With the greater availability of quality cameras, zoom lenses, cameras on phones and tablets, “street photography” has increased exponentially. And rightfully so - we are intrigued by our own nature and want to capture those candid moments occurring around us every day.
And with that comes a dilemma. How do photographers capture human moments of strangers? There’s no simple answer, as much as every photographer wants one. Here are things to consider if you want to take photos of strangers.
First, know these two things:
KNOW YOURSELF. Know your habits, your personality, your social skills. Are you gregarious, someone who puts others at ease? Or do you cringe and run at the very thought of talking to a stranger? Are you able to pick up on body language? Are you someone who wants to control a situation, or sit back and let it happen? It doesn’t matter your answers to these questions. The important part is to know yourself and then use your strengths to hone in on your method of photographing strangers.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT YOUR IMAGES TO SHOW. Do you want to show interactions between people or intimate portraits? What about people interests you? This will differ for every photographer. Find what it is that interests you - because if you’re not interested or enthused about your own subject, no one else will be either.
Now, decide on your method:
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. If you can’t stand the thought of talking to a stranger, then your method of street photography may be to use a zoom lens and stay removed from your subject. Scout out areas of interest to you - interesting streetscapes and backgrounds, and watch people as they interact with that environment. Use your zoom lens to capture the rush of a commuter, a street musician, a couple deeply involved with each other. With this method people will often think you’re taking a photo of the background and not even notice you.
Cell phone cameras are so ubiquitous these days everyone ignores them; they are also a good tool for street photography. It depends on what level of control you want in your image.
BECOME INVOLVED: Some photographers can only fathom taking a photo of someone they know. If you are the type of person who talks easily to others and leaves a trail of friends behind you everywhere you go, talk to your subject for a few minutes - or longer - to get an image others only dream of. After your subject is comfortable with you they express themselves openly and reveal deeper aspects of their personality. Consider using a shorter lens to make a portrait and still capture the environment.
No matter your method, some common courtesy to remember:
BE KIND. Kind is the root of “kindred” and we are all kindred spirits. Show images that are kind to others. Both you and your images will go much farther in life.
BE RESPECTFUL. If someone says “Don’t take my photo” then don’t. They have their reasons.
BE TRUTHFUL. When someone asks you why you’re taking pictures, or what of, honesty is the best policy. Let them know the project you’re working on, or that the sun on their face was beautiful, or that their stance was powerful.
REMEMBER: Know yourself, know what you want, use those strengths to develop your own method of street photography.