Street portrait photography - my top tips.

A photo I took in Jimbaran Bay, Bali. Strolling the beach, my husband wanted to check out the boats. I had no interest in boats so found people to chat with. This man seemed very proud to have his photograph taken. 

A photo I took in Jimbaran Bay, Bali. Strolling the beach, my husband wanted to check out the boats. I had no interest in boats so found people to chat with. This man seemed very proud to have his photograph taken. 

Approaching people on the street is daunting enough. Asking said person, if you can take their photo is a whole new story. But it needn't cause you to break out in a sweat, itch, make your heart feel like it beats out of your chest, get scared and then walk away. And then feel disappointed you didn't get the photo you saw.

My top tips for taking street portraits.

A photograph I took at a school in Bali for Bali Kids. Obviously I had permission to be in there and wander about but would never dream of entering a house or school without prior permission.

A photograph I took at a school in Bali for Bali Kids. Obviously I had permission to be in there and wander about but would never dream of entering a house or school without prior permission.

1. Should you take the photo?
Of course, there are situations where walking away is the best option. If you feel unsafe, if the person is negative to the idea or if you would feel disrespectful for taking the photograph. Always put yourself in their shoes - how would you feel? We are all human, even though, especially when travelling, the people we meet look so interesting and different. 

A family at McLaren Vale Harvest Festival. I moved them slightly and let them play about. 

A family at McLaren Vale Harvest Festival. I moved them slightly and let them play about. 

2. Mind your manners. Ask before taking.
Even if you don't speak the language, asking to take a photograph is universal. Show your camera and nod your head while holding it up closer to your face and pointing at them. They will answer, nod or wildly shake their hands and cover their face. Whatever they do, you will get your answer. If they decline, put your camera straight down. Smile politely and say thank you. Move on. Don't try to take their photograph without permission - it's just not nice.

Walking along a beach in Fiji I chanced upon this family hanging out on their beach platform. The mum worked where I was staying and after a quick chat I asked if I could photograph them. 

Walking along a beach in Fiji I chanced upon this family hanging out on their beach platform. The mum worked where I was staying and after a quick chat I asked if I could photograph them. 

3. Slow it down
If you can, spend some time with them before asking to take their photograph. It will not only make a better photograph and memory, but it will also add something extra to the personal experience for both of you. Give and take. Play with the children, share a drink or snack. Chat (either verbally or with your hands) about something. Care about them and their story. 

Girls at a pre-school in Bali. Shot for Bali Kids. 

Girls at a pre-school in Bali. Shot for Bali Kids. 

4. Look at the light
Don't be afraid to move the person if it's convenient and going to get a much better photograph. If they are sitting right at the back of their shop, you could ask them to move to the front where the window light is gently falling. If they are in the bright midday sun with dark pits as eyes, ask them to move into the shade or turn their back to the sun. 

Ray was a volunteer at the Royal Adelaide Show for many years. He is also my best friends Poppa. When I saw him manning a door to a pavilion I couldn't resist a cheeky photo. 

Ray was a volunteer at the Royal Adelaide Show for many years. He is also my best friends Poppa. When I saw him manning a door to a pavilion I couldn't resist a cheeky photo. 

5. Get in close
Don't be afraid to step in. By filling the frame with your subject, you can see everything about them. The way they hold themselves, their clothing, their skin, their eyes. The stories that can be told through the details. There will be no question as to what you want the viewer to look at in your photograph.

If I had not got the beach and shadow in the frame, this photo wouldn't have the same impact. 

If I had not got the beach and shadow in the frame, this photo wouldn't have the same impact. 

6. Or step back (with caution)
First - always look where you are going. Don't do what I do and step back into holes or trip over things. By safely stepping back you can get the location into the photograph. If the location is part of the story you are telling it adds dimension and life to the photograph. Take the fisherman photograph - if I zoomed in to show his face only, I would see a weathered and handsome man but have no idea who he is. By showing the boats, we can see he is a fisherman. A very proud fisherman with his boat. 

At Uluwatu temple the monkeys run wild. This lady had fun feeding them, and obviously they knew her. I did ask for a photo but didn't want her looking at the camera - I wanted the interaction.

At Uluwatu temple the monkeys run wild. This lady had fun feeding them, and obviously they knew her. I did ask for a photo but didn't want her looking at the camera - I wanted the interaction.

Go out and have fun. Breathe. And don't be afraid. If you treat people with kindness and respect, the worst thing that can happen is you get a 'no'. If that is the case, take a mental picture and move on. 

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