Trade Secrets for Navigating the Streets: A Photographer’s Guide

What are your biggest fears? Are any of them related to dealing with social settings? Here I will share some street photography trade secrets that aren’t often discussed but have huge effects on the results shooters get on the streets. 

Interactions with people can bring up some anxiety. This is why our Fearless Street Photography Workshop has so many people with the same goal. Overcoming their fear and learning techniques to deal with situations that can arise on the street. This increases confidence and courage.

When I approach people on the street for a photo, my heart does beat fast.

1. Use Courage Challenges to Overcome Your Fear

Courage challenges are techniques we use in our Fearless Street Photography Workshop. Approaching someone is a good way to break through the barrier and start feeling comfortable on the streets.

I’m at my most courageous during the Fearless Street Photography workshop (well, because I’m teaching, I have to be right). So I have to set a good example and shake things up a little to give the group the chance to take good shots.

When I approach someone, I usually have a friend or student nearby. Having that support is important. To have that comradery after the interaction is over, to walk away together with a friend and talk or laugh about the interaction.

2. Destroy the “Photographers’ Hand” myth

It’s a controversy.

Many people believe the streets should be “undisturbed”. This is a conversation I love to bring into the Fearless Street Photography workshop. Important questions to consider: how do we as viewers know how much influence the photographer had on the shots we see and are inspired by… How much does your sheer presence on the street change the street itself? 

You won’t know until you try which way works best for you. As a result, I challenge the students to use street photography techniques such as “fishing” to capture purely candid shots. As well as techniques like “can you do that again?” where you ask someone to replay a cool action and get a good angle on it.

The above work was created by Photographer Robert in our Street Photographer Workshop.

3. Use the Three P’s to Create a Series

Do you know what the most important item I notice lacking in students’ photography that prevents them from progressing to the next level? It’s all about direction…

Proper Prior Planning…

It’s important to have a theme or an idea of what you want to capture and in my experience there are two major ways to do this and shoot photos that will make a great series.

  1. Create a series about one topic. Doors for example, or banana peels on the streets. I had a student pick a theme of people with pets in Amsterdam, which produced great results.
  2. The second is to create a story of the place. A series like this would have many different kinds of shots like a wide angle establishing shot, a portrait, a detail and it could be nice to add an action shot.

4. Switch Positions: The Role of Composition

Composition is the simplest and fastest way to take better photos. People respond more to images that show the subject is a new/ unique way and learning and implementing composition techniques helps us do that.

5. The Key Ingredient: Create images that tell a story.

There is a big difference between images that feel like random shots and images that tell a story… A story image makes the viewer question what is happening or gives the opportunity for different interpretations.

There are several techniques that can help shooters move from taking random photos on the streets to creating images that tell stories.

Like, make two things and connect them, suggest the relationship and leave room for the viewer to question it.

This image was created by our Photography Basics Course Instructor, Michele Cigna, in an assignment he gives in the course called “Show Me You Are in Amsterdam Without Showing Me You Are in Amsterdam.”

Join us at our Fearless Street Photography Workshop

Good luck shooters, and as always, if you want to shoot and learn together with a supportive and creative group, join us in our courses or workshops.