Thomas Leuthard, who is one of my close friends and fellow street photography workshop teachers, suggested a theme to me a while back that revolved around shooting street photography of people’s feet. At first I was a bit skeptical, but after looking at his images I was quite impressed. As street photographers, we can often get too preoccupied by looking forward that we don’t take the time to look up or down. Although shooting street photographs of people’s feet may sound weird (and a bit stinky), it can make for some fascinating results. Keep reading to find out how you can shoot street photography of people’s feet.
1. Use a camera with an LCD screen
When I was shooting street photography of people’s feet, I would get extremely close to their feet with my Olympus EP-2 and use my LCD screen to frame the shot. Why do I suggest using a camera with an LCD? This is because when you are shooting so low to the ground, it is often difficult to frame the images using just a viewfinder. When you are shooting at odd angles, it makes it really easy to create a composition using an LCD screen with either a point-and-shoot like the Ricoh GRIII or a Micro 4/3rds camera like the Olympus EP-2.
2. Compliment people (after taking the photo)
Some people were curious about my methodology of shooting people’s feet– and I will explain it here. I would approach someone slowly, crouch down really low, and take a shot of their feet (really close). By the time people figured out what I was exactly doing, they would give me a strange stare and weren’t quite sure what to expect. I would then slowly get up and with a huge smile tell them that they had awesome shoes and that I wanted to take an image.
Interestingly enough most people were flattered by this, and very few people got offended. I think about shooting only entirely people’s feet for 3 hours only one person felt offended (he felt I should have asked before taking the image). However in the end he still didn’t seem to mind that much (and I still got the shot).
3. Look for interesting shoes
When I was on this mission of shooting people’s shoes, it was fascinating to see that people’s shoes were almost like people’s faces. People’s shoes would often show their personality, character, and style. I felt that simply by looking at someone’s shoes I was able to know a lot about who they were.
Therefore when you are out shooting, try to find shoes that stand our from the crowd. Look for shoes with interesting colors, shapes, and sizes.
4. Stay consistent
As with every theme, it is important to stay consistent. When I was shooting all of my street photographs of people’s shoes, I made sure to take them at all around the same focal length (around 34mm with the Olympus EP-2’s 17mm f/2.8), the same framing, as well as from a landscape orientation. Therefore when I put all of my images, the centrality of the theme made the series of images far more interesting. The more you do this with other themes, you will find your images to be more interesting as well.
5. Don’t ask for permission
When it comes to shooting street photography of people’s shoes, don’t ask for permission. One of my favorite quotes (which applies to street photography and life) is, ‘It is better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” When you ask people permission to take photos of their shoes, it gives them the possibility of saying no. When you shoot without taking permission, you already get the shot and then show people that you mean no harm.
When I was out shooting people’s shoes, I asked a few people for permission. Although a few did accept, the other half declined. After all, it does sound a bit weird for a stranger to come to you and ask you to take a picture of your shoes (although it can be quite flattering). Therefore remember to shoot first, then smile later.
6. Disregard of what other people think of you
When you are shooting street photographs of people’s shoes, it will look weird. And when I say weird I mean really weird. If you thought taking photos of people’s faces were weird, getting close to their feet is a whole new level. When I was on the streets of Zurich, Switzerland with Thomas Leuthard and he saw me shooting street photographs of people’s feet–even he felt a bit uncomfortable watching me do this (although he has done exactly the same thing in the past).
Therefore when you are shooting people’s shoes, realize that you will get weird looks and comments from strangers. However disregard what they say and keep moving. As long as you keep a jolly demeanor and a smile on your face people will think you’re just weird (not a creep).
So would you ever try shooting street photographs of people’s shoes? Think it is an idea that is fresh or stinks? If you also have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!