The fear of photographing strangers prevents many from trying street photography. The genre is commonly associated with getting into people’s face and invading their personal space. Yet, there are many ways to approach street photography and one of them will surely fit your personality and your creative vision.
Be an observer
This is one of the most common ways to approach street photography. You simply walk down the street and react to situations. What catches your eye may be as simple as the physical appearance of a person, an interconnection, a juxtaposition, a facial expression or body language. Other times the way the light falls on someone may draw your eye, it may be a reflection, a shadow, etc.
Find a stage and wait for the right subject to enter your frame
The perfect stage can be a textured wall, the dappled light under a bridge, a shaft of light on the sidewalk, a shop window, some graffiti or a billboard. The possibilities are endless and the key to the success of the image is to recognize the strong subject and capture the right gesture, step, etc.
Be part of the scene and in your subject’s space
This requires to be very close, sometimes just a few inches, from the person you are photographing. Again, the subject and the moment will make or break the shot but the result can also be very powerful. For this type of shots, a wide angle will be the lens of choice.
Be more minimalist and incorporate the human element in the urban landscape
This method, when done right, can yield some visually powerful images. The urban landscape or architecture will be your main visual draw. This works particularly well with modern and symmetrical architecture. Finding the right location and the best angle for the strongest composition possible is only half the battle. Next comes the skill of determining who will make the best subject and a great deal of patience is often required. It is important to be very discerning and not settle for the first person that will enter your frame. Even if the human element is very small, separation in the body is important, so is the right stepping. We also look for other elements that make a stronger subject such as a hat, hair blowing in the wind, an umbrella, etc.
Make a street portrait!
Interacting with people on the street, even if very briefly, is a really fun way to shoot street photography. Once you have the okay from your subject, then take your time and do it right. Do not hesitate to ask people to move across the street for a better backdrop or better light. If you are an introvert and the mere thought of approaching a stranger stops you in your tracks, practice without a camera for a while. If, after many attempts, you still don’t enjoy the process, then maybe this is not for you. You may be happier trying one of the other approaches to street photography described above.
Remember that you are shooting street photography for fun and for yourself. You may be very comfortable in all those different ways to approach the street, or you may only enjoy one of them. You should not feel like you have to fit in. No one makes the rules here. Listen to your heart and photograph what makes you happy to find your creative voice.
Now it’s time to grab your camera, and hit the streets!