Candid Street Photography – Practice

With inspiration from my Foundations in Photography peers I have had a practice run at candid street photography. The genre is something that I am not entirely comfortable with, but I travelled to an event where many people expect to be photographed, and there were many photographers around.

My resistance to candid street photography comes from my concerns around consent. I do not like it if people take my photo without my consent, and there were times during this exercise that I felt uncomfortable. I pushed my self, really pushed my limits, and took photos that were distant, and that were in your face. People were walking past me, within inches of me and I took there photos, and I will not be doing that again. Others were more distant, and this felt more comfortable.

The opportunity for candid street portraits was present and I made the most of that. I will publish those separately in my gallery over the next couple of days under the title Goth Festival. I found this a lot easier. On the whole I was more distant from people, and there were a few who also engaged with the camera.

I do find it a little bizarre that I am more comfortable with candid street portraits, however, I think the difference is that the people who I made photos of were dressed up for the festival, they attend twice yearly, and they are used to being photographed, so this moves into event photography which I enjoy.

If I hadn’t been at an event (the whole town gets taken over) then I would find this more difficult. If I were to be practicing street photography upon the general public who were not involved in an event it would be harder. I did take a couple of photos of the general public.

My first attempts were very cautious and I was full of anxiety, but it did become easier as the day progressed.

I will start with the ones tha tI feel were the strongest.

Street Photography

Street Photography

Street Photography



When I made a start on the course work for image the portrait I said that I was not very good at portraits and that it was something that I needed to practice, and these photos are as a result of that.

However, I have also realised that when I do event photography, and photograph people at those, when they are being themselves and not posing, my portraits are ok. I will include some of those when I post my experiments with street photography.

For most of these photos I have approached people and explained that I am studying photography and sought their consent, although I have included a couple of street portraits.

Whilst practicing for this I asked people to talk with each other or carry on with the activity that they were doing, I don’t particularly like photographing people face on, although I can see that for portrait and wedding photographers this is a requirement. It will also be necessary for some events and corporate photography. I have taken some of these photos in three stages, so that I have included some background, some a little closer, and some are full face. This was so that I could see how context changes how we view people.

These first six photos are of a couple, although I photographed them individually, and these are my favourite shots. Their character shone through and I simply had to photograph them. The other photos follow on below.

Sometimes you have to be a little crazy to bring the best out of someone. The young man in this photo was with his partner and it was his birthday. Their wasnt a smile though. As soon as I sang happy birthday the smile broke out and I am really pleased with the result.

Portraits (32 of 52)

The next few sets show how context can alter how we view a person, and add information to a scene.

I had a lovely chat with this couple, I took an interest in them and they did with me. The rest of the day was more relaxing because of this and I was then more natural with others that modelled for me.

I found this woman very interesting. She has a bold character and I am pleased with the tight crop portrait. The other point of interest is how distractions can ruin a photo.

This gent was great, I asked him to look angry with me. This is a point to be aware of for the future. Some people are able to produce emotions if they are directed by the photographer. This is something that I can make more use of in the future.

One of my better animal portraits. Animals dont do what you ask them to, so patience and being quick witted are the key.

Portraits (49 of 52)

I really enjoyed the street portrait photography. It is something that I can make more use of with events photography. Some more examples will be included in my Street Photography post.

Selected Others

Conflicting Thoughts On Candid Street Photography

As I left a shop yesterday a man put his camera to his eye and was going to take a photo of me. I turned away and put my hand to my face. If he had approached me and asked to take the shot I would have obliged. It wouldn’t have been candid but I would have agreed to walk back into the shop and come out again. He would still have got a good photo.

On Friday I watched Masters of Photography. Series 1 episode 1 which was shown on Sky Arts HD on 16th May. A few of the contests followed individuals around Rome, taking their photos. Several of the people told them to stop and leave them alone.

One of the better photos of the day was a candidate street shot. I attended a photography society last year and two of the best presentations were by candid street photographers.

My attitude has been that if I am aiming to take a photo where one individual is the main subject then I seek their consent first. The photos for my homelessness project were taken with consent and information about how I would use the photos.

When I attended Northern Pride it was apparent that seeking consent would not be possible during the march. I shot on the presumption of informed consent. I remained visible as a photographer and only used photos where people were engaged with the camera. If people looked uncomfortable or turned away I deleted their photo. At the event following the march I again gained verbal consent for portraits.

Whilst in York shooting for assignment one I took several photos of individuals or small groups where they were the subject of the photo. I included one of these in my final cut. This photo was taken when I was obviously in view as a photographer. However there was no engagement between the camera and subject.

I also took one photo where I was almost hidden from view. I got a great photo. It didn’t make the final cut, however that was because it didn’t fit in with the series. Would I have included it if it had have fit the theme?

I feel that I’m on an ethically sound footing with informed consent, and I am comfortable with implied consent. I’m less comfortable with being visible but without informed/implied consent. I feel very uncertain about candid street photography where I catch people by surprise or where I’m partially/fully concealed.

This is an area that we all have to be true to ourselves. What other photographers choose to do is their choice, and what I shoot is my responsibility. I certainly appreciate the art of candid street photography and have seen some incredible photos of this genre.

I can see that my ethics and boundaries are evolving as I watch more photography and read books and others blogs, and I will continue to evaluate my personal morals in this regard.