Long Distance Street Studio Portrait Photography

In an innovative blending of street and studio photography, Tiberiu from MUMUS Photo Hub, a Romanian photography company, decided to experiment with separating the photographer from his subjects physically, while simultaneously bringing them closer to the process of shooting itself. In this video he and his team bring a portable studio setup, complete with a backdrop and two external flashes behind umbrellas, out to the streets of Bucharest. They use this to photograph passing pedestrians alone, in groups, and even with pets, from a balcony at a distance of 200 feet away and 5 stories up:

He uses what appears to be a Canon 30D with a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens and a couple of high-power flashes—most likely 580EXes—set up on radio transmitters. With his camera set to a 1/200 of a second at f/5.6, he fires off shot after shot of nearly anyone who passes by, continuing the experiment well into the evening. What comes out of this is a wonderful insight into the everyday sensibilities of the average Romanian, and all-around human reactions to being unexpectedly pulled out of one’s everyday world and cast in a spotlight.

outdoor studio photography

The impromptu nature of this project, with its little informalities such as holding the background on a light stand, using two assistants as mobile backdrop stands, and having a crowd of collaborators talking, laughing, and posing alongside the passers-by, helps to put the subjects at ease and bring out their fun-loving nature, even amongst strangers.

outdoor studio photography

The result is some very handsome and carefree portraits of people who clearly aren’t used to this sort of thing. This showcases the strengths of both types of photography used – the casual nature of street photography, photographing that which is often ignored or taken for granted (in this case, the strangers that surround us on the sidewalk every day), along with the closer, more detailed observation that comes out of the studio process, and of isolating a subject to view it with more precision. In this spirit, there are many ways that we can, in our own work, blend two contrasting ways of seeing into a unified whole, and begin to view the world from many perspectives other than the one we’re used to; this is, after all, one of the ultimate goals of the photographic process.

Next time you’re dreaming up a project, try asking yourself: what the is the opposite of what I’m doing, and how can I do both at the same time? Post in the comments below with your own ideas that explore the juxtaposition of style!

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4 responses to “Long Distance Street Studio Portrait Photography”

  1. Hey, thank you for writing about our video! You’ve raised the exact questions that we incourage every photographer out there to ask themselves — mainly, “how can I do what I do in a different way?” Because experimenting (and teaming up with others) will surely help grow yourself.

    Correction: the camera was indeed a Canon 30D, but the lens was a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM (and still a bit short at that, unfortunately; we shot at 400mm and still had to crop quite a bit off the images.)

  2. Bill says:

    I don’t mean to be overly negative, but I don’t see the point in any of it. What is to be done with the photos now? Did the people get a copy to keep? Doubtful. Are they of cultural significance? Not really imo. Far better if the crew went walking around and captured images of people doing everyday tasks imo. At least that would tell a bit of a story. 8 feet or 200 feet away, it still looked like many of the subjects were nervous and somewhat bewildered. Of course many are up for a laugh no matter what. And why the ugly grey backdrop? Dark winter clothing against a dark background. Blah.

    • Bill, the point was to try something we haven’t done before; and also, to make people aware of the location of the studio. We went very fast from idea to shooting, so we haven’t had time to set everything up super-duper-right. 3 of the assistants were “borrowed”, and so were the lens and the radio triggers. The backdrop was lying arround in our storage room. Point is, we knew it was just a tryout for the start, but it felt like we had to do it nonetheless. We did, however, took a lot of notes and we’re going to do much better next time we try something like this. And yes, people got their photos via e-mail after the video was posted on the web (the 3 assistants with clipboards in their hands were taking e-mails and phone numbers). We pretty much liked how it turned out, and we’re very confident about what we learned — after all, how else are you going to grow if not by trying?

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