Types of Street Photography - Street Portraits
I do love to slice and dice things. And I love to study how other people slice and dice things, including when they refuse to engage in the slice and dice process altogether. Thus arises this second blog about the different types of street photography. I can think of a couple of reasons to be knowledgeable about the types of street photography. It can make you seem erudite at a street photographer’s cocktail party. Or, if not erudite, it can at least help you make small talk. It can help you find an entry path into street photography, if you are not doing it now. It can also give you a goal to grow in your own street photography.
The first blog on the types of street photography was about candid photography. Almost everyone recognizes candid photography as a type of street photography. In this world of mobile devices, it is the universal entry point into taking pictures of people you do not know, which is the street photography definition I rather like. Street portraiture is another straightforward type of street photography, although goodness knows, there can be a hotbed of debate about whether the posed branch of this type really qualifies as street or is its own genre. I think history is on the "yes" side of the question.
Street Portraiture has these characteristics:
1) It can be shot candidly or not candidly.
2) It focuses on the person more than the environment. It often conveys feelings.
3) The face is the focus.
There are so many great street portraitists and so little space to mention them! Diane Arbus (1923-1971), whose photos were often not candid, was noted for her portraits of marginalized people in our society. Vivian Maier (1926-2009) is an inspirational "amateur" street photographer whose pictures, including many street portraits, were unknown and unpublished in her lifetime. I follow several truly excellent street photographers on Instagram and Facebook who predominantly shoot street portraits. One of them is John Carnahan, whose gallery can be found on Instagram at @jacahan. Street portraiture seems straight forward, but when I look at a picture like his below, I find myself wondering how in the world it was taken.
Street portraiture was an inadvertent entry point into street photography for me. In my frequent travels, I was very interested in photography that portrayed the culture. My travel company specializes in offering cultural opportunities and, as a bonus, does the hard work of securing permission for photography. When I looked back at my travel pictures, I realized I had a large collection of street portraits. You might look back on your portfolio. It can give insight into your photographer's soul!
If you are given to studying tips on photography, as I am, there is no shortage of coaching about the how-to's of getting started and advancing your skills in the street portrait genre. I enjoyed reading, “9 Tips for Creating Great Street Portraits” by Anthony Epes and published by Digital Photography School.
My homegrown suggestions revolve around the availability of opportunity to make it as easy as possible to get started in street portraiture. Travel is one opportunity, because cultures are so different that almost everyone is interesting. Also, your inclination to boldness is heightened, perhaps because it is a once in a lifetime chance. You will find that vendors on the street, at trade shows, or in food trucks often welcome the opportunity to be photographed. If there are crowds, such as at community events or attractions, there are street portraits to take. Mass transportation, such as a subway, is a place of many stories and therefore another accessible, good place for taking street portraits. My iPhone is my go-to camera in this circumstance.
Make a little project for yourself called Street Smiles. People genuinely respond to pictures of people smiling. Having a particular thing you are looking for when you go out to shoot street portraits will help you get started. You do not have to “Build Rome in a day.” Set a goal of 10 photographs. Once you get to the initial 10, if you take a better photograph, replace it with your least favorite in the project.