There's nothing wrong with being a little nervous if you're out practising your street photography. Taking pictures of unaware people in candid situations, or approaching someone for a more deliberate photo isn't easy, but if you're trying to improve, acting the part of wallflower will only hinder your progress. It's a skill you'll need to develop, but you can improve your street photography effectiveness by following a few simple rules (and cracking open a cold one).
Image credit: Giuseppe Milo/Flickr
Use Your Phone Instead of a Larger Camera
Photography can be a bit intimidating for both the photographer and the subject depending on the equipment involved.
If you're worried about being too conspicuous, Chris Gampat of The Phoblographer suggests you start small. Like, with your phone, small. While this doesn't mean you should be taking creepshots with your iPhone — try to ask for permission before snapping a pic — using a familiar device puts both you and your subject at ease, and according to Chris, "[Phones] are typically much more inconspicuous."
Photos taken with an iPhone will also capture a subject's more candid nature better than one taken by a photographer with a full-frame camera and a honking lens a couple of metres away.
If you have your own camera but still feel wary about pointing it at someone, you can shoot from the hip, literally. "You'll be amazed at what you get, and modern photography lends itself so easily to post production," said Gampat.
Dress Well (Enough)
Taking someone's photo is easier when you don't look like a slob with a camera. Dressing well can influence our emotions, as well as boost self-esteem and productivity. It also makes you more attractive and more trustworthy in the eyes of others, especially if your clothes are tailored. That trustworthiness might be the difference between nailing and missing the perfect shot.
Our own in-house photographer, Victor Jeffreys II, suggests adding some flair to your outfit before hitting the streets. "You're in the best position when you look like the person who should be getting their photo taken," said Jeffreys. "You're not dressing up for church or the prom, don't go overboard. Just make sure what you are wearing, you like, and it makes you feel fly."
Go Manual When Focusing
Missing a shot because your camera's autofocus locked on to the wrong subject is an unfortunate but common problem you might run into when trying to capture some fast-paced city life. If you want to make sure your camera is always ready to shoot, you'll have to get used to your camera's manual focus mode.
"Lots of people believe that when you manually focus a lens you're sitting there cranking away at a focusing ring waiting to get something in focus and that couldn't be further from the truth," said Gampat. Instead, try zone focusing, which allows you to slow down and set up your scene before your shot. "You stop the lens down to a certain point and focus out to a certain distance," he said. "Then you just walk up to the subject until they are within said distance, and you shoot." Prepping your focus beforehand gives you time to capture your subject, a big plus if you need a little time to build your confidence.
We spent the last week learning all about the basics of photography, from the way your camera works to composing your photos to editing them in post. Here's the complete guide, along with a PDF of all the lessons and some additional resources fo learning more.
Nothing helps get people out of their comfort zone like something they enjoy. You should be interested in your subject, whether it's a leaking faucet, some dope shoes, or a supermodel looking right at you. "You have to take pictures of things you like," said Jeffreys. "If I think your shoes are fabulous, that's the photo I want to take. I don't want to take a picture of someone I'm 'supposed' to take a picture of. Make sure you're taking pictures of something you're excited about." Talk to your subject about what caught your eye, and why you want to take their photo. You can even offer to share the photo with them after you take it. All it takes is an email or phone number.
Relax Before Your Shoot
If photographing your favourite things or taking the time to focus on a subject won't get you out of your comfort zone, maybe a relaxing beverage might. "Drink a beer and a half before you start the thing," said Jeffreys. A little liquid courage never hurt, just make sure you're not reeking of booze while you're out on the town. But just a little — no one's going to say "yes" to a drunk stranger who smells of booze slurrily asking to take their picture.