5 Steps to Creating Authentic Street Portraits

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My favorite way to tell the story of the places I visit is through its people. Photography always requires mastery of light, composition, creativity and technical craft. Creating authentic travel portraits of people in their own environment means you must master another skill—human connection.

For the fourth consecutive year, I’m teaching a Photo Walk class at WPPI about how to get over the fear of approaching strangers to make their portrait. The class is not about using a 70-200mm lens to capture someone’s image from a distance without them knowing. It’s about being fully present so you can make a real photographer-to-subject connection that can be felt in the final photo. Using body language, eye contact, and finding commonalities before you press the shutter, you can improve any portrait.

Since my WPPI Photo Walk class is limited to only 20 participants, here are my 5 Steps to Creating Authentic Street Portraits for all who can’t join me in person!

Step 1. Make eye contact

When traveling, start by looking for places where people are accustomed to interacting with other people (markets, local shops, parks etc.) and then scope out the scene. Before you approach someone, try to get his or her attention by making eye contact, give a soft smile, then a nod. If you someone looks you back in the eye, smiles back, nods back, you have your first green light. If they don’t, take that as a polite no-thank-you.

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