It takes cohones to shoot street


I love travel photography. I actually love the “travel” part more than the “photography” part, but I digress.

When I travel, I try to get slices of the scenery, the architecture, the culture, and the people. I can do a decent job on most of those categories, but the people photography aspect is my weakest part.

When I think of people photography, I think of street photography — taking photos of people who are going about doing their own thing and would rather be left alone than have their photo taken.

My problem is that I really don’t want to get into their faces to get the shot. More often than not, it’s because I like to keep myself intact as missing a limb makes life harder to live. Shoot people in the streets takes real cohones, and not to say I don’t have some, but sure not as much as this guy, Joel Meyerowitz. Check out this video from him on the art of street shooting and you’ll see that it sure isn’t easy. Did you see how close he got to people when he’s shooting them??! Of course, he has a much easier time because he has a small Leica compared to my big honking dSLR with 2.8 lens. What I’m carrying can practically be classified as a lethal weapon in the right hands. Yeah, Joel has it easy with that small camera…

When I’m traveling and shooting people, I tend to shoot from far away using a telephoto lens. As I said, it takes guts to shoot closeup.

Here’s one in the Pisac street market in Peru. I stood a far distance with my telephoto ready just for the right expression and timing to not have some tourist in the shot. Even though the vendors probably are more comfortable, some were still quite offended at having their photos taken by other people.

Rug seller in Pisac market

Rug seller in Pisac market

Here’s another one of a kebab seller in Jerusalem, Israel. In this case, because I ate there, it was easier to get up close and practically in the vendor’s way to get the shot.

Kebab seller in Jerusalem

Kebab seller in Jerusalem

Here’s one more of a hotdog guy in Noo Yawk city. Just as I snapped the shot at close range, he looked up and smiled. Wheew! That was close…

Hotdog street vendor in New York City

Hotdog street vendor in New York City

Here’s another one from Peru. This time on the streets of Lima. I gathered my courage here and asked the veg seller if I could take his photo, and he gladly obliged. The only problem with doing this is that it’s a little more posed. Of course, I could’ve just waved after my shot, but keep shooting after the first shot to get more natural behaviors. This time I didn’t, however.

Lima vegetable vendor

Lima vegetable vendor

Generally, I’d say that I don’t think I have that much to fear in taking photos of others, but there’s still that discomfort on possibly getting an unexpected, or hostile, reaction. Of course, there’s a difference between shooting where tourists are expected to be taking photos vs. shooting in the middle of the sidewalk like Joel in the video.

I’m still working at this, and I have no idea how Art Wolfe or Steve McCurry can get such great people shots. Do they pay the subjects before taking the photos? Some seemed posed, but are they?

If you have a story or a technique when you shoot people or street, why not share it below?



2 Responses to “It takes cohones to shoot street”

  1. You’ve got some nice shots despite your worry.

    I find the best way to take street shots is to walk around with the camera in my hand, down by my side. I wait for a “decisive moment”, lift the camera to my eye and take the shot straight away.

    I think that even if the person looks into the camera it can still be a good shot as the questioning look adds interest to the shot.

    • 2 TopL

      Hi Razz, that’s what I try to do too. It’s that glare after that I’m still trying to get pass :-).

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