How to Shoot Portraits Street Fashion Style: a Tutorial

For years, street fashion has become a bigger and bigger trend. Lots of photographers on Instagram do it for likes and genuinely enjoy doing it. It seems fairly simple too: find a subject, talk with them, shoot the image, get likes. Look up the #streetfashion photography hashtag and you’ll see lots of those photos everywhere. The original was Bill Cunningham, and then the Sartorialist made it cool again. Then everyone started doing it.

So how do you do it? Honestly, it has a whole lot less to do with technicalities than you’d think about more to do with the realization that content is king.

Locations and Times

First off, one of the best places to do this is in big cities where people walk a lot. You’re most likely to find people on the streets then. You should also observe their body language. If they’re obviously in a rush and walking super fast, then they don’t want to be bothered by you. Just let it go; this isn’t a problem with you, it’s a problem with them. Some of the best times to go are when the traffic calms down a bit. This is also when more eclectic people tend to come out because they may not care as much about a 9-5 job where the dress is very cookie cutter. While outfits at workplaces have surely relaxed, the stuff you’re typically going for is still easier to spot during these off hours.

The Conversation

I actually asked this woman for her photograph.

I actually asked this woman for her photograph.

So when you go about asking someone for a portrait, figure out what you’re going to say. Do you have some sort of intent or some sort of legitimacy to you? Answer these questions to figure out your speech and then say it in an as condensed form as possible:

  • Who are you?
  • No really, who are you?
  • What kind of photography do you do?
  • Why are you doing street fashion?
  • What are your goals with this image?
  • Do you plan on building followers?
  • Will someone care to be on your channel/page/site?
  • When and how will this person see their image?
  • What’s attracting you to this person to take their picture? Is it their physique or their clothes?
  • What are you doing with the image?
  • Do you need a model release of some sort?

Think about all this before you snap the shutter and when you’re choosing a location.

Colors in the Scene

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 7D Mk II review images portraits (2 of 2)ISO 4001-500 sec at f - 2.8

Obviously, this article is targeted to the people that already have good fashion sense. Considering how discerning most readers on this site are just about straps, it would make sense! If you’re asking for a portrait, try going to a more neutral or stagnant background of some sort. Some of the best portrait photographers try to keep the color in their scenes to a minimum.

Try to separate a subject from the rest of the crowd too.

Consistent Lighting

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 70D Portraits of Jesse (1 of 11)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 2.0

With candids, this is surely tough. But big cities have big buildings that typically offer lots of coverage from the sun. If you shoot in the shadows, you’re going to get more consistent lighting that is soft and diffused. It’s bound to make anyone look more flattering and much easier than carrying around a giant reflector.

Recommended Gear

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X-T2 review initial product images (2 of 12)ISO 2001-2000 sec at f - 2.0

Honestly, there are people that do street fashion with their phone or a little Rebel camera with a kit lens. Anything works and every camera is more than good enough to do what you want these days. But generally speaking, I recommend that people stick with a 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm lens equivalent. Primes do that whole bokeh thing that lets you separate your subject from the background with ease.