Candid Street Portraits - Street Photography Workflow
Approaching people on the street for a portrait, or photographing people candidly seems to be a struggle for a lot of photographers, especially those that are newer to street photography. It doesn’t matter that you can competently photograph people you know very well, or that you can photograph and direct models, when it comes street portraits you freeze. Does this sound like you, a little?
Why Candid Portraits are better than asking for a posed portrait
You see a person and you ask for a photograph, they say yes and then proceed to do some crappy pose and give you the high school photo smile that is totally unnatural and was the last thing you wanted from the photo. You wouldn't have asked if you knew this would happen but you proceed to take an image that you DO NOT WANT anymore. They ask if they can see it and you reluctantly show the image to them. Then they complain and say that they look terrible and that you should take another one to get a better angle of them. You end up being stuck with this person for 3 very long minutes (feels like 20mins) and now you have these images that they want digital copies of and all you want to do is forget and delete them. This is the reason why we think that when it comes to people you don't know, you should aim to shoot candidly. Candidly doesn't have to be fleeting, it can be well composed and look almost like it was set up if you do it right.
Here is our workflow for candid street portraits
Check for flaws in the scene
You spot a subject that you want to photograph. First thing you will want to do is check the scene for any flaws or dangers that would have a negative impact on the final image or land you in trouble. We often see a subject that looks worthy of a photo but after quickly assessing the subjects surrounding and how the lighting is, we find that it’s just not worth it and we move on from the scene or we re-compose from a different angle and check for flaws once more. This is a fast process in itself and we don’t dawdle. This is all done with the camera down, slung or in the pocket, we asses with our eyes and mind only. Remember bad light is bad light and no matter how good your camera is bad light sucks, it’s not worth it.
Assuming the scene has no flaws or the flaws are acceptable enough for you to proceed. You now need to figure out how you will frame the shot and what setting are best suited for it. We like to maintain a level of control for these images so we set our camera to shutter priority and set the shutter speed for a sharp image. 1/250s - 1/500s is great but it depends greatly on your environment and your personal preference. We have our ISO set around 800 and let the camera pick the matching aperture. As a preference our exposure metering is set to center weighted and the exposure comp is +⅓ stop
Position yourself correctly
We position ourselves in the spot where we intend to take the photograph from or close to it. At this point it is important that we don't directly face the subject instead facing our body to the left or right of them, this way we don’t draw as much attention to ourselves. You might want to tie your shoelace, stop to make a “answer” a call or look at something in the distance, anything to ensure the subject thinks you’re there for that reason only. The subject may glance but since you’re not facing them directly and you seem to be doing something else, like talking to nobody on the phone, they don’t fuss.
Take the shot
You’re in position and all that is left is for you to take the shot. You have one last choice to make. Do you want the subject to look at the camera or not. If the latter then quickly take the shot and move on, no harm done and the subject is non the wiser. If you want eye contact in your image then simply wait with your camera ready and in focus at the eye (or if using a flip screen), soon enough they will notice you and look directly at the camera lens this is when you release the shutter. Swiftly give them a thumbs up, smile, and walk away. Trust us they won’t do anything beyond looking confused and it will have all happened far to quickly for them to really process their thoughts. You could hang around and pretend you’re taking a picture of something else, which will give them time to assess you and what you just did and will likely result in them asking why. You could straight up tell them afterwards, but will get varied responses doing that. Its best to be on your way.
CANDID STREET PORTRAIT IMAGE EXAMPLES
tijuana street photography guided tours
The Image Guide offers street photography tours in Tijuana MX designed for street photographers of all abilities. We take you in the best areas to practice and thrive at street photography. We are ready to offer technical and creative advice to those that need it. These group sizes are kept small to provide discreet shooting environment for all here on the streets of Tijuana & Playas De Tijuana
For more information click STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIJUANA