How to Photograph Strangers

How to Photograph Strangers



how's it going guys I'm Josh cats we were in New York City's West Village and today I'm going to teach you how to photograph strangers in street photography now photographing strangers is the essence of street photography and there's so many different ways to do it there's the jamming your camera into someone's face method there is this subtle candidate hip shot there is the posing your portraits of strangers so many different ways and talking to a stranger and approach them initially is it an intimidating thing it takes a lot of practice it takes a lot of confidence and it's hard to initially jump into it so in today's video I'm gonna walk you through step by step on how to build your confidence and nail those beautiful street photos and if you're not too familiar with street photography I have a more thorough tutorial link to that right over here that covers everything from the ethics to the history to the best camera settings definitely check it out if you haven't seen it before Before we jump in a quick preface first of all you've got to be very fast with your photos for street photography because moments are fleeting always have your settings lined up so you could take super quick photos within a half a second when the opportunity presents itself and if you don't know what the good most optimal camera settings are definitely check out my street photo tutorials secondly strangers I call these people's strangers because it's quick to the point and direct however strangers has such a negative connotation it's very intimidating it's like we should be afraid of them fact of the matter is it's a bad attitude to go into street photography with think of them as people you haven't met yet that very well might be friendly and you'll have a much more positive experience going out shooting and lastly before we actually take the most incredible shot of the day of that perfect moment you're gonna have to fire off some bad shots and every time I go out Street shooting I have to work out my confidence so we always shoot some bad photos first that I know are of nothing so that when that perfect opportunity comes along I'm already I'm confident and I'm ready to grab that shot all that being said let's jump in we're gonna break this down into four simple steps to get progressively more intimate we're shooting your subject so step number one is the most passive method that is photographing subjects they don't know they're being and this is a really great way to break into street photography because it's good practice getting your eyes to the street getting acquainted with everything and observing people yet not having to deal with that intimidating factor of actually working with subjects so a great way to do this one is using a telephoto lens this helps you be much further away from your subject and the further away you are the less likely you are to be noticed another easy way to photograph subjects without them knowing is by following them from behind so this isn't going to be as compelling of a shot as when you catch people head on and get their facial expression all that emotion however it's a really great way to practice actually taking photos while moving being quick and on your toes following people around these are all very important parts of street photography and people oftentimes won't notice you as long as you maintain enough of a distance and worst case scenario they turn around not a big deal another great way to photograph people is by taking these very wide street scenes that have multiple people in them so it's not like you're single again e-1 out it's more that they happen to be in your shot one of the best spots you can do this on is a busy intersection because you'll have a lot of people moving around coming in and out of the frame if you are going to places where people are hanging out and staying still you're gonna end up engaging with your subjects because they're stuck on the same corner for a while meanwhile if you have people coming into your frame there's a lot more movement and a lot less people will notice you shooting another technique for getting closer up with your subjects yet not having to engage is staying in your camera now what I mean by that is let's say I have someone walking down the street and I want to take their photo so what I could do is I could take their shot and immediately look at it and they're gonna know that I took their photo meanwhile if I take their photo and let them keep walking a little bit further and continue to shoot maybe even just fire one up at the sky or something they're now gonna think I'm just photographing anything else that isn't them and it's a great way to misdirect them now this isn't the most honest thing and I personally don't recommend this because I like to engage with my subjects and get to know them however if you're still working up the confidence this is a really great place to start and it's still gonna give you that thrill of taking a sweet photo do this a couple of times and then move on to actually engaging with your subject you shouldn't be afraid to let them know you're taking the photo next up let's talk about phase three taking portraits of strangers so this is a really awesome way to get comfortable taking photos of people you haven't met yet because you have their permission to do so thank you very much I'll get that trying to get a shot or someone rejects me and I just keep meeting really delightful people that make recommendations on improving my life and learning about good artists it's the worst out here in New York so my challenge to you is go up to ten people and ask him if you can take their photos some of these people are gonna say yes some of these people are gonna say no but that is the exhilarating part of it they're gonna get rejected and it doesn't matter you've got nothing to lose here worst case scenario you move on with your day best case scenario you get a beautiful photo some people say that street portraiture is street photography the purists say it isn't I say it really doesn't matter you're out here taking cool photos on the street so some tips for doing this first of all make sure you're in the right place where people are going to be down to have their photos taken so if you go outside a music festival everyone's trying to look cool they're thrilled to have their photos taken meanwhile if you go to a mafia picnic they're not going to be as happy to have their photos taken and you might get whacked so go to a place and people are happy and most cities people are very down everyone's trying to dress to the nines in these nice neighborhoods like the West Village so everyone's really happy to have their photo taken typically another thing is the actual approach so don't just say hi can I take your photo it sometimes sounds a little bit creepy I like to interlude with something like hey like I like you for this reason I like your style like the Hat you're wearing I like the way you're sitting down anything just give them any sort of compliment and it shows why you're taking the photo it makes you a lot friendlier or just strike up a genuine conversation say oh like what's going on here like what are you up to right now get to know them first a little bit and then take their portrait everyone has their own strategies but I think anything to buffer between you actually taking their photo and when you first meet them you're gonna get better shot because you get to know them a little bit more and connect a little bit more so when you go in to ask for someone's portrait make sure your camera's all set up because you never know how patient they're gonna be they might give you five seconds they might give you five minutes or a whole hour so be ready to grab some quick shots I always start by photographing these people in their natural habitat whatever they were already doing and then if they seem enthusiastic and willing I might have them pose a little bit or if they're very friendly maybe ask them to move over a whole block to a particular spot I had in mind so you really just have to gauge social cues see how willing they are you might end up doing the whole portrait shoot with one person and that's a beautiful thing to connect with the stranger and do that take it as it goes have an open mind and have some good conversation while you're at it yeah this guy's been on Law & Order multiple times that's crazy and I think I just got excellent headshots on them so sometimes street photography becomes portraiture totally okay different type of photo but still very fun next off moving on to phase number four and this is the most intimidating one is going up and taking that candid photo so when you take a candid photo of someone just read in their face without permission then you've got to be really quick about it because you're going to get one maybe two shots before they notice and react so maybe you want to photograph them candidly maybe you want to photograph their angry reaction when they realize the cameras in their face or maybe you want to lead into a portrait session after that and see what happens now there's a whole wide range of things that could happen when you go and take a photo without their permission they might lean into it and want to take a portrait they might be really angry and mad at you and ask you to delete the shot you really just have to go in with respect and be prepared for this full range of actions it's also really important to know your rights so in the US it's perfectly legal in most states to take street photos but in the words of Bruce Dilton if someone's pissed off it's not going to stop them from punch you in the face so don't be a jerk I highly recommend leaving in with a smile and when they see that you took the photo explain oh yeah I liked your hat or I liked your style and this makes it a lot more comforting of an experience for both of you guys and even offer to send them the shot if they seem happy if they seem angry don't be afraid just to move on or apologize just be friendly be respectful that'll earn you a much better experience on the street and it'll prevent that nose from being punched for sure just be prepared to encounter a wide range of emotions you're going to make some friends you're gonna make some enemies and that's what makes street photography so exhilarating hopefully the positive experiences outweigh the negative but do be prepared for some negative ones and those are my four different techniques for taking great Street photos now well it is most scary and exhilarating to say those candid photos without permission that doesn't mean those gonna be the best photos for you now I highly recommend you try all four of these techniques to see what you enjoy doing what you find connects most with your subject what you find gets the best photos for you because there is no right way to do it some of my favorite photographers the best street photographers I know only do the having people walk into precomposed frames others only do the candid shot and others just do combining these methods so for example sometimes I'll follow someone for three blocks and then asked to take their portrait once I see a really nice background for that other times I'll have a shot pre-compose waiting for someone to walk in the frame then I'll see someone and I just feel like I'm ditching everything I'm gonna go follow them and take their portrait sometimes they'll take a candid photo of someone and then that will lead into a whole portraiture shoot with them you really just have to keep an open mind be excited to engage with people on the street and see where that's gonna take you and you'll find yourself taking all these methods with stride and getting some really beautiful shots if you found this video helpful definitely let me know in the comments subscribe even and post any street photos you take that you're proud of use the hashtag Josh Katz photos on Instagram and tagging me at Josh Katz because the reason I teach is to see you guys progressing that means the world to me and I love seeing your work so that is all I have to say thank you so much for watching and I'll see you eventually

19 thoughts on “How to Photograph Strangers”

  1. This is my most requested video, so I hope you guys find this helpful! If you have any more questions, let me know in the comments! I'll try my best to answer them all.

  2. What do u do if someone ask u to delete the photo if they spot u because personally I would hate it if someone took a photo of me especially if it's posted online without my permission

  3. Hey Josh, great tips for street photography. Question: what's that camera strap you're using? Looks very comfortable and versatile, I've been looking for something like that. Thanks

  4. The shots of the guy with the coffee in the blue jacket are incredible. Wonderful work that just shows what you can achieve through engagement 🙂

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