Street portraits are a vital part of street photography in my opinion. I say this because so many people will write it off or try to put it into a different genre. It's street photography and it's one of the most fulfilling experiences in all of photography. There's something about talking to a stranger that's refreshing, you get to know what they're up to and if you meet the right person they'll get to know a little bit about you too.
Every person I stopped was just open to talking, in fact, there were a couple times when I tried to walk away and they brought me back. One guy even invited me into his workspace, he wanted to take down my Instagram info because he loved B&W photographs. Again, just great conversation, it made me wonder how many interesting conversations I could have known if I just stopped and talked to them
I think the art of street portraits are lost in today's photography. So many are caught up in capturing the candid moment. Personally, I think a lot of people are just afraid of face to face interactions. Afraid that someone is too busy, or that whoever they're asking to pose might freak out and frighten them. I'm not saying those things will never happen, but since I've been shooting the worst response I got was no... or no response at all.
I did a vlog a little while back, promoting Eric Kim's Street Notes. The challenge was to try and get 5 no's and 5 yes's from strangers... A few of you can probably guess the results based on what I said above, but I'll leave the video here for those who want to watch the footage.
I also recorded a bit of POV from this session. I really wanted to show you guys my simple one-step approach to taking street portraits. For those who don't want to watch, I'll break it down here but I highly recommend you check out the footage below, as you can see how simple it really is.
Essentially what I do in this vlog is compliment my subject. If you're asking to capture someone's image chances are you like something about them. It could be their hair or outfit or shoes or even something as small as their earrings, either way, something about them stands out to you. Use that to your advantage, simply stop them and say
"Excuse me, I really like your hair, you don't see that type of style every day, mind if I capture a photograph?"
I think this approach is great because it's simple, as a photographer the last thing you want to do is stress yourself out on what to say to someone when you see them. Also, it helps ease the mind of your subject, if a stranger is walking up to you asking to capture your image you'll often think "for what", well this approach answers that for them. It's a win-win!
I challenge everyone to get out there and capture some street portraits tomorrow. I know we love candid photographs and being invisible, but there is something really cool about interacting with your subject as well. I hope this quick tips made sense for you, also don't forget to check out the POV to see how I captured these photos and more importantly, how I interacted with my subjects!