Simple way to make more compelling and dynamic street photographs:
Shoot from a low angle, to make your subject look “larger than life”.
When in doubt, crouch
The benefits of shooting from a low angle or perspective:
- You simplify the scene. Often you will photograph your subject against the sky, which gives your subject more separation (figure to ground) in the photo. The easier it is to spot out the subject in the scene, the better.
- The photographs look more interesting. We are bored and weary of seeing all these photographs shot at eye-level (how we normally see and experience the world). Instead, we desire to see the real world from a more unique (different) perspective. Shooting from a low angle is far more unique as a perspective, and thus the photographs are more likely to be interesting to look at.
- You look smaller and less intimidating to your subject; less likely to provoke a negative reaction from your subject.
Cinema low angle shots
When you’re watching cinema, they often employ a low angle perspective to make their subjects look grander, more powerful or important. Low angle shots heighten drama.
Generally speaking, the wider the lens you use, the more dynamic the shot.
For example, wide-angle lenses I like are 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm. I’ve used all these lenses with good success in street photography.
Use a flash
When you’re shooting from a low angle, often the sun will obscure the face of your subject.
To combat this, use a flash. Use the integrated flash on your camera, or just use the smallest flash that is compatible with your camera.
- Try shooting with a small digital camera with an LCD screen. This will assist you more on shooting low angle. Even experiment if your camera has a swivel screen.
- Spend a whole week only shooting low angle shots, to accustom yourself to this technique.
- Study the masters of photography, and see which others have shot very low Angle (Bruce Gilden, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus). Generally lots of good low angle shots on a Rolleiflex, Hasselblad, or any TLR waist-viewfinder camera.
Perspective is all
To me, photography is all a matter of perspective:
Your perspective of life and the compositional perspective of your lens.
So keep shooting from unique angles and perspectives with your camera and lens, and make dynamic and powerful photos!