When we go on a trip and set our­selves the goal of get­ting not only new impres­sions, but also new shots, we need a spe­cial approach. Most like­ly, you under­stand that it’s not enough just to take a cam­era and go shoot every­thing, you need some aware­ness, and the more we think before shoot­ing, the bet­ter the result will be.

It is impor­tant to remem­ber that trav­el pho­tog­ra­phy includes sev­er­al dif­fer­ent gen­res of pho­tog­ra­phy: land­scape, reportage, and street pho­tog­ra­phy. And today we will dis­cuss shoot­ing peo­ple.

There is an opin­ion that street pho­tog­ra­phy is called any city shots, pic­tures of hous­es and streets, but this is not so. Street pho­tog­ra­phy is all about peo­ple. It does not mat­ter whether a per­son is walk­ing, rid­ing a bicy­cle or a car, just stand­ing there, think­ing — the per­son is the main char­ac­ter in the frame.

Why pho­to­graph por­traits of strangers? First, it’s inter­est­ing. Sec­ond­ly, it can great­ly increase the infor­ma­tion con­tent of your pho­to sto­ry, add some plot and plot. For exam­ple, if you come to a new city, it is not enough to cap­ture only the sights and archi­tec­ture, it is impor­tant to show the con­tent of these cities: peo­ple, their style, emo­tions and way of life. To do this, you can take ran­dom shots of passers-by, or you can ask a per­son to give you a minute for a por­trait. Let’s con­sid­er these two cas­es sep­a­rate­ly.

Part 1. Random portrait.

Tak­ing pic­tures of dif­fer­ent peo­ple, passers-by and inhab­i­tants on the street, you show the inhab­i­tants in their nat­ur­al habi­tat (this can be read in Droz­dov’s voice :)). The way peo­ple walk, what they wear, and how they inter­act. The most impor­tant thing here is to blend in with the crowd, be incon­spic­u­ous and try to avoid ran­dom glances at your cam­era.

What about the shoot­ing para­me­ters? It’s best not to use wide angle lens­es here, unless you want to show the scale of streets or build­ings com­pared to peo­ple. For me, the opti­mal focal length is 35–50mm in full frame. It’s best to turn on focus track­ing to keep mov­ing peo­ple in focus. Don’t for­get to make sure your shut­ter speed is fast enough to avoid unnec­es­sary blur­ring or move­ment.

When shoot­ing peo­ple on the street, you need to fast with patience. It hap­pens that there are too many peo­ple at the right point in space, or vice ver­sa, it is emp­ty. There­fore, it is bet­ter not to rush any­where, but just wait. By cap­tur­ing the right moment, you will make your shot more valu­able, and you will also have enough time to choose a bet­ter angle and cam­era set­tings.

I want to make a small remark. In some coun­tries, care must be tak­en when pho­tograph­ing peo­ple. For exam­ple, in the Arab states, you should not shoot women open­ly, and I also do not advise spend­ing too much time in dis­ad­van­taged and poor areas.

For myself, I devel­oped a rule of three min­utes: if the place is rest­less, you do not need to be in it for more than three min­utes. After all, even in order for thieves or rob­bers to know that a tourist with an expen­sive cam­era is walk­ing in their area, it takes time.

It is worth remem­ber­ing about those who are dis­sat­is­fied with what you are shoot­ing. If you are asked for mon­ey, to show or remove footage — nev­er fol­low the lead of these peo­ple. Here I can give some advice on how to behave:

  • Don’t under­stand. Let them know that you do not speak the lan­guage of that coun­try.
  • Leave, and do not come back if you are called.
  • Pre­tend you are shoot­ing “by”, for exam­ple, as if you are tak­ing a pic­ture of your friend or some build­ing.
  • Or even shoot dis­creet­ly. Turn on silent mode on your cam­era (if you have one) and focus track­ing, and take hip shots with­out bring­ing the cam­era up to your face.

Part 2. Staged portrait.

Now I’ll talk about how to take more con­scious and staged shots of peo­ple.

It is clear that few peo­ple will like it if an unfa­mil­iar tourist sticks a cam­era in his face. Here a spe­cial approach is need­ed.

The first thing you need to do is to cre­ate a con­tact with the per­son you are inter­est­ed in. Get to know him, ask some­thing, take an inter­est, and at the same time be polite and smil­ing. And then ask per­mis­sion to take a pic­ture for mem­o­ry. It can be a barista in a cafe, and a sell­er and a builder.

In the case of some crafts­man or street work­er, you can just pay some atten­tion to his work, watch and wait a minute or two. Thanks to your open actions, peo­ple will not expe­ri­ence stress and anx­i­ety. Here you can slow­ly build a frame, use a wide-angle lens to show a per­son in the sur­round­ing space, and open the aper­ture to add vol­ume.

The most impor­tant thing in every­thing is to get the end view­er to look at your pho­tos, to ensure that the pic­ture is inter­est­ing, it was pleas­ant to look at. You can manip­u­late the view­er’s atten­tion by using var­i­ous tech­niques of com­po­si­tion, light, col­or and var­i­ous spots and geo­met­ric shapes. For exam­ple, try to put peo­ple in a bright light, in the light from a lantern or even a traf­fic light. Try also to use back­light. On the street, such light has a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter than in the stu­dio. It is not direct­ed nar­row­ly along the con­tours of a per­son, but wide­ly envelops him and the objects around him. Scat­tered back­light cre­ates a very con­trast­ing pat­tern. How­ev­er, it is worth remem­ber­ing that col­ors are lost in such light.

When to shoot? For me, the most pleas­ant time is the ear­ly morn­ing, when most of the inhab­i­tants go to work, and the sun is quite low on the hori­zon. At the same time, there are prac­ti­cal­ly no tourists and dai­ly bus­tle on the streets.

Instead of sum­ming up, I want to give you some sim­ple tips that can help you take more inter­est­ing and live­ly street pho­tos:

  1. Take breaks.
  2. Stop often and look around, look back. You can, for exam­ple, stand fac­ing the flow of peo­ple and look for an inter­est­ing face. Sure­ly you will be reward­ed with an inter­est­ing sto­ry at the very first stop — and all you had to do was pause dur­ing the walk.

  1. Focus on the look.

  1. Cap­ture details.
  2. Some­times it’s worth pay­ing atten­tion to details: hands, faces, wardrobe details or a lone­ly object – shot close-up, they can “play” and tell some­thing that sim­ply can­not be seen in the gen­er­al frame.

  1. Shoot with wiring.
  2. A great way to show move­ment in a frame and focus on a mov­ing sub­ject while nat­u­ral­ly blur­ring the sur­round­ings.

  3. Shoot with a closed aper­ture.
  4. Some­times it is required not to select one object from the back­ground, but, on the con­trary, to show the entire scene as a whole. To do this, you have to increase the depth of field and close the aper­ture.

The main thing to remem­ber is that the end result does not depend on the cam­era, but on you and your hands. Move from sim­ple to com­plex, because you can hard­ly learn to shoot a por­trait on the street with­out learn­ing how to shoot it in sim­pler con­di­tions, where you can safe­ly expose the mod­el and set up the cam­era. Prac­tice, exper­i­ment and don’t be afraid to shoot.