I’m just coming off of attending Shutterfest this week. I wrote about my experiences last year.
Shutterfest is this crazy photography conference in St. Louis. It’s a week of non-stop photoshoots, mainly geared to the portrait and wedding photographers. You can see us doing cosplay photoshoots at 3 AM, shooting boudoir photos in the Starbucks, and generally going crazy with costumes, lighting and experimentation. I go because it’s also a week of craziness where I can explore photographing people.
Though I only do a bit of portrait shooting, many of the lessons I learn I can apply to travel and street photography.
This week the challenge is to….
I’ll broaden this challenge to be about photographing people in general rather than specifically portraiture, but if you haven’t tried your hand at portraits, this might be a good week to phone a friend and do a bit of practice. You don’t need a lot of specialist gear to get started – use natural light instead of flashes and see what you can do.
Up until a couple of years ago I would have been panicked by this challenge. Photograph people!?? Are you crazy! I can’t point my actual camera at an actual person! They’ll get mad or worse, yell at me!
I was at a workshop with a Nat. Geo. photographer a couple of years ago and this is exactly what happened. The instructions were to photograph people – and not in a voyeuristic sort of way – but interacting with the people we were photographing. She forced us to ask if people if we could can take their photograph and take multiple photos – not just one quickie and run away. I can tell you, there was sweat on our brows as we headed out into the streets.
In the end, it was a great experience. I still prefer the candid street shots, but I’m much more comfortable interacting with strangers on the street.
Most of the time when I travel, I’ll take a few candid shots and then take a few more after I’ve established a connection with the person. I now have choices – sometimes I like the candid better, sometimes I like the more intimate shot better.
I won’t make actually talking to person you’re photographing a condition of the challenge, but it really pushed me out of my comfort zone and opened up my street photography. If you need a kick, consider it done – go out and take photos of a stranger AND interact with them.
My book Streets of India is available through Blurb as a hardback and as an e-book.
Some tips I give when photographing people in a workshop I do on travel photography. These apply whether you’re doing street photography or photographing a family holiday.
Here are a few tips:
- Focus on the eyes. (Difficult to do if shooting their backs.)
- Make person/people larger than you think you need to in frame. It’s ok to cut off a bit of their head as long as it makes visual sense.
- Check background for distractions – like telephone poles coming out of their heads
- When photographing children, get down low. Be at eye-level
- Use shallow depth of field to blur background. Minimizes distractions
- Take a few candid photos and then a few posed ones. You can move most people into better light. They might think you’re crazy, but if they’re willing to have their photo taken, they’re usually willing to take a couple of seconds to be repositioned.
- Increase shutter speed if trying to catch action.
This week, take your camera and your courage and interact with people to make beautiful, interesting, or quirky photos.