3 Simple Tips to Street Photography: Approaching Your Subject

3 Simple Tips to Street Photography

Thank you to everyone for your feedback on the new feature Street Scene here at Queen in Heels. In this post, I want to try to answer the questions I have received, as well as, give the advice, I have been asked for when it comes to street photography. Actually, this post has nothing to do with the technical aspects of photography, as that is not what I have been asked about, but rather the approach I take.

I know from experience how truly daunting it is to walk up to a complete stranger and ask to photograph what they are wearing. There are two reactions, when I myself ask to photograph a woman’s shoes: 1) a look of “how weird” 2) a smile of “how weird.” So, here are my tips to make approaching someone less scary for you and less weird for your subjects. For this post, the examples I use are mine and how I approach women to take pictures of their high heels, however, the advice can be catered to the photography you wish to take whether, handbags or outfits.

Make the Greeting Attention Grabbing:

When I approach someone, I smile and say, “Hello, may I ask you a question?” Usually, the person(s) will say sure. “May I take a picture of your shoes?” the look of surprise, “I own a blog geared toward women and every Friday we have a seen in the streets posts blah, blah, blah” Now, I wish I could lie and type that that my opening comes out flawless every time but, I can’t and it doesn’t. Sometimes, I just quickly mumble through.

The reason I ask to take the picture before explaining who I am is because I want to capture their time and attention first. Asking for a picture of their footwear peaks their attention enough to want to know why. This is especially helpful when people are hurrying somewhere i.e. lunch and don’t want to stop to hear about a site they never heard of. Then as, I kneel to take the picture, I can then further explain more about my blog to them.

Give a Calling Card:

As bloggers, I am sure many of you have already created business cards. I have two types. The normal business card printed with my name, address, phone number, and email. These cards are for business contacts and honestly, I do not want everyone in the country to have my information so, I also have what I call my ‘Street Blog Card’.

As you can see the cards only have the logo, blog, and email address. On the back there is a reminder when the photos will be posted along with a ‘subject to change’ disclaimer. I give these to everyone that I photograph and anyone standing around curious about what I am doing.

I also have another little gift that I will use at events (though I have given a few away on the street). These totes bags are more expensive then printing out cards so, they are used sparingly. As you can see, I package them up with one of the calling cards and that is how I hand them out.

Be Considerate of Time and Make Them Comfortable:

It is not a photo shoot. No one wants to stand there while, you snap picture after picture, frame, after frame; when they have somewhere to go. Do not ask them to pose like a model because, you do not work for Vogue magazine. Many of your subjects are very aware they are on the street with people passing by wondering what is going on. Get a picture or two, thank them for their time, and let them leave. Another thing to consider is many women are more comfortable with having a picture of something they have on (like their shoes) then, of their whole body. Why? Anonymity! The Internet is a cruel world. They do not really know how their picture will be used in the future and the comments of readers are a factor. Even with comments turned off . . . photos can be taken from your blog placed on another and comments turned on.

Tips for the Photographer:

Give Yourself Time:

Many factors, from what you are looking to photograph to the city you live in; can play a part in the time you need to spend on the street. I watched the documentary Bill Cunningham New York which not only inspired me but, showed me how daunting the task can be. For those who do not know who Bill Cunningham is . . . he is a extraordinary fashion photographer. For his New York Times feature, Mr. Cunningham can spend the entire day each and every day, on the streets of New York looking for that spectacular fashion item he wants to photograph. If he is featuring high heels, he will spend all day searching for just the right heels.

Some days, I too can spend hours out looking for a subject to photograph. Unlike, Mr. Cunningham, I have limits and I am not that picky. However, there are other reasons that I find myself out in the streets for hours:

1. Too many: Guess when I am out photographing what type of heel I see the most . . . do you think you know? The answer is black heels. I once was out and counted 30 black heels that I watched walk pass in an hour. I am definitely not interested in a feature with only black heels that would be b-o-r-i-n-g.

2. Too little: Chilly days can make it more difficult to get pictures because everyone prefers staying indoors. Also, area plays a major role. When I am at the park the odds of seeing heels are slim compared to being Downtown.

3. Not Approachable: Some days, I see so many great heels I want to photograph. The problem is I across the street and they are going into a building on the other side. I spot them while they are sitting down eating (no one wants to be disturbed while they are having dinner with friends/date.) Some women just look like I should not bother them. Haha. Like a woman slow jogging down the street in her stilettos. She obviously has somewhere to be and stopping her would not be cool. Some places of business are off limits, I think disturbing people while banking is not very professional. It can also give bloggers a bad reputation.

Always Carry Your Camera:

As bloggers in general, we like to or should keep a camera on us at all times. Many of the photos you have seen were taken when I was out doing my speed walking. I walk between 3 and 6 miles depending on my mood. I put the camera strap around my neck and my cards in my little pouch and off I go. (Which is rather funny when you think about it, I am in sweat shorts and sneakers taking pictures of high heels. It is even more hilarious that I am usually out of breath when I approach someone trying to explain myself.)

Even when I am going about my normal daily routine I have my camera. Thankfully, I like a carrying huge handbags so; I have no problem carrying my Nikon in my purse. Hey, you never know when you may see some awesome heels or have some other great photo opportunity.

My last bit of advice. Take a friend with you. It helps make the time go by if you have someone sitting with you (for those days where you perched up on a wall and waiting for someone to walk by.) I had my daughter tag along to a popular outdoor spot for lunch time. She not only kept me company; she pointed out high heels, and saved our spot when I went to capture the the shoes.

Also check out my post: How to Run Your Blog Like a Business.

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6 Responses to 3 Simple Tips to Street Photography: Approaching Your Subject

  1. Tamika D. says:

    Great tips. I won’t be doing this (far from shy–talk to strangers all the time), but I love these posts!
    Tamika D. recently posted..OPI Holland Collection: Kiss Me on My Tulips

    • trueurbanqueen says:

      Thanks, I am one of those sociable ladies too but, it can be totally different when you ask someone can you snap a picture of them.

  2. Ahh….my heels had a photo op once. It was so fun! even more fun sharing it with everyone. Yes, they are my famous heels I’ll keep forever ;)
    Coming over from SITS!
    Suzanne @ The Wine{a}be recently posted..Easy No-Sew Custom Draperies

    • trueurbanqueen says:

      Suzanne I know what you mean, I been there and share with everyone like look at me . .. no really it is me. haha. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Patricia Anderson says:

    Street photography is what my daughter mostly do to spent the rest of her weekend. The only problem is that she keeps on capturing without her subject’s approval. These tips will be of great help to her. Thanks a lot!
    Patricia Anderson recently posted..MSDSonline Teams up with ASSE and Jennifer Silk for GHS Webinar on April 19

  4. Raquel says:

    Ahh good advice, I’ve actually been thinking about adding a section to my blog for “In the Arena” which will be barrel racing tack that I like & consider trendy. I plan on approaching people I compete with & also am bracing myself for the “how weird are you” looks…
    Raquel recently posted..Jewels of The Southwest

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