The world’s largest fetish event, the Folsom Street Fair, is controversial in and of itself. But still, it has managed to spark controversy among the photography community. In 2014, the Ask First Campaign originated at the event, telling photographers to “ask first” before taking photos. Since the fair is held in a public space, many photographers believe that they have the right to take photos without asking for permission. And the question is – is this really true? Should you just shoot what you please, or should you ask first?
No matter how many times this subject comes up, it’s always extremely uncomfortable for a great many photographers to approach people in the street. Whether it’s the feeling of being perceived as weird or simply being rejected, a lot of people are afraid to just walk up to people and say “Hey, can I make your portrait?”.
It’s something that photographer Jamie Windsor‘s struggled with, but he’s determined to get over it. So, he reached out to fellow photographer and YouTuber, Pablo Strong, to ask for some help to get over that fear and learn how to approach people in the street.
Street photography is a weird genre of photography. So many want to try it, but they’re afraid. Afraid of rejection and potentially hostile reactions. There are two schools of thought when photographing people in the street. The first is to just shoot, and worry about consequences later. Legally, that’s fine in many parts of the world. The latter is to obtain permission first and then shoot the photo.
There is the argument that asking takes away the spontaneity. What you saw and wanted to photograph ceases to exist. But it becomes something else. A street portrait. That, too, can be a great thing. In this video, photographer Jim Rogalski shows us how he approaches strangers in the street, even in other countries where there are significant language problems.
Do you find photographing strangers in the street extremely awkward and even unpleasant? I know I do, so this video from Jessica Kobeissi and Mango Street really amused me, but also got me inspired. The three young photographers teamed up, created “Free Portraits” posters and interacted with strangers in the street asking them to take their photo. It’s a fun experiment of pushing personal boundaries.
Street photography is a scary enough prospect on its own for many people. But to actually approach random strangers on the street and ask if you can shoot their portrait? That fills many with a fear akin to walking the plan over shark infested seas. You have to really push yourself to get outside of your comfort zone and do something you’re not happy with.
And it can be a very difficult fear to get over. But photographer Matt Higgs from WEX is here to help with some advice. His challenge is to photograph 30 random people in the streets in 2 hours. For those counting, that’s a new person every 4 minutes. A lot of pressure, especially if it can take you 10-15 minutes just to work up enough courage to ask the first,
If there is one genre of street photography I specialize in, it is “street portraiture.”
I love talking with my subjects, engaging with them, and focusing on their faces. If I started shooting street portraits all over again, this is the advice I would give myself.
This is one of my favourite subjects. I love teaching in my workshops as most people feel awkward about approaching people on the streets to photograph them.
Through experience, trial and error, I have had the pleasure to understand the psychology of approaching perfect strangers to ask them for a pic and the wonderful joy we receive by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.
I think in street photography, there are many different “sub-genres.” For example, you have the traditional candid street photography, you have “street portraits” (taking photos of strangers, primarily of their faces), you have photos of urban landscapes, and of just random stuff you might find on the streets.
Candid street photography is one of the trickiest. You need to be fast, you don’t want to disturb the scene, and you want to have courage. Here are some candid techniques, insights, and tips which I hope will help you:
Seeing a random person on the street that you’d love to photograph can rapidly become one of the scariest scenarios out there for many portrait photographers as soon as they start to consider how to approach them. With “Don’t talk to strangers!” being drummed into us from a very young age, it’s just one of those things which seems hard wired into our system.
If the thought of asking a stranger if you can create their portrait puts you in a frozen panic, New York based portrait photographers Miguel Quiles and Jeff Rojas are here to help with some tips on approaching people you don’t know in order to get them in front of your camera.
A few weeks ago I posted a series of photographs of couples ‘making love’ in public places and got a very positive response. So I figured I’d keep at it!
At the time, I used to only shoot couples I ran into randomly, so it was pure street photography. But then I thought, I don’t run into couples sharing an intimate moment that often… So why not create those moments?