There are three solid ways to practice Street Photography without worrying about pissing off strangers on the street. These are great ways to get comfortable with Street Photography without having to walk right up to a subject and steal their
soul photograph. If you want to be a proficient Street Photographer but are having trouble tackling your fear of approaching a subject these are great techniques to start building your confidence.
Photograph From Behind
You may have guessed this one from the cover photo above. Silhouettes and shots from behind can be great photographs when done correctly. Zooming into the back of someones head is not “correct”. It’s actually more difficult to create a good Street Photography photograph when you’re photographing your subjects backs. The story is even more important if you can’t see your subjects expressions.
I can remember when I started practicing Street Photography regularly, even photographing my subjects backs made me uncomfortable. What would strangers think when they saw me stalking someone with my camera? Who knows, who cares, who’s next is a good mindset for Street Photography.
Photograph From A Distance
This does not mean using a 70-200mm lens on your camera, those things are huge and you’ll look like a weirdo. A 50mm lens is perfect for this type of photography but if you’re really uncomfortable you can find relatively small and affordable 85mm prime lenses out there that work well. Personally, I love shooting with the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G prime lens on my Nikon Df for street work.
You’ll read again and again about how it’s important to get close to your subjects for Street Photography, and that does create great photographs, but there is nothing that says your images can’t be just as good from a distance. Two of the most popular photographs by Henri-Cartier Bresson were taken from 20 – 50 or more feet away (above).
Don’t be afraid to set up a tripod or position yourself somewhere out-of-the-way and wait for an interesting subject to pass by an interesting scene. The famous Henri-Cartier Bresson photograph of the man jumping over the water (above) was taken while he was on the other side of a fence with his camera poking through a hole looking at this scene, who knows how long he waited for the right circumstances to unfold.
Set A Trap
This shot was taken in a spot that I knew I wanted the person to walk through, I just didn’t know how long I’d have to wait for a subject to walk through my trap. Luck would have it that within ten minutes I saw someone approaching from the other side of the bridge. I knelt down and pretended I was photographing the bridge, not paying any attention to the person walking towards me. I knew he would have to walk right in front of my camera because his only other option was hopping over the bridge into the river or over the other side and into traffic.
You can do this anywhere you see an interesting background. Sometimes I’ll set up like this and stay put for 30 or more minutes waiting for the perfect subject or gesture to happen in order to strengthen the composition of my image. This may be one of the least intimidating ways to get comfortable photographing strangers.
There you have it, three easy ways to start practicing Street Photography without and stress. If you haven’t tried Street Photography you’ll be surprised by the difficulty and equally surprised by how addictive it becomes. Be sure to share your success stories (or shots) with us over on the Facebook page.