Street Shooting Tips
I have been asked many times how I approach people on the street in order to take photographs of them. In 2013 my friend in Puerto Rico, Hector Merced asked me to write down some of the street shooting techniques and learnings I've discovered over the years. There are thousands of online street photography tips ....... here are some of mine:
Street Lesson # 1 - Turn Your Subjects Into Participants
Do you know any street signs? I love your ink, can we take a photograph? Wow, your hair is great, do you have time to make some art? Walker Evans said, "Part of a photographer's gift should be with people. You can do some wonderful work if you know how to make people understand what you are doing and feel alright about it."
Street Lesson # 2 - Zoom With Your Feet
One of the best things about a wider fixed lens ( i love my 17mm ) is that you are forced to get closer to your subject. Being close is a good thing. You can see your image AND ( many times ) something more. Being very close makes the image personal and creates a certain energy. A zoom lens won't do this as well. "If your photos aren't good enough, then you're not close enough." Robert Capa
Street Lesson # 3 - No Means Don't Waste Your Time
Some people say NO! Don't ask why, don't argue, don't say a word.... move on. Keep hunting. You'll rarely get a good street portrait from someone who does not want their picture taken. Welcome rejection and look for your next shot! "It isn't pleasant getting yelled at or threatened by strangers....but I think we need to accept that this is a price we have to pay to create our art." Mark Cohen
Street Lesson # 4 - Get On Up Or Get On Down
If you are standing or sitting all the time, your images may begin to look like everyone else's. Try laying on the ground, or climbing a ladder. Sitting on the floor and seeing the world as a bug or a dog offers an interesting perspective. And, if you sit down on the street and talk with people for a minute or two before you shoot, you gain some trust. "So get down, get down, like James Brown." Swizz Beat
Street Lesson # 5 - Speed, Cunning and 10,001 Shots
The one half second shot. Work like a gunfighter till you are very quick. You must instinctively know the controls on your camera, without thinking. Sometimes you won't have the opportunity to engage your subjects. Just shoot and shoot fast. There's also some cunning moves for being invisible on the street, like the right angle quick turn ( used on this shot. ) How do you learn all this? Take a class then practice ALOT. Henri Cartier-Bresson who was a master at capturing a split second in time said, "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst."
Street Lesson # 6 - Some Photos Should Make You Sad
Life can be unfair, cruel and brutal so.... want to make a difference? Street portraits shouldn't always be pretty. In fact, as a street photographer I feel I have a moral obligation to show the rights AND wrongs of society. Be brave, follow your passion! In addition, many street photographers practice "take and give." I'll take your photo and if you're hungry, I'll give you a sandwich. "Since I am alive, I will do something to help the living."