We explain how to take street photography (without being cringe)

It all started with a tweet from Lena Califano, publishing his snapshot of a couple of seniors, walking from behind, in the streets of Paris. The caption read: “I chased them like a psychopath to get my picture.” A good number of Internet users reacted to this, castigating the photographer’s methods or providing her with unwavering support “between pros”, with some advice and illustrated examples.

Because yes, street photography is a genre that does exist, which is practiced, but which requires a serious and ethical framework. So, we asked you what your tips were for taking the most beautiful street photos without looking like a freak voyeuristic and disrespectful. We had the right to “to be called Robert Doisneau”, of the “hyperfocal at 28 or 21 mm”, of the “put on good pumps to run just in case” or some “do not do it” because it is a divisive subject. But here are your most constructive and intelligent tips.

Prefer portraits from the back, in motion

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Let yourself be inspired by movement, by silhouettes. This is the advice Johanna Tordjmana painter who creates works from photographs that she takes upstream. “I don’t contact the models first, I let myself be inspired by the moment”, she describes to us.

The case of posed portraits: talk to strangers

A little politeness and humanity don’t hurt when you want to make posed portraits or interfere in the crowd. So go meet these strangers instead of photographing them wildly. For this, there are a few techniques to keep in mind.

When you spot a good subject to photograph, find a hook and approach it. For example, ask him to photograph a detail of his outfit to establish a first contact and test your mutual chemistry. If he is receptive, offer to draw the portrait for him. It’s less intimidating to approach the person with this transition rather than asking them for a full-face portrait. Having established a benevolent contact with you, she can more kindly refuse or accept. Johanna Tordjman gives us an example:

“I will take the example of Armando, a fisherman I met in New York. I was called by his energy and his smiling head. He was cleaning a huge fish he had just caught. I took the first shots from very far away, which I was not going to do anything about publicly. I approached him and asked if I could take a picture of his hands cleaning his fish, I found it less intrusive.

Once I had his agreement and he seemed happy to share his pride with me because the fish was HUGE, I told him that I was a painter and that I traveled to meet others. I asked him if I could photograph it in full, and he asked me if he could proudly hold up his trophy. We take our few photos, we exchange a few words and I ask him the question I ask everyone: what memory does he want us to keep of him? His answer: That he is the best fisherman in the world”, explains the painter.

When traveling abroad, body language can be body language, help yourself with smiles, Google Translate and gestures, if you are not fluent in the language. Don’t abuse your subjects’ permission: two or three photos is OK, but a burst of 50 photos is not.

Discretion is your friend

Whether it’s silhouettes, crowds, it’s best to remain stealthy and discreet, to blend in, to stay away from your subject. This advice was given to us by Icham : “I see an interesting subject, I anticipate, I raise the device, the person passes, you have to keep the posture for a few seconds.”

Beware of image rights, however, insists the photographer Hugo Lecrux, which poses a problem when you want to use these photos publicly. It’s always better to have your subjects back, unrecognizable, or to obtain authorization (preferably in writing), but in the field, we know, it’s complicated to manage. The methods of Bruce Gilden and Martin Parr, who send their flash in your face and take advantage of your distraction, it’s not crazy.

Respect the dignity of your subjects

We do not photograph children without their parents’ permission. We do not photograph people in vulnerable situations. We respect the dignity of others and their privacy.

Take height

What could be better than taking a little height. No need for a rooftop, just take advantage of a friend’s terrace or your bedroom window, which overlooks the street. In this angle, the faces of your subjects will not be exposed and you will not look like a nag.

The terraces, the good plan

This is the technique used by Lucas Fiaschi : “You put yourself on the terrace, you choose an area and make your settings according to this area. Afterwards, you just have to shoot everything that passes in this area.” Without moving a hair, just having to activate the button. Just find a spot with good light.

Convenience is in the case

The photojournalist Laure Playoust tells us that“have a case where you can tilt the screen” is very practical, to remain free of its movements. “That way, you keep the device at your height, you see on the screen, the person believes that you are tinkering with the settings. And it makes for some pretty cool angles,” she tells us, recalling the ethical boundaries specific to image rights.

Prepare all your settings

It’s a valuable time saver, and you don’t come across as an amateur if you’re given permission. Everything must be ready to use, adds Laure Playoust.

Use your buddies

Friends are found in the good times, as well as the worst. Sometimes they can be used as a diversion. “Bring a buddy” during your outdoor photo escapades, continues photographer Laure Playoust. Put your buddy in your frame, pretend it’s the object of your attention…and shoot all around. You can also use it “like frame in frame, blurred in the foreground but you need patient friends”.

Bonus tips:

We advise you to take a look at the photographer’s Twitter feed Adrian Skenderovicfor more tips:

We explain how to take street photography (without being cringe)