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Lesson: Work the scene

Whenever you see an interesting scene, don’t just take 1 photo. Work the scene; from different angles, engage with your subjects, interact with them, talk to them, ask them questions, shoot from different distances (close, far) and change the orientation of your camera.


1. San Diego hotel man

eric-kim-street-photography-Only-in-America-14
San Diego, 2013

I saw this man at a hotel lobby, and I complimented him on his outfit and his look (and started to shoot without permission, while I was talking with him).

He then told me:

I own this hotel!

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Lesson: You don’t need to always ask for permission.

My suggestion: Start taking photos of your subject, and start talking to them while you’re talking to them!


2. Couple at restaurant in Texas

I saw this nice couple at a restaurant in Texas, and I was a bit nervous to approach them. I then complimented the girl on her orange nails, and I asked to make a photo of her posing with her nails. Note at the end, I took a couple photo of her and her boyfriend too:

Lesson: Be specific why you want to photograph your subject. Be specific about what about them you find interesting.

Also, when shooting portraits of people indoors, use a flash.


3. Old biker gang

I was in Philly, stopping for a bite– and saw this old biker gang. I had a point and shoot Contax t3 film camera (Kodak portra 400) and started clicking. Note the different orientations I shot (horizontal, vertical, etc):


4. Driveway / old Chevrolet car

I was in the suburbs of LA, and tried to shoot a shadow selfie of myself against this very ‘American’ scene:

Note how I ‘worked the scene’, to try to move my shadow on the scene.


5. Shoot more than 1 photo of a scene

I was in East Lansing, Michigan and saw this family waiting for their daddy to come home. Note how the composition is a little subtly different:


6. Tucson / lady with red hair

tucson-contact-jpeg red lady hair
People think this picture is a candid photo. It is not.

I was in Tucson, Arizona (road trip across America) and saw this lady eating a Gyro. I loved her outfit, approached her and complimented her on her outfit. I asked if it was okay for me to photograph her, and she said, “Of course!” She then asked me, “What do you want me to do?”

I then said, “Oh, just show off your nails!”

For the best photo, she was adjusting her lipstick and asked, “How does my lipstick look”?

Note that I shot this photo both with flash and without flash. With flash, the colors look more vivid:


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If you’re curious more about how to “work the scene” in street photography, download my full-resolution contact sheets for your own self-education and learning with the links below:

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For your convenience, I have a selection of my contact sheets as a .ZIP file (very big at 2.5GB) available for you to download via Google Drive or Dropbox below:

All of these photos are open-source; meaning, feel free to print, distribute, remix, or share them with others.


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