Close up street photography can be scary when you first think about trying it.
You do a little studying. Maybe flick through some examples online, and come across dramatic street photos of strangers captured up close and personal. This is the awesome realm of close up street photography.
For most of us, the idea of standing before a complete stranger and taking a perfectly timed well composed photo of them is terrifying. This is the risk, but also magic of close up street photography! On the streets you are presented with ever changing scenery, and a full star cast of dynamic, completely unpredictable actors… the public!
“People love to look at people. So getting up close with your street photography is a fabulous way of bringing your viewers into the life moments of others.”
You can use whatever camera you wish (I’ll talk about camera options later in the blog series), but for those using a DSLR, try and ignore the urge to stand on a mountain top with a lens the size of a moon rocket and zoooooom into peoples faces. You might capture amazing detail, but is this really street photography? Anyone can stand in a shady corner with a zoom lens! Why not be different? Be brave!
“Suck up your courage, bring your focal length down to 50mm, and stride into the lions den.”
Why bring your focal length down? Simple! It forces you to get closer to your subject. Why not use a prime lens? My favourite street photography lens is the 50mm, because photos taken at 50mm tends to provide a more natural focal length, giving the viewer the impression of “being there”. You are not zoomed in with lots of background compression, and you’re not creating a massive scene with a wide angle lens. A prime lens also forces you to physically “move closer” to your subject to get achieve the framing you desire.
“Capturing life on the streets is best achieved when you are actually on the street yourself. Meters away from the action!”
How to get close to your subject
When it comes to observational close up street photography, you will have to be discreet so not to disturb the wildlife. First you must learn to judge the situation and decide whether to take the shot in the first place. Quite often you will stand before the most incredible photo opportunity, but the circumstances mean you cannot raise your camera. It can be frustrating! But as the photographer, you must make sure you do not annoy anyone or make them feel uncomfortable.
There are numerous practical things you can do to blend into the scenery which will be discussed later in this blog series, but at first, you simply need to get out onto streets and get used to “holding your camera out in public”. Now we have all held a camera in public before, but this is usually when you’re focussing on a inanimate object. Maybe you’re doing the tourist thing and photographing a popular landmark?
“Now, try pointing your camera at a complete stranger 5 feet away and taking a photo.”
Feel those nerves kicking in? Ha!
The best place to start is to find a busy public area. Maybe a pedestrian crossing, or a busy city intersection? A location where joe public are more likely focussing on navigating through the crowds of people, rather than the photographer standing nearby. Staying in one location as your subjects walk by allows the photographs to come to you. Why not pluck up the courage to jump in with the stream of people for a few seconds and take some photos as you pass through? Most people are either too busy or self-consumed to stop and question you, especially in a busy pedestrian location.
After taking a few photos, you can move to one side and check the results, and then try again. The more you practice holding the camera in public, towards the public, for that split second moment when you take your shot… the more relaxed you will become.
“In street photography, getting up close is the golden ticket to creating exciting action and emotion driven photos.”
People love to watch other people. By delving into the world of close up street photography, you take your viewer by the hand away from the safety of their coffee shop vantage point, and into the lions den. Yes it can be risky, but the results, even say… someone just sleeping on a park bench… can be so interesting to look at.
Thank you for reading this installment of my Street Photography Blog Series! Please share this page, and leave a comment below!