Alone in the crowd – isolating subjects


Alone in the crowd – isolating subjects


If photography awakens in you a primal instinct to hunt, if the quest and the anticipation of the prey (your subject) awakens a rush of adrenaline in you, if you love to stake out a path through hostile territory, then crowded spaces will prove to be your favorite playground. That is where you’ll get the most exciting shots. At least that’s how we see it…


In major metropolitan areas everywhere you go there are meeting places, crowded intersections, and popular gathering spots where you could easily run off a hundred shots. Often these places are exciting because of their effervescence and the explosion of feeling you’ll find there (see PHOTOGRAPHING INTIMATE MOMENTS IN PUBLIC). Still, it’s not always very easy to capture these moments given how promiscuous the eye can be in a crowd; visual overload makes it hard to perceive the action and can make it difficult to construct the right photo composition.

Just as in all my articles, I want to emphasize here the fact that the advice I give only reflects my own way of taking photos and that’s how I enjoy doing it. So don’t hesitate to take pictures of what interests you and share your own techniques and ways of working.



To be there to witness intense and unique moments, first you’ve got to get out there and get to the right place at the right time. At this particular time, it’s essential to travel light. If you knock over six people with every step or if you need to back up a meter so you can get out your fantastic telephoto lens, you’re going to run into some problems (and you’ll probably get a few mugs of beer thrown at you from some angry festival merrymakers). A 700D type body, an 18-135 in order to be able to freeze what you see from afar and wide angle for hand to hand, and you’ll be perfect. A latest generation Smartphone and a flash could possibly complete your wardrobe, but as far as I’m concerned, the rest is superfluous.



In a crowd, spirits are freed. Take advantage of that openness to approach a subject closer than you normally would. That way, you can isolate your subject from his or her context. For a person who is seated, the feet or legs of the people around him or her can create a kind of moving decor that will help create the dynamism of your scene.

The multitude of possible target subjects will enable you to create an element of doubt in the one person you’re trying to capture on film. Most of the time, if you’re careful not to be too obvious, you can get a frontal shot and even push the experience so far as to get the person to look right into the camera.




Whenever a variety of actions are happening at the same time, I like to create a large frame around the subjects I intend to shoot. In fact, you get some beautiful surprises when you blow up the shot onto a large screen. Certain faces, certain looks, and certain elements that take on a decorative effect will then appear to me and let me tell an entirely different story.

With the image deformed or vignettes created, whether intentional or unintentional, you’ll find natural stories within the story. Like a classic fresco, the moment you’ve frozen in time will provide you with a multitude of emotions that are as intense as they are varied. So you’ll need to accentuate what in your estimation symbolizes the moment and captures your interest.



Guest blogger: Ben PG
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