Successful Street Photography for Introverts
For some people, the idea of street photography is a trigger for excruciating self consciousness and massive anxiety. Indeed, street photography for introverts can be as painful as a trip to the dentist. Personally, I’m more afraid of dentists than I am of people, but approaching strangers is definitely out of my comfort zone.
Table of Contents
The Best Street Photography
The best street photography, for me, falls into two categories.
- Striking Composition using visual cues to evoke a response
- Candid photography revealing something about the place and person
Candid photography is problematic for all sorts of reasons. But It seems to me that the best portraits happen when the subject is at their most relaxed and reacting to something off-camera. The problem for an introvert is preventing the subject from picking up on the photographer’s anxiety. Some people use telephoto lenses, but this seems to me to be in some way inappropriate. A thin line separates this practise from invasion of privacy.
A Working Method for Introverts
I’m not a person who is particularly comfortable walking up to strangers and asking them to pose. My awkwardness transmits instantly to the subject, and the resulting portrait is usually a study in self-consciousness.
My best street photography happens when I compose the shot and wait for something to happen. I have noticed that if the photographer is already there, obviously taking photographs, people react in two ways.
- They assume you are taking a picture of something or somebody else
- They stop and wait for you to take a photograph.
People in the second category are almost always those closest to the camera. People in the first category would be alerted by the movement involved in the photographer suddenly raising the camera to their face.
This method was used to get the shot at the top of the article and, when I think about it, almost all of my successful street photographs.
The location at the top of the article was perfect because of the cumulative effect of the shop’s name and the graffiti. Cumulatively suggesting Sobriety as a woman’s secret. A woman only needed to walk into the frame and look at the graffiti. I had to wait less than five minutes.
How This Photograph Was Made
I had a couple of hours to kill on the streets of Granada. Me, my camera and a 35mm lens – it was always going to be street photography!
I wandered about looking for a good spot to use as a location. This was about the fourth place I tried.
When walking around a city, I recommend taking your camera out of the bag and setting it up so that you can guarantee a decent shot. Until I have found my location, I’ll usually go with f/8 and as little ISO as will accommodate a shutter speed of 1/100 second.
So get your camera set up ahead of time. I missed at least three potentially decent shots through not having my camera at hand or set up ahead of time – an extravagantly tattooed couple came and stood in front of me as I was sitting in one of Granada’s many leafy squares. Just their legs would have made a great shot! The answer is to create a custom setting that you can switch in and out of.
I’ve taken to doing this with all of my photographs, I pre-process with PureRaw 3 so that I am confident I have the best possible RAW file to work with.
Bringing the photograph back into Lightroom, I carried out the following edits.
- Increase Exposure by one stop
- Increase Contrast
- Reduce Highlights (the four squares at the top centre were overpowering.
- Reduce Blacks using the histogram as a guide.
- On Tone Curve, raise the black point and drop the white point so that I can have an S-shaped curve that brings out the shadows and highlights in the mid-range of the photo.
- In HSL Hue, make aqua into a darker blue to make the blue graffiti less distracting.
- In HSL Saturation, increase the level of the Blue so that the woman’s t-shirt pops a little more
Export the image with Lightroom alterations to Silver Efex Pro for black-and-white conversion. No law says all street photography has to be black and white, but in some cases, it helps to add a sense of drama to the image.
Open the image in Photoshop and export using Greg Benz’s WebSharp Pro. I use this panel because it has presets for Instagram and Facebook, helps me to get the right level of sharpening for digital display and allows me to batch-export images.
Street Photography for Introverts – Conclusion
A few street photographers seem to effortlessly rise above the limitations of the genre, creating work that succeeds across genres. Check out Brighton photographer Jerry Webb for example, and Nick Turpin whose use of colour is outstanding.
A word of support for all my fellow introverts. There is no need to feel that introversion is a disadvantage. And plenty of evidence that suggests the reverse. Introverts generally have excellent observational and strategic skills – an absolute gift in street photography. Enjoy your photography in whatever way works best for you. Everything else follows this simple rule.
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