The Beginner’s Guide To Shooting Street Portraits (Part 3)

If you’ve been following this guide to shooting street portraits then you’re already on your way to becoming a legitimate street portrait photographer. It’s now time to get you over the line…

By now you should have gathered some experience in approaching people in the street and asking them if you can take their portrait. Through using the tips and techniques listed in part 1 and part 2,  hopefully, your confidence has grown – both in taking street portraits and communicating with people.  I’m sure there have been some difficult encounters along the way, just know that’s all part of the learning process. As we bring this beginners guide to a close we are going to take a closer look at what makes a compelling street portrait and how to end the interaction with your subject.

 

Compelling Street Portraits

 

What makes a compelling street portrait? Of course, the answer is very subjective. But if you’re wanting to build a portfoli0 that impresses people, you’re going to have to be creative. Remember, you want the viewer to stay with your photo and feel something. Here are some of the characteristics I tend to look out for…

  • Confidence –  A person who is confident in the way they carry themselves will be more likely to give a natural, relaxed looking street portrait.
  • Eccentricity – People who are a little bit “out there” always make for a more interesting subject. They may show how eccentric they are through their dress sense, their hair and how they do their make up.
  • Strength –  Look for people who stand up tall. They display their confidence through a dominating presence. Sharp suits and strong jawlines go a long way!
  • Vulnerability – Someone with a soft facial expression. The kind of person that has no clue how interesting and beautiful they are. These type of street portraits provoke empathy within the viewer.

Top Tip – Refrain from just taking photos of people who look like generic Instagram models. Dig deeper into the beauty of humanity – show diversity.

 

Bringing Your Interaction to a Close

The way you say goodbye is as equally important as the way you say hello. Rather than saying thanks and leaving, have a little extra dialogue with your subject. Most importantly, show them some of the images you have taken of them. Allow them to see what you see, further build up their confidence. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling to know you may have been the highlight of another persons’ day.

If you have a business card, give it to them. Ask them to follow you on social media and for them to ask their friends to follow you too. Use this as an opportunity to build your online presence. Also, ask if they would like you to send them the final images. Take their email address and give them a little gift on the house.

Top Tip – As a matter of etiquette, ask them if they are happy with you sharing their street portrait on social media. It’s polite to let them know your intentions and to gain their blessing. If they say no, as a rule, always respect this.

 

Recap

That brings us to the end of this three part guide. It has been emotional! But before you go, let’s recap what we have covered during this beginners guide to shooting street portraits.

  • A confident approach – Go in confidently and be open with why you want to take a persons’ portrait.
  • Handle Rejection – People declining your request to take their photo is inevitable. Don’t let it get you down and make sure you move onto your next subject as quickly as possible.
  • Making Your Subject Feel Comfortable – A natural, flowing dialogue with your subject will put them at ease whilst in your company. Listen to them, get to know them and show that you’re genuine. They will relax more in front of the camera.
  • Dont Try to Control Your Subjects – Remember this is not a professional photo shoot. Your subject is not being paid – don’t ask them to do a variety of poses. Allow them to be themselves and to pose how they feel most comfortable.
  • Seek Out Interesting Subjects – The more visually pleasing and thought-provoking the subject, the more interest people will have in viewing it. Go for power, eccentricity and emotion.
  • Say Goodbye The Right Way – Rather than running off never to be seen again, end your interaction correctly. Have your card to hand and be polite in offering to send them the image.

If you have followed the guide and taken part in the weekly challenges, we would love to see your results below in the comments section!

Dan Ginn is a UK based street photographer and writer. Learn more about him via his website and Instagram