Strangers are an important element in your iPhone street photography. They help you tell interesting stories and capture the viewer’s imagination. But if you’re new to street photography, you probably lack the confidence to photograph people you don’t know. In this tutorial you’ll discover how to take amazing iPhone street photos of strangers while building your confidence, remaining discreet, and preserving the anonymity of the people you photograph.
1. Find A Good Background
In street photography, finding a great background is just as important as the main subject itself.
When you’re out photographing strangers in your city, start by finding an interesting backdrop and then you can wait for a person to walk in front of it.
A good choice for a background is any kind of wall, for example, a raw brick walls, concrete walls, brightly painted walls, plain white walls, walls with street art, or commercial walls with big graphic text.
Other great options are billboards, interesting architecture with columns or arches, and narrow streets creating perspective inside your frame.
You could even use the ground as your backdrop if you’re shooting from a high vantage point.
You can tell amazing stories and make perfect street photos if you manage to make a passing stranger interact with the background (often without them knowing it).
Capturing a person in just the right position within the scene can give the place and setting a whole new meaning.
A good way to get started is to explore your surroundings with the sole purpose of finding great backgrounds for your street photography.
When you find something you like, compose your shot and then wait for the perfect stranger to walk or cycle past. Be ready to press the shutter button so that you don’t miss the shot!
2. Shoot From A Distance
If you find it daunting to photograph strangers without their permission, one way to overcome this is to shoot them from a distance.
People are less likely to notice you taking their photo if you’re far away from them. It’s much less intrusive, and it’ll keep an element of discretion and anonymity in your street photography.
Try standing on the other side of the street and wait for someone to walk by on the opposite sidewalk. Just make sure you have a clear view without any passing traffic obstructing your shot.
When photographing people from a distance, you can often create a fantastic sense of scale. Having a tiny person against a tall building will create a very eye-catching image.
3. Blend In With Your Surroundings
If you want to be discreet and avoid being noticed by people in the street, you should consider how you act and where you put yourself when you’re shooting.
Try not to stand in the middle of the street with your camera held out in front of you. To obtain a more discreet attitude, try standing in a doorway, sitting on a park bench, or standing in the shadows.
A good trick is to pretend that you’re sending a text or listening to music on your phone so that it doesn’t look like you’re taking pictures.
You can also use the Apple ear buds as a shutter release so that you don’t even have to touch your iPhone’s screen to take the photo.
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4. Photograph From Behind Or Above
When photographing strangers on the street, you might feel more comfortable if you shoot them from a position where they won’t be looking straight at you.
This is also a great option if you want to keep the anonymity of the subject as you won’t be capturing their faces in your photos.
Think of other points of view that you could shoot from rather than just face on towards your subject.
For example, you could stand behind the person as they’re walking away from you, or you could shoot from above if you can get up to a high vantage point such as a bridge or an upstairs window of a building.
Shooting from high up also offers you some great opportunities for interesting points of view in your pictures.
Furthermore, you can experiment and do something great with the shadows your strangers cast on the ground.
For instance, in the photo above I turned the picture upside down in post-processing so it looks like it’s the shadow rather than the real people that are walking the street.
You can also choose a lower point of view if you place yourself at a lower level than the people you want to photograph.
Standing at the bottom of a staircase or a hill gives you opportunity to look up at people as they’re walking away from you, allowing you to include great foreground interest in your photos.
5. Capture Just Reflections Or Shadows
If you just photograph the shadow or reflection of a person, you can avoid pointing your camera straight at them.
Instead you’ll be pointing the lens of your iPhone at the ground, a wall, a puddle, a window, etc.
Shadows will only appear in harsh sunlight, so a bright sunny day is the perfect time for this kind of photography.
Shadows add a wonderful sense of mystery and intrigue to your photos, so keep your eyes peeled for interesting shadows that will capture your viewer’s imagination.
6. Shoot Silhouettes To Emphasize Anonymity
One of the most wonderful things about street photography is that feeling you get – both as a viewer and as the photographer – that you’re having a brief but very realistic glimpse into the life of busy strangers in a street.
To emphasize the fact that the person in your photo is a stranger to you, try capturing them as a dark silhouette so that you can’t see any details.
Silhouettes help to create a sense of mystery and drama in your photos. It will leave the viewer asking questions about who that person is.
A silhouette can express so many different stories depending on the person that’s looking at your photo. Because you can’t see the person’s facial expression, it’s up to the viewer to tell the story.
To create a silhouette, you need a strong light source such as the sun or a bright sky behind your subject.
Once you’ve composed your shot, tap to set focus on your subject, then swipe down on the screen to reduce the image exposure (brightness) until the subject appears as a dark silhouette.
7. Capture Emotion In Your Street Photos
A completely different approach to photographing strangers in the street is to create images that capture the facial expressions and emotions of your subject.
Of course, this means that your subject is less anonymous and you have to get a lot closer to them to capture the detail that you want.
You’ll probably want to build up your street photography confidence before you try this approach, but when you take these kinds of photos it can be extremely rewarding.
Capturing the emotion of a stranger helps you to tell a strong and interesting story that really draws the viewer in.
You can also show emotion by capturing a person’s body language. Try to notice how a their body language might indicate how they’re feeling and capture that in your photos.
Photographing complete strangers can be very daunting at first. You might feel that you’re invading a person’s privacy, and this can cause you to hesitate or not take the photo at all.
In street photography, the perfect moment often happens very quickly and will be over before you know it. Therefore, hesitation caused by fear and lack of confidence can be your enemy.
But by following the tips in this tutorial, you can gradually build up your confidence so that you feel less intimidated to take great street photos of strangers.
A lot of these tips allow you to maintain the anonymity of the subject. This is a great way to photograph strangers without feeling that you’re invading their privacy.
And once you become more confident, you’ll find that it’s much less daunting to point your iPhone at a stranger in the street and capture the perfect shot.