beautiful image if you are able to recognize the appropriate pieces and arrange them together in the appropriate manner.
3. Use a slow, contemplative approach
When you first begin photographing people on the street, it may be a frightening experience. You could feel yourself hurrying in an attempt to keep the tension between yourself and your topic at bay, but this is not always the case.
However, there is a problem:
The greatest street photography necessitates a period of reflection. You must pay close attention to your subject – particularly their eyes, which convey information about how the person is feeling and even thinking.
As a result, do everything you can to relax into the experience. Take it easy. If necessary, utilize your camera as a type of barrier between yourself and your subject; this will help you feel less stress and allow you to spend more time analyzing your subject’s face and gaining an idea of how they are truly feeling.
If you’re just getting started, you may take it slow and gradually introduce this method. First and foremost, simply glance through your camera without pressing the shutter release button. Then, after you’re comfortable with what you’re seeing, snap a picture. After a while, you’ll acquire confidence and be able to spot a subject and snap a shot in a fraction of a second.
4. Look for weird or humorous situations
Some of the most compelling street pictures reveal something surprising or even hilarious to the observer. When it’s one of the most basic methods to get started taking meaningful street photography, it will also provide you with some direction and help you be conscious of your surroundings while you’re out shooting in the field.
For example, you may look for persons who are making unique motions or expressions, such as the following:
It’s important to note that your photographs don’t have to be outrageously bizarre or laugh-out-loud humorous. It’s as simple as training yourself to identify unusual or confusing behavior – then as soon as it occurs, raising the camera to your eye and snapping a snapshot of it. Some of the shots will be successful, while others will not. That’s perfectly OK! With time and practice, you’ll be able to polish your style. In the meantime, enjoy yourself by experimenting!
5. Find a great background and wait
There is a simple technique among serious street photographers:
You come across a visually appealing setting, such as a vibrant background, a visually appealing exhibit, or even a sign. After that, you just wait for someone to step in front of you. If you choose a location with a lot of foot traffic, the ideal individual will wander by and you’ll have your street photo – one that features a beautiful backdrop as well as an engaging subject – right in front of your eyes.
Furthermore, when you stare at the same spot for a long period of time, you become quite familiar with it. You start to see details that you didn’t notice at first, and you begin to comprehend what it is about the setting that makes it so remarkable. Maybe even a second, third, or tenth time to photograph the same scene under various conditions, with different lighting, and with different compositions. It’s up to you.
Of course, patience is required for this method, which is a highly valuable skill for a street shooter to learn (and something that beginners often lack). In the event that you find yourself battling to remain in one spot for more than a few seconds, remember yourself that a nice scenario will occur; all you have to do is be ready when it does!
6. Make use of color
Some street portrait photographers like to shoot in black and white – but I’ve always preferred to shoot in color since it allows me to express myself more freely. Different colors may convey different emotions, and you can utilize color to move the audience in the same way that you can move them with light or engaging subject matter.
So, while you stroll about with your camera, keep an eye out for color. Take note of the bright colors in the backdrops, the bright colors in the characters’ apparel, and the bright colors in the shopping bags in their hands. Photograph any color combinations that appear to work nicely together when you come across them.
Color street photos can also be approached in a more planned manner than black and white ones. Various emotions are conveyed through different colors (e.g., yellow is warm and happy, green is peaceful, red signals confidence or anger). As long as you have a general idea of what you want to achieve, you can choose the appropriate backdrop colors and then wait (using the approach from the previous tip!) until the perfect subject walks through the door.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask strangers for a photo
It might be scary to photograph individuals up close and personal. The majority of individuals, on the other hand, are delighted to be photographed! Keeping this in mind is critical while you’re out and about with your photography equipment.
This is especially true if you first seek permission to do so. Simply exude self-assurance and friendliness. “Would you mind if I took a picture of you?” kindly inquire. Sometimes all you have to do is make a simple motion toward your camera and you’ll get a nod or smile in response.
After all, humans are designed to build bonds with one another, and photography is a particularly effective means of doing so. When you snap a photograph of someone, you are essentially saying, “I see you! ” “It is important that you exist.” And for the majority of people, that’s lovely praise to get.
However, you must maintain an ethical stance. Avoid photographing children or anybody who appear to be vulnerable, and if someone expresses a desire not to be shot, simply move away. Photography is a form of commerce, and if you picture someone, you should do it with decency and courtesy.
8. Pay attention to gestures
The more attentively you observe humans, the more they expose themselves to you through their gestures and body language. You can catch an interesting photograph at precisely that point in time – when a motion happens that reveals something noteworthy.
It is important to note that gestures are just physical motions of the body. As a result, a person may make forceful motions not just with their hands, but also with their eyes, their legs, their fingers, and even their feet.
When it comes to photographing gestures, it is important to pay close attention to the timing. A millisecond may make the difference between a spectacular photo of an expressive gesture and a dull, flat shot with nothing at all – therefore get in the habit of pressing the shutter button at the precisely correct moment while taking pictures. (You could also think about utilizing the continuous shooting option on your camera, especially if you’re just getting started.)
The photograph below was taken for a study on stomachs. It was fascinating to see how each individual portrayed their stomach and the motions they made revealed so much about their personality and how they perceived themselves in each shot from the project.
9. Be yourself
When I teach workshops, I am frequently challenged with questions regarding the originality of the material. My kids are concerned about how heavily shot the world appears to be. They are concerned that they will not have anything interesting to give and that everything has already been done.
That is the incorrect way of thinking about street portrait photography in general.
It goes without saying that the world is heavily photographed, and has been for many years. The world, on the other hand, is not static. It’s a living, breathing entity that changes and moves constantly. Because nothing remains the same, the opportunities for taking unique and intriguing photographs are virtually limitless.
Furthermore, while the globe as a whole may be shot on a regular basis, individuals are not. Approximately how many different street portraits have you been a part of? Isn’t the response “not many?” correct? My argument is that by seeking out fascinating people to shoot, you are able to produce unique and interesting images.
The most essential thing to remember about photography is that it is a representation of who you are. It’s possible that you’ll start off by taking images that are unoriginal. However, the more often you use your camera, the more likely it is that you will produce photographs that are a complete reflection of you: your hobbies, your experiences, and your way of viewing the world. And it is sufficient to enable you to produce the distinctive and intriguing images you desire.
The process of creating street portraits may appear to be challenging, but it isn’t as difficult as you may imagine. With any luck, this post has assisted you in recognizing how to achieve some stunning effects!