How to Capture Striking Portraits of Strangers on the Street

Approaching people on the street and asking for a portrait can feel uncomfortable — both for you as a photographer and for the person you’d like to photograph. Watch how one street photographer uses his experience to get some fantastic images.

Zeno Watson has been photographing on the streets of Glasgow for well over a decade, not just documenting the city as it happens in front of his lens, but also capturing portraits of many of its more distinctive characters. In this short video, Watson offers us some insights into how he works: first is his decision to switch from his beloved Ricoh GR III that’s his camera of choice for his usual street imagery and then a few demonstrations showing how he goes about approaching people — all of whom are then more than keen to pose for his lens.

My takeaway isn’t about his choice of camera, lens, aperture, or shutter speed, but about how Watson interacts with people from his hometown, approaching them on their level, as someone from their city, and creating an immediate connection despite remaining strangers.

Do you find the prospect of street portraiture intimidating? What questions would you have for Watson? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

Log in or register to post comments
Susheel Chandradhas's picture

Zeno makes it look so easy.

Patrick Hall's picture

I remember bumming around with Zach Arias in Dubai several years ago while he shot street photography. It was one of the most nerve-wracking exercises ever! I'm a pretty personable guy but something about NOT interacting with your subject made me feel really uneasy. Obviously you can also stop strangers and direct them into something a little less candid but that's a skill to learn as well. Very interesting video nevertheless.

Sam Sims's picture

Another video showcasing a photographer who takes candid street portraits. Found it quite interesting: