3 tips for street portraits

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Intro

By no means am I good at portraits. I’m just learning, but there’s a couple of things that I’m starting to understand.

These don’t apply to just portraits, but to photography in general. However, in my opinion, they apply especially to portraits.

Tip #1: Shoot as much as you can

First, it’s important to shoot a lot of photos. As many as possible. The more the better. Basically, as long as the subject is there, it’s important to keep shooting. As you can see on the contact sheet, I shot 13 photos. This is nothing; it’s not a lot at all.

It depends on every scene, but 10-15 is the bare minimum. It would be better to shoot at least around 50.

As you can see, the very last image I took ended up being the best. If I would’ve only taken 10, I wouldn’t have gotten this one. Then again, had I taken 50, I would’ve perhaps gotten an even better one. I never know.

There’s a really good photography book called Magnum Contact Sheets. Going through the book, I realized that the Magnum photographers often shoot a huge amount of photos.

Even on the days of film, they shot an entire roll if they saw a good scene. Sometimes the very last frame ended up becoming a world-famous iconic photo.

Tip #2: Work the scene

Working the scene means not only taking many photos but changing the angle, perspective, directing the subject, using portrait mode as well as landscape mode, etc.

So that ideally you would have a lot of different photos of the same scene. You never know if you got the image you want until you look at them on your computer. The more pictures you have, the bigger the chance that you got a keeper.

I do have to mention that on this particular series, I get a little bit annoyed by the pole. But then again, this is street photography, and there are so many variables to look out for. I guess, noticing such details comes with experience.

Tip #3: Catch the unguarded moment

Lighting, simple background, subject separation: all checked in the photo above. But none of them makes the photo.

What makes the photo is the unguarded moment.

This is the moment when your subject is not aware of the camera. Even if the moment lasts a split of a second, it makes a huge difference.

In the contact sheet above, it’s obvious why the last frame trumps all the others.

KRISTJAN