One of my biggest fears, when starting to shoot the streets for the first time, was approaching characters that looked as if they had stories. I wanted to capture those stories and backgrounds of these people through pictures. The homeless just give that “look” that just reek of miles of hardship and interesting tales to tell.
Problem, back then, was how in the world do I get that shot with out getting punched, spat, or yelled at?
First thing to remember is that homeless folks are people too! Take and compose your shot whichever way you usually do when shooting on the street. Whether it be a candid shot from afar, quick snap up close and walk away, or a portrait shot with permission. If the same method works for you when shooting “everyday people” on the street, then you shouldn’t put up this separate wall of hesitation when it comes to the homeless.
BUT also remember to use common sense. There are some who are mentally distraught, and things could get physical whether or not you give off the right or wrong vibe. That’s just the common rule for anyone. (If you don’t have street smarts, don’t shoot street.)
Candids are typically, usually easy.
This was shot from a far, about 5 meters away with a 90mm lens.
This one was taken with a 40mm lens up closer. snapped while walking.
But what about head on shots? How do I do that?
Well, just like any other portrait you would usually do, get their consent! Just simply going up to them, and asking them for a quick picture, can surprisingly go a long way. And if they ask why, please.. don’t lie, just be honest! If they say no, then respectfully give an Okay and Thank you and carry on with your day.
Shot these with my rangefinder. I was driving down some road, and saw this man trucking around 2 carts full of his art work. Pulled over and got out of my car and approached him. He saw that I had a camera and waved his hands saying “No photos, I don’t do photos.” I said okay that’s fine, but went ahead and started a short minute convo about his art work. Gave him a few dollars I could spare, not expecting for anything in return, but just to help the guy out. As I was about to head back to my car, He said I could take some shots. Said Thanks and shook his hand.
His name is Robin, the artist.
Hope this helps anyone who may have been wanting to get those character shots but weren’t sure of how to get into the action
“If your photos aren’t good enough, it just means you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa