Would You Use This Questionable Street Photography Approach?

Most photographers find the idea of pointing a camera at a complete stranger intimidating. And using flash for taking pictures of strangers is a complete no-no for most. Even the most experienced of street photographers will argue against that approach, as they find it intrusive and downright rude. Thomas Leuthard, however, gives a walk around tour to show us exactly how he does this and pulls it off with élan:

In almost all the photos that Leuthard takes, the flash is hand-held off-camera and fired from the camera left. Leuthard used a less intimidating Olympus OM-D E-M10 and paired that with a Yongnuo YN560-III. To trigger the flash he used a Yongnuo RF-600TX (RF-602). His camera settings were 17mm, 1/200 of sec, f/8 and ISO 200. The flash was fired at 1/8 of its full power.

questionable approach to street photography

Many of Leuthard’s subjects appear quite surprised by his approach.

To his advantage Leuthard had a group of about 10 people following him while he was taking the photos. One of them also filmed him all along. The group was laughing and seemingly enjoyed the whole thing which, Leuthard acknowledges, made it seem a lot less serious than it would have otherwise felt for the subjects of those photos if he’d been alone.

“You can see how people react, how I approach people. I normally take just one shot. Most of the photos are original crops, out of the camera crop. Some of them are a little bit cropped, but not too much.”

off camera flash technique

In most of the photos Leuthard used an off-camera flash fired at 1/8 power.

To be fair, a majority of the people Leuthard photographed did not exactly look like the type who would reach for his collar. And it certainly helped that he had a big group of camera-wielding followers with him, which seemed to give off a sense that they are on a photo-tour—an approach which Leuthard recommended to people who are intimidated with the concept of photographing strangers out on the streets.

street photography with flash

Off-camera flash created interesting contrast in the images.

Leuthard summarizes,

“As you could see, people don’t react mad, they don’t beat you, then don’t take your camera away. The advantage was that we were a group of about 10 people, everybody was laughing and we had a lot of fun; and people realized that this is not something serious and we just made this to have some fun and maybe that’s an advantage.”

But this approach is still very questionable.

What do you think? Would you use this approach for street photography?

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6 Comments

  1. Izzayak says:

    This type of street photography is more like guerrilla warfare and safari hunting. Invasive and rude, your method reveals your complete disrespect for people. People are not objects or animals. A public space is not a zoo. Some fun, really!

  2. Steen Soerensen says:

    I believe this totally absurd and do not understand why you would promote this guy, I find it very intruding and disrespectfull.
    “If you’re afraid of People getting angry, do it in a group and have a laugh” WTF is wrong with this guy????

  3. Paul's Pictures says:

    No I would not. There is no respect implied for the people being photographed. It is also simply trying to elicit a reaction from people in the hope of a “great shot”. This is against the spirit of street photography (however you define the genre) and is just a game people play pretending they are big time hunters or to copy people they think are “masters”. And some of them are not masters, simply game players again who insist that behavior of this sort is not only acceptable but cool. These so-called street photographers are contributing to the gradual repression of the genre that is coming. Anyone ever does that to a person with a bad heart condition or with epilepsy then they could very well have a very big reaction on their hands. Hopefully also a lawsuit

    • Noelene says:

      I agree entirely with Paul. Not impressed, I find it disrespectful and definitely not at all funny. If someone did that to me they just might end up with a bloody nose or a damaged camera!

  4. Mike says:

    Once again Thomas Leuthard has excelled with his own perception of how good he is (which he isn’t). If you stick your camera in the faces of people enough times then you are going to get an image in focus now and again. Then call it ‘street photography’ and it’s job done, Except it isn’t. Grow up Thomas, do some proper photos.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I took a workshop with a photographer who shoots in a similar style to Thomas. Very in your face, very rude, no regard for your subjects, run away after you got the shot leaving them baffled, and every shot is the same–that stunned, surprised look when you just had a camera and possibly a flash shoved in your face. Unoriginal and boring. He made me approach someone who was obviously not feeling it and wanted their space, and we made her so angry and uncomfortable. I was mortified.

    Quite frankly I pretty much stopped shooting street after that. I was so embarrassed and felt like I had disrespected my city so much in two days I completely lost my heart for street shooting. My style of street shooting is to do it in a way where I’m not intruding and they often don’t even realize I took a pic, or sometimes I will take the pic then stay and chat. Always at least smile and say hello. I totally agree this style is giving the genre a bad name. I still do candids now and again of strangers if the opportunity happens (for instance I got a beautiful shot the other week of a female construction worker at sunrise and she never even saw me) but Thomas is never going to be something I appreciate.

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