How to Shoot Impromptu Street Portraits
This weekend, spend some time outdoors, explore a new neighborhood, hone your portrait-taking skills, make strangers smile, and walk away with some amazing photographs.
Sound good? Then we’ve got the perfect photo project for you!
Armed with a camera and a few simple tools, you too can conquer the art of the impromptu street portrait. Find out how in this simple tutorial by our friend Youngna.
Sometimes you’re stuck in a photography rut, craving new subjects, new faces.
An easy solution is down on the sidewalk below you, at the turn of a corner, in any neighborhood in any city.
Just follow these simple steps!
- Select a neighborhood. (The more unfamiliar the better!)
- Find a photo partner to accompany you on your mission.
- Bring: camera, lenses, notebook, pen, paper, masking tape, a seasonally appropriate form of barter (candy canes, candy hearts, candy corn, etc.)
- Run to nearest drug store and buy brightly colored poster board. We chose yellow, but grab whatever is in stock. It’s usually about $1 per sheet. Buy 2, one to make a sign and one as a back drop. Or, get creative, and set up multiple back drops.
- Setup on a busy block or corner and act like a car salesman would. Chat with all who pass by–the young, the old, the serious, the jovial. (Tips: Just strike up a conversation! Where are they from? Where are they going? How do they feel? Where did they get that hat? Do they like candy canes?)
- Ask each subject to stand in front of the posterboard at a pose of their choice. Meanwhile, take down their name and email address as well as any idiosyncratic facts.
- Shoot until you run out of candy or the sun goes down.
The result? A series of great and varied portraits from the street, many great conversations, and a number of new friends. Try it out!
(Youngna’s “Candy Canes for Portraits” was done in collaboration with Zach Klein in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, December 2004)