Recently, I have been developing my street photography skills. Why? Well because I feel the activity of carrying out an acceptable and enjoyable image to look at involves "seeing" the composition and subject very quickly. By this I mean I am using this as a way to hone my skills for portrait photography by quickly assessing a situation and attempting to get a worthwhile shot in a small amount of time. If you've ever tried street photography, you may know that it can be kind of a nerve-racking experience!
In this process, I have learned several things! I am hoping that these tips will help you overcome the fears this style of photography can bring and raise your overall comfort level. I call this the "Four F's and a P":
Fearless. We start here because you have to start somewhere. I mean, you have to decide to start taking street photographs; you have to take that first step! One thing that helped me right away was to understand the law. As long as you are photographing in a public space (i.e. not privately owned) you are allowed to photograph anything and everyone for artistic purposes. You can, of course, photograph in coffee shops and such, but you will need permission from the owner and subjects.
Friendly. This may seem counter intuitive, in that most people think of street photography as a stealthy act and, in some cases it is. But overall, this really isn't the case. I usually am fairly close to the subjects I photograph, and it helps to be open and honest about what you are doing (the photo below I was only 3 feet from my subject). Many times I request to take the subject's photo first. But there have been many times where I take a photograph, smile, and say "thanks." That smile and gesture helps to diffuse their initial confusion and suspicions.
Focus. I really don't want to say it, because I feel that it's overused a bit, but in street photography we are trying to catch the "Decisive Moment," as Henri Cartier-Bresson once stated. But, isn't this true in all the photography we do? What is more important, and what will help us all be better photographers, is to stay focused. As we're walking the streets, we need to focus on the scenes around us, not just in front of us. We need to anticipate and be ready to trip the shutter for a quick capture. As you can focus and anticipate what is about to happen, you will find your photographic composition getting stronger!
Forgiveness. This is a very necessary compliment to our skill set. As I said earlier, it's important to be friendly, and there may be times when were tested on our friendliness and forgiveness. Let's say that you take an image of someone and they are not happy about it. Still remember to smile and forgive the subject of their passionate protest. Just delete the image and move on - they will generally be appeased that you deleted the image and move on as well. Apologize if it continues, but don't rise to their anger, because it will only make it worse.
Patience. This of course helps with the aforementioned situation as well, but is more about waiting for the scene to open up in front of you. One technique that many of the masters employ is scouting a location and waiting for the moment to unfold. It may take a long time for that to happen, but it is always worth it, so just be patient and it will come in time!
There is so much to learn and experiment in street photography. Every time I head out to shoot, I try to focus on a detail and skill to work on. One great way to improve your skills it's to take a class! We have an upcoming Street Photography class that will help you get on your way! Check it out on by clicking here! The first class will be on March 14, 2015.