5 Travel Street Portrait Photography Tips

Capturing an authentic image of someone on the street is not a very easy thing to do. To really capture their soul—an honest moment of someone looking straight into the camera and revealing themselves—that’s magic. Photographer Kenna Klosterman uses travel street portraiture to really connect with a culture and its people while she’s traveling. Here are her top five tips to connect with strangers and take better street portraits:

1. Make Eye Contact

This is the first step in knowing if someone even wants to engage with you. If the person you want to take a photo of makes eye contact with you, that’s a great sign as it shows openness. If they don’t make eye contact, let it go and move on.

2. Show Openness Through Body Language

Nobody wants to talk to someone who is closed off. Try to approach people with an open demeanor and confidence, but not overconfidence. Go in with the mindset that this person is your friend and you’ll notice they will be more receptive. Maintain eye contact and open body language as you talk to them.

3. Pay Them a Compliment

In order to establish a connection as you start to have a conversation with the person, try to make it about them. The easiest way to do that is to compliment them about something—you like their earrings or they have beautiful eyes, for example. Paying them a compliment is a great opener.

street portrait photography

4. Establish Trust

After paying a compliment, try to go deeper into the connection to really gain this person’s trust. That’s not an easy thing to do in a short time, so you want to get them talking right away so they start to feel comfortable. That’s how the compliment can help— you like their shirt, so ask them where they got it. Find a common interest and talk about that.

5. Embrace Your Craft

Have your camera and settings all ready to go for the scene you have in mind. Just like you would be if you were with a client, own that photo shoot. If you’re in control and guiding the person, they won’t second-guess your abilities or intentions. Own your craft.

One of the ways that helps Klosterman really connect with people on the street is through sharing the photos she takes with them. Armed with a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic camera, her favorite camera to travel with, she takes a photo and gives them the print right there on the spot.

establish trust photo

By giving them this gift, Klosterman finds that people are usually pretty excited about it and are more likely to open up. Then she shoots with a Canon 6D—her general walk around lens is the 24-105mm. With this, she’ll take a photo of the person holding the print she has given them, and it creates a nice little memory for everyone.

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