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:
- Take breaks.
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.
- Focus on the look.
- Capture details.
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.
- Shoot with wiring.
- Shoot with a closed aperture.
A great way to show movement in a frame and focus on a moving subject while naturally blurring the surroundings.
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.