Sandy Huffaker Jr. gives us his tips on how to take beautiful street shots
Street photography is a visual diary of a community, event or place that reflects how we see the world. It is intensely personal and will be entirely different from anyone else’s. For me it has been a wonderful way of capturing small moments in time of my own home and places abroad. We all see the world in different ways and it is exciting to be able to express that vision through photographs.
The range is limitless, whether it’s our own families, friends, a street fair, a sporting event, a trip to a foreign land, or just taking a stroll through our own neighborhood. The goal is to hone our vision by snapping pictures of things that are attractive to us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving home and seen someone sitting on a park bench, a beautiful spot of light running across their face, juxtaposed with a dynamic cityscape in the back. Begin to transfer the elements your brain finds appealing to your camera.
What happens when we see a person we don’t know and we want to take their picture? I find it is always a good idea to have some kind of visual acknowledgement that you are interested in taking their photo. You can either just ask or many times just a look in the eye with camera in hand and a quick nod. Most of the time they’ll give you the ok. The other way is to shoot from the hip or as l like to call them “drive by shootings”. This is when you shoot a frame without looking through the rangefinder. Although it is a more candid way of capturing an image and a bit challenging since you are not able to line up your composition, I find it more risky. People generally do not like having their photo taken without some kind of acknowledgement. If you do this and the subject sees you, you might want to have an explanation ready.
Another skill to try to develop is seeing the frame inside your head before putting the camera to your face. Many times I’ll see the shot I want and I’ll map out the elements inside the frame before taking the shot. This way you don’t draw too much attention to yourself. Remember, photographing people in a public setting is 90% lining up the shot, getting the subject approval and about 10% snapping the shot.
The final and most important thing to remember is to always have your camera and shoot lots of pictures. You will eventually find a rhythm and figure out what works and what doesn’t. There will always be people, for whatever reason, who will not want to have their photo taken. In that case, just move on. It is part of the game. Also, think about the elements of what makes a place unique. The architecture, the way people dress, the local foods they produce, what do they do for work and leisure activity. Basically what makes a place unique to all other’s.
Sandy Huffaker is a freelance commercial, editorial and documentary photographer based out of San Diego, California. He works regularly for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Getty Images, The Associated Press and many more newspapers and magazines around the globe.