I really enjoy looking at “street snap” type fashion photography sites, such as this, this, this or of course the father of them all, this. And even though I imagine most people (judging from the comments) are reading these blogs for the fashion, for me, it’s the people – and the moment frozen in time – that are the most interesting. I find myself wishing for more context – and would gladly trade the standard series of “bust, full body, accessory closeups” shots that usually pepper these posts – for a few words from the subject of the photograph themselves. (Some publications get closer, with commentary provided by the blog author, but that’s still context filtered through the lens (so to speak) of the photographer, and subject to the biases inherent in that.)
The other thing that I notice about these sites – and this is certainly not a diss by any means – is that the photography is, for the most part, very much “snapshot” like. It may well be that this is intentional – these are “street snap” type of blogs – but yet I find that relative to my tastes, the photographs are too dark, the framing much too wide, the backgrounds too distracting, the subjects lost in all the visual noise and riot of colours, textures and general hubbub of everything occurring around them. So often I find myself looking at a photo on these sites and wondering – “what am I supposed to be looking at in this photo?”
Of course, that’s not to say that every photo needs to be a super bright, tight up crop of a face of course. And I think that my preference in the style is informed in large part by my desire to have more emphasis placed on the person – and their story – rather than their fashion or accessories. Some might (rightfully) suggest that what I’m looking for would better be served by watching documentaries, or else reading Rolling Stone interviews photographed by Annie Leibovitz than internet street fashion blogs – and yet I find myself drawn both to the creative/artistic (hipster?) sensibilities that informs street fashion blogs and also to the fundamental notion of taking a camera, walking out on the street and taking impromptu-yet-semi-posed photographs of people who look interesting (and fashionable). I wonder to myself if it is possible to combine the two styles into one – preserve the subject matter and core principles of the street fashion blogs, but marry it to a slightly brighter, more focused style that places greater emphasis on the person and less on their clothing.
Along with this, one of the questions I’ve been trying to answer recently is whether it’s possible to take a good photograph (or at least one in the style I prefer) – out on the street in under 7 seconds a shot. Well I mean, of course it is, but rather is it possible for me to do that, and to do it consistently? It’s easy when you’re in a studio, with external lighting, stable environment, and a host of assistants, but out on the street, with shifting conditions and lighting and an unpredictable background (and sometimes foreground!), it can get a lot trickier. From a technical standpoint, it means knowing your equipment inside and out, having a good assistant with a reflector, and most of all, knowing how to pose people who don’t pose for a living.
I was assisting my photography senpai a few weeks ago with some portrait shoots of aspiring models at a modeling agency and was struck with the importance that being able to pose someone plays in the overall success (or failure) of a photograph. It sounds obvious of course, and we can all tell when someone looks awkward or natural in a photograph, but until you watch a professional (such as the head of the agency who was instructing the girls) pose – and tell someone how to pose – you can’t really understand what an art it is. It’s not enough to only know the basic ways in which people can look good in a photograph – it’s also being able to effectively and quickly communicate that to the subject whilst keeping them at ease and entertained. It’s a skill that any people photographer needs, and it’s probably the most difficult thing of all when you’re shooting people on the street who aren’t use to posing – or being posed.
(More after the keep reading link below.)
(As an aside – if you’ve ever thought to yourself that modeling must be the easiest gig in the world, trust me when I say that it is not. After watching those poor girls get laboriously drilled for hours on end on even the most minute details of the way they stand, cross their hands or tilt their necks, I have nothing but sympathy for people who have to do that for a living, under hot lights, heavy makeup and in heels. Also whilst getting stared at by drunkards and bums as they posed for outdoor shots in the sweltering 30C heat at noon, but I did not pick the location where we did the shooting, and in retrospect the person who did probably should have hired a location scout.)
Anyway, these photos are my first experiment in trying to take bright, focused photographs out on the street, with someone who has never posed before, and do it all in less than seven seconds per shot. I still have a long way to go, but I’m fortunate enough to have patient and understanding friends always willing to help me out (although one suspects they might be doing it solely for our yummy waffle break halfway through the shoot ♥).
More photos below.
That’s it for now! Thanks for reading! And if you liked the photos in this post, you might also be interested in these below:
- Ocean Style
- Autumn Style II
- Street Style III
- Street Style II
- Studio Style I
- The rest of the photoshoot archives
Now listening to: “Andy Duguid – Strings (feat. Fenja)”