Last night, with a very summery 80-plus degree temperature here in Chicago, I headed to the Gold Coast neighborhood for a street excursion. It felt good to head out with just shorts and a short sleeve shirt! (Geez, you don’t want to see how pasty I am.)
I recorded some of the action; here’s my second POV-style video—accompanying commentary below.
POV Street Photography Video: Glances in the Gold Coast
#1 Get Low
“To the window, to the wall … lemme see you get low.” Lil’ Jon said it best back in ’02. Moving away from eye-level (in this case, below it) is the one of the easiest and simplest ways to make street photos more dynamic.
In the case of this first photo, I stayed at eye level and I think the resulting image is worse for it. I wish I had gotten there sooner for his jump, further to the right and looking up to face his body straight-on with the camera, so that he was totally in the frame.
For the next opportunity only moments later, I did get low in a crouch before the capture: the reasoning being that the point of interest to me was him buttoning his flapping jacket; getting lower creates a perspective that emphasizes that action, as opposed to a higher one that would most likely emphasize his face and decrease the visibility of the flapping jacket bottom.
#2 Create Eye Contact
It goes without saying that capturing a subject unawares (particularly if they are naturally emoting in a photographic manner) is a tried-and-true, fundamental approach of street photography. However, I think it’s followed to a fault. There’s no ninja rule in street shooting.
Sometimes waiting to be seen makes a photo more powerful.@cpplunkett
Sometimes waiting to be seen—and creating the resulting eye contact—makes a photo more powerful. The colors were what drew me into this scene: the blue tiling of the bank in the background and the blue bag and pants of the subject; the yellow Mustang and her yellow shirt; the red newspaper vending box (and the driver’s shirt if you look closely). Without waiting until she turned to face me, it would have simply been the back of her head.
It isn’t an either-or situation, though. Ideally, I’m able to snap the first photo with the subject unaware; then, with the shutter sound alerting them, I can take a second photo with eye contact. That’s exactly what happened here, when I came across a smoker not only rocking a baby pony, but mirrored, rose-tinted sunglasses to boot.
POV #2 Wrap-up
Shooting eye-level and unseen may be the factory default setting for many street photographers. But get low and catch glances to create something that goes beyond.