Approaching people on the street for photographs can seem incredibly uncomfortable, but as this short video proves, overcoming that fear and creating portraits of complete strangers can be incredibly satisfying and make for some fantastic images.
Personally, I find the prospect of wandering the streets approaching people at random a little intimidating, but these tips from photographers Jamie Windsor and Pablo Strong show how deploying a few simple techniques and combining it with a little practice can quickly get you to a stage where that sense of discomfort disappears. The other biggest hurdle is probably the fear of rejection and the awkwardness that you're going to experience if someone you've approached responds rudely to your request. However, like many aspects of photography, this is a numbers game; once you acknowledge that only a certain percentage of people are going to react positively, the failures don't weigh too heavily. As Windsor notes, the fear disappears very quickly and he found his first experience immensely rewarding and enjoyable.
Two things that Windsor doesn't mention are choice of gear and choice of location. Strong seems to be shooting with a 50mm prime, useful for a nice wide aperture to separate the subject from the background while also maintaining quite a small distance between him and his subject, allowing him to work incredibly quickly. He doesn't have to step back and create distance as he would with, say, an 85mm prime, and the low profile lens also feels less imposing when compared to something like the 24-70mm.
Regarding location, Soho in London must be an ideal place to attempt street portraits of strangers for the first time. A center of London's cultural diversity, people almost expect to see photographers, and requests to be photographed come as no surprise. A sunny afternoon close to lots of pubs makes for a very relaxed atmosphere and, I'm guessing, an increased chance of friendly responses.
Do you have any tips for shooting street portraits of strangers? Comment below and feel free to share your favorite shots.