|Fuji X-100S. 1/1300th sec F/4 @ ISO 800. Walking man in a hat and poster girl in a hat both giving me a glare. Subject out of focus due to wrong aperture setting.|
The key is to find a good backdrop for your image first. Don't let it happen by accident. Walk around and find an area where there are lots of people passing by, but the background is interesting. At this stage, you're just trying to create a frame for your image, or what will outline the subject. Are you trying to create a simple backdrop (trees, building, crowd), juxtaposition, similarity, irony, etc. Which direction is the light coming from, or are you looking for even lighting? Are subject and background parallel to each other, or is the background at an angle? Will the subject be walking across, towards, or away from the background?
|Fuji X-Pro 1 w/14mm F/2.8. 1/500th sec F/8 @ ISO 1600. Standing by a light pole. Shooting while on my iPhone|
Once you've found your background and where you want to shoot from, decide on how you want your image to look like. Who will be in focus, the subject or the background, or is everything in focus? Are you going to use high shutter speed to freeze the subject, or slower to give the sense of motion? Do you want grain or no grain? Take a few test shots to make sure you can get what you want. This is where digital is advantageous, since you don't have film to waste and can see instant results (this is why we use to carry Polaroid cameras or Polaroid backs to get on-location results). If you have film, you're going to have to trust your instinct and learn over time (this is what I did for years...it makes you a better photographer as you learn to imagine your shots in your head before seeing it), or just carry a cheap point and shoot as your modern Polaroid test camera.
Now the easy part begins as you just sit and wait (or stand) while the subject comes to you. Yes, since you've already framed your image, checked for effects and exposure, the best part begins: enjoy your time and focus on getting that great shot. I would recommend not to look at your viewfinder too often. Maybe for the first few shots, but once you know everything is right, keep your eye focused on the subjects approaching your image frame. Notice the guy with the crazy hair approaching from the left, or the girl in the cute red polka-dot dress skipping along to your right.
|Ricoh GRD4. 1/84 F/3.2 @ ISO 80|
There is a fine line between us and them (street photographers vs paparazzi), and maybe we can discuss that down below in the comments section, or perhaps in another article in the future. My basic philosophy is this: I love people and want to capture everyone in a way that contributes and enhances my overall image, but also beautifies my subjects at the same time. I prefer interacting with my subjects and I would like to get to know them whenever I can.
If a person tells me they don't want their picture taken, or after taking an image they want it deleted, I will respectfully comply with a smile. If I take a great portrait of them, I'll show them and ask if I can either e-mail it to them personally, or I'll tell them when I'll be posting the image on my blog and leave them my business card. This is the biggest difference between us and paparazzi: we care about people more than our craft. This will be the subject of my next street photography article: How to effectively ask permission to take portraits on the street.
Until then, I hope this article has been helpful. Please ask any questions or comments below, and if you see me on the streets shooting, please come and say hello. I'm still looking for a videographer to help me start shooting some how-to videos in the future. Anyone interested? Happy shooting!