Ten Tips

Street portraiture

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Hi there...

Street portraiture, a much written about subject. Fun to practice but not that evident.

I'm not posing as being the " Great Expert " on this matter, but since I have a bit of experience with this I wanted to share some helpfull tips that could be useful.

1) Knowledge

Know your camera inside out! Or at least prepare the settings such as aperture, ISO and shutterspeed. Nothing is more irritating than a photographer that starts fiddling with his camera. You will get nervous and so will your subject. Not a good start and almost certainly no great shots.

2) Practice

If you are a novice or incertain go to an event. It doesn't matter what kind of event, consider it as practice. Why an event? A lot of potential subjects are there and also a lot of photographers attending it. Take an oldtimer event for example. Some participants will be dressed up in typical period clothing. They will be very inclined to have their picture taken. Use them to practice.

3) Scan

Scan continously the street for potential " victims'. Look and observe everybody...many people are photogenic. Search for that sparkle in their eyes or bodylanguage.

4) Hide

Do not hide behind sunglasses or a cap! Make sure eyecontact is possible.....very important !

5) Contact

Have you seen someone you want to portrait? Go to them and make contact. You have been practicing at an event and now you go to the next level. Don't be nervous, if you are you will look suspicious. Be yourself and compliment them about their dog or whatever can be used as an opening. Just keep it simple.

6) Ask

Ask permission. Be respectfull, potential candidates are not game that can be hunted freely. Lack of respect will, in some of the cases, evolve in agressiveness. That is the last we want. Accept a no and don't insist. Move on, a lot of people to portrait anyhow!

7) Explain

Explain why you want their portrait. Clothes, attitude, sparkle....but be honest.

8) Relocation

The subject is fine and willing but the setting is wrong? Relocate them to another spot. Perhaps where the background is less distracting or move them into the shade. Just don't go to far. Tell them also a pose in which you'd like to see them. Be in charge and know what you want.

9) Communicate

Communicate while taking the photo's. Talk to your subject, ask them questions and make them smile. It will make them at ease and increase the odds for a good image.

10) Afterwards

You have the portrait you want. Be friendly and ask if they want a copy. By post or via email, it doesn't matter. They were friendly enough to give you a bit of their time, return the favour. Certainly keep your word of sending a copy!

Know your gear, know what you want, be respectfull and always remain friendly and calm are a few keys to succesfull street portraiture.

Perhaps one day I will ask you to pose for me on the street, who knows?

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7 responses

  • Photo Shack

    Photo Shack (Deleted) said (14 Apr 2009):

    I find myself repeating some of the same tenets you mention here to my photography assistants. The good thing about being a beginner is that you can let people know this, and often they are "kinder" to you while you practice. Heck, I've been doing this for 40 years, and I'm still practicing.
    One thing I would add is to have a pad of photo releases with you...if you have a really awesome shot it would be a shame not to be able to use it because you didn't get the release signed...

  • Alain Mijngheer

    Alain Mijngheer said (14 Apr 2009):

    Thanks for the more than fine comment Vince. Concerning the photo releases : here in Belgium we don't have that problem yet. If you are aware that your photo is been taken and you don't object to it the photographer is in the clear. But times will change, sadly enough.

  • Beth Wode

    Beth Wode (Deleted) gave props (18 Apr 2009):

    There are a lot of really good tips here. Thank you so much for taking the time to share. I sure have learned a few things here. I am a mere novice but am having fun learning!!!!

  • May Kintanar-Afenir

    May Kintanar-Afenir gave props (21 May 2009):

    You're tips are much appreciated. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mike Melnotte

    Mike Melnotte gave props (19 Jul 2009):

    I've only approached a few people for shots, but this is excellent advice. Well thought out!

  • Brian Jaworski

    Brian Jaworski (Deleted) gave props (12 Nov 2009):

    Thanks for the tips. I'm also a novice.

  • Sumeet 'Srijan

    Sumeet 'Srijan said (13 Feb 2010):

    really good tips for starter like me


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