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Can you imagine a world without street photography? Think of the legacy that Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, and lesser known pioneers of the genre left for us to enjoy for generations to come. We can all play a part in documenting the world around us, one photograph at a time.
One of the most common reservations people have about shooting street photography is the feeling of invading their subjects’ privacy. It’s a legitimate concern and one that can be addressed by following simple rules of respect. I always urge my workshop students to refrain from photographing people in vulnerable or embarrassing situations. It’s a simple rule: You should be able to put yourself in your subject’s shoes and be okay with your photograph being shared on social media. Photographing a beautiful story in a public place should never be a concern, anywhere in the world, if it is done with respect.
Unfortunately, as the genre gains more and more popularity, many photographers forget those essential rules of respect. That makes it even more difficult and intimidating for others to make their first steps in the exciting world of street photography.
If you are still hesitant, there are ways to include the human element in your photography without revealing their identity. Those methods can be very rewarding and make for very artistic images. So here are a few tips to help you do more anonymous street photography.
Not every subject photographed from behind will make a strong image. Gesture will be the biggest factor to consider. Background and light are also strong elements. Basically, your image should be stronger shot from behind than if you had photographed the same subjects while facing them.
In a minimalist approach to street photography, your subject is usually quite small but becomes the focal point in an interesting urban landscape. Look for interesting architecture, repeated patterns, geometrical shapes, etc. They all make for very interesting backgrounds. Wait for the right subject to enter your frame, et voilà!
Who doesn’t love to photograph silhouettes? Again, the subject has to be well defined. There should be as few distracting elements in front of your subject as possible. Don’t hesitate to blow out the highlights for a more dramatic silhouette. The less distinguishable the background, the better! Photographing the right gesture or step are the key to a successful silhouette.
Shooting into the sun is also a great way to create a dramatic effect while maintaining the anonymity of your subject.
Street photography is best done up close for a more intimate image, but shooting from above or far away can make interesting photographs as well. The human elements, even small, draw the eye of the viewer without revealing their identity.
Long exposure to create some motion blur is also a really fun way to photograph people. This works well in busy places, such as train stations. The architecture has to be interesting as it will become the highlight of the image by being the sharpest element.
Crank up that ISO! Night street photography can be so much fun. Use your best judgement and stay safe!
Think outside the box. Street photography doesn’t have to be about faces. Find more abstract ways to photograph strangers.
How do you approach candid street photography? Please share your experience with the dPS readers.