Street Photography Portrait: Techniques and Tips

Street photography is a way of documenting what happens around us. Although it may seem that it is just photographing people on the street without rhyme or reason, today we will show you that it can be more than that.
Street photography seeks to capture the essence and personality of everyday life through the capture of urban landscapes, people or objects.
In this article, we are going to focus on knowing the techniques to make different urban or street photography portrait and some useful tips when going out. Do you want to learn more? Well, keep reading!

street photography portrait

What is street photography portrait?

The urban or street photography portrait consists of photographing totally strange and unknown people when we go down the street. Don’t forget to ask for their consent either before or after taking the photograph.

The purpose is to capture scenes unaffected by the photographer in order to show a natural person and story. Some photographers describe it as “looking into the soul of a subject” and managing for a moment to feel identified with him on a human level.

Techniques in urban photography

When it comes to photographing people, there are different methods of photographing them. It all depends on the degree of involvement of the subject within the photograph. Let’s see some examples:

Subjects Integrated in the Urban Landscape

In this technique, the person is one more element of the landscape. The urban environment is the protagonist and not them. Many people would not consider it a portrait, since the subject is not the main element of the image, but having intentionally added the subject within the urban landscape it is because it does have a meaning in our composition.

Subjects Unaware of Being Photographed

When we use this system, we are photographing people who are not aware that they are being photographed. They “go about their business” and are totally oblivious to the lens of our camera. These subjects, without knowing it, are the protagonists of our composition.

Subjects Surprised to Discover the Camera

Another method is to capture just the moment when the subject realizes that he/she is being photographed. The challenge would be to capture that second in which the person discovers the lens of the photographer’s camera in front of them and reacts puzzled, angry, or even scared.

Subjects Posing Spontaneously

Here the subject has realized our intentions to photograph him and reacts in the most spontaneous way possible by posing for the occasion without even having been asked. The normal thing is that people cross the sidewalk when they see a photographer, but there are always individuals who like to attract attention and pose in front of the cameras as if they were a “celebrity”.

Subjects Cooperating with the Photographer

Finally, another common technique is where we propose subjects that call our attention to pose for us. They would be those occasions in which we ask them to carry out an action, repeat a gesture or to be part of the urban landscape that surrounds them.

Tips for Taking street photography Portraits

If you are taking urban portraits, you can choose a single technique to photograph people or combine several. As we have mentioned before, sometimes you may find people collaborating with you. Perhaps at first you photograph him/her without noticing, then he/she sees you, gets surprised and finally participates in your photographs. If this happens, you would already be putting various photography methods into practice.

The tips that we have compiled when making a street photography portrait are designed to photograph people from the group of ‘Cooperating Subjects’. Those we have asked to collaborate with us within the urban landscape.

Prepared for rejection

Not everyone likes being photographed or photographed by a stranger. So when you talk to strangers to include them in your urban photographs, you should be prepared for rejection, since people will not always let you photograph them or publish their image. Of course, if you ask in a friendly way, the normal thing is that the refusal is also cordial.

Choose your Subjects by Intuition

As you walk down the street, people-watch and sooner or later you will find someone who catches your eye and catches your eye. To find your subject, sit near a busy street and when you see something that catches your attention such as: an extravagant hat, an original haircut, a picturesque style of a dress… take the opportunity to shoot your camera.

Eye Contact

street photography portrait

Without a doubt, eye contact is something very intimate and can transmit a lot in our captures. However, if the subject allows it, try to get different shots where they are looking and not looking at the camera. Since when our model does not look at the camera, the image is usually more natural.

Also Read: You Will Never Take A Colorful Portrait After Reading This Article

Look for Naturalness

We all have our smile rehearsed to pose in front of the camera. Sadly, that smile does not express naturalness. It is usually forced for the occasion. To make your photographs unfold naturally, try not to let the model look at the camera. This may require you to distract him/her. Ask him/her something that you know that interests him/her, tell him/her a joke… Anything for him/her to lower his/her guard and forget about the camera. When that happens, take the opportunity to release several bursts of photos. The moment of carelessness will be your best ally to capture emotions with the greatest naturalness.

That is if it has not been that person’s smile that has attracted your attention.

Other aspects to look at …

When taking street photography, don’t just look at people’s faces. Try to catch gestures. For example, hand gestures often add dynamism, energy and life to a portrait.

Movements as natural as taking off sunglasses or smoking a cigarette can give a lot of play to the composition of your photo.

Try Various Angles and Perspectives

street photography portrait

If the stranger in question is comfortable with you and their photoshoot, you can ask them to stay longer to get images with original points of view, different angles, perspectives and distances.

Direct him/her as if he/she were a model, ask him/her to look up or to the sides, to turn in profile and to become a professional for a day.

Since it leaves you, experiment with it! Get very close to your subject, get away … Later, when you do the later viewing of the session, you will decide which photograph captures the soul of your subject the most.

Good lighting

Try to follow the tips for lighting outdoor portraits that we always give you. Be careful with the sunlight. So that it doesn’t get in the way of your portraits, try going out to shoot in the early hours or late in the day. That way you will get your photos to have a more beautiful light, since you can take advantage of the blue and red colors of sunrise and sunset.

Play with shadows and contrasts to add drama to your shots. You can try photographing your subject with the sun behind them if the silhouette is what attracts your attention the most. Do not stop trying and let your imagination fly.

Use A Tripod And A Flash

If you want to go out to practice at night, remember that there are two essential elements that you must take into account. The tripod and the use of the flash.

With the flash you can do some tests, using it or not to see how they come out. You can use the flash that comes with your camera or using an external flash. You can use it to fill in the shadows that your model may have on his/her face or to give volume to the subject and separate it from the background. It is best to try with both options to see which result convinces you the most.

If it is very dark, remember also that using a tripod will always give you greater stability.

Use Burst Mode

street photography portrait

If a subject has given you approval to photograph, take advantage and work the scene. The most advisable thing is to take photo sequences to be able to choose the moment that best captures the emotion you are looking to portray. To do this, use the burst mode of your camera.

Ask for the contact and image transfer information

If you want to use the image of a person, it is essential by law that the subject gives you their consent. It is always better to have it in writing, so take advantage of the fact that you are going to send them the photographs to get their email and in that way to send them a document of transfer of image rights.

A Masterclass For Street Portrait