The choices of what to shoot in street photography are nearly endless. Street photography broadly defined is about capturing the human element. Street photography can include photos of people whether they are personally identifiable or not. As I wrote in a previous article, German street photography tends to not show a person’s face because of their privacy laws. I quite like this style. But you don’t have to be German to shoot in this style. Many of the stunning photos by Saul Leiter do not show a person’s face. Street photography can also merely suggest the presence of people.
A large majority of street photography is straight ahead shots of people. I use this style on a regular basis but I also often shoot people walking by my frame. Capturing a side view of them. That’s only two angles and styles that you can do. Regardless of the place where you shoot from, in New York City street photography is legal in public spaces. That includes children, police and everything in-between.
I have my own set of rules about what to shoot. First of all I think that it’s important to be within close proximity to your subject. To stand back at a distance with a telephoto lens is creepy. I know that if someone did it to me I would be suspect of their motives. That is how people naturally respond in this situation.
I shoot children on a regular basis. I realize that’s not always an easy subject to photograph in this day and age. Even for a woman. But no matter who I choose to capture in my frame, I always look at their eyes for a brief second to determine whether to take their photo or not. It’s very possible that I have good intuition on who to shoot and whom not to. Shooting the streets does mean that you may have communication with people. In my experience very few people are upset by having their photo taken. Not everyone will like it and that’s something that you can’t know or control in life.
I don’t take photos of people who clearly look like they have a psychological, drug or alcohol problem because I can’t predict how they will react. I do on occasion photograph homeless people. The world is full of beautiful people living the good life. I think that it’s important to show all of humanity. A beautiful photo doesn’t have to be of a “beautiful” person. I do think that it’s always important to show the subject of your photos with respect no matter who they are.
Street portraits are a different topic and nevertheless still a valid genre of photography. They are not however street photography. In street photography shoot first and ask questions later. It’s not about seeking permission. Photos that are taken after asking for permission are rarely candid. I’ve never liked having my photo taken mostly because I don’t like the way I look in photos. But on a few occasions people have taken candid photos of me that I like. In general, people are too conscious about how they should pose in front of the camera. I rarely like those photos as much as the candid shots. Happy shooting!