35mm equivalent not good for portrait ?

Started Mar 5, 2014 | Discussions thread
Brad Evans Contributing Member • Posts: 616
Re: Some street portraiture tips

esmall wrote:

Brad Evans wrote:

Bouddha wrote:

Thanks, nice shots.

a few of yours are portraits head and shoulders, so should I assume a 35mm is still ok for that ?

You do need to exert a little caution. A subject's hands held out in front when shooting that close with a 35mm lens can appear unusually large. Also, shooting closer, depending on face orientation can result in largish noses.

If all you are going to be making are head and shoulders shots, a 50 or 85mm would probably be better. But... If environmental context is important to your portraiture (important to me- helping release narrative in a viewer's mind), then a 35 is a good choice. A 50mm would work fine, too. You just need to be further away. For my kind of street portraiture, many times that would put me off the sidewalk and into the street - not a place I want to be considering traffic! A 35mm lens is also a good choice for candid street shooting.

One more thought... For me, good portraiture comes from the relationship you establish with your subject; i.e. conversation, humor, trust flowing in both directions. Shooting closer rather than farther away helps establish that.

Urban photoblog: http://www.citysnaps.net

Brad your street portraits are amazing. I'm working up the courage to attempt this style of photography my self. Do you have any other tips to share for a newbie to street photography. By the way, I'm in San Jose and I'm hoping to make may way to San Francisco to try my hand at some street shooting so if you have any suggestions on places to visit in the city that would be great!


>>> I'm working up the courage to attempt this style of photography my self. Do you have any other tips to share for a newbie to street photography.

It takes awhile to build up confidence. Once you have, when hitting up strangers for portraits, most people will say yes.  For me, maybe around 1 out of 10 or 15 will say no.

How do you build up confidence?  Start with people that are out there to to be noticed and photographed. Go to city events and parades. In San Francisco that would be Pride, Brides of March, Carnival, Folsom Street Festival, Bay to Breakers, etc.  If it's a parade go way to the back where it's being staged. That's where people are hanging around waiting for their time to go and getting set up.  Easy peasy to just ask if you can make their portrait.  Everyone will say yes. Rather than take their portrait right on the spot, suggest they move to where the light and background are better.  Engage them in conversation.

I've even found police officers on the street very receptive to having their portrait made. I've photographed a least a hundred in San Francisco. Of course they want to feel comfortable that you're not going to do something with the picture to embarrass them.

Once you have a few of those under your belt and feeling more confident, then just hit up people on the street that you find interesting.  Be straight-up and honest when approaching people.  You might notice someone's sunglasses or hat and say you really like it, and then ask if you could make their portrait.

Most people (not all) will ask why you want to take their picture. I tell people I'm documenting my city or it's for my blog, or it's for a project I'm working on. That usually works fine. I also like bs-ing with people in general. That helps a lot.  What I find amazing is that some people will not ask why and just say OK.

The thing to remember is the *worst* that can happen is someone will say no.  Out of more than a thousand portraits I've made of strangers, nothing bad has ever happened when approached. Just be honest, respectful and friendly.

If you have a genuine curiosity about people, it's a great way of learning a lot - about people and the neighborhood.

Also, you may have noticed I use the phrase "I'd like to *make* your portrait," rather than "I'd like to take your picture."  Making vs taking. It's a collaborative effort - it's great to have your subject feeling like they are part of the process.

Good luck!

Urban photoblog: http://www.citysnaps.net

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