Shoot first, then ask permission...

In my weekly blog I will give you some inside information explaining how I shot some of my best pictures. I want these posts will help and inspire you to get out there working on your street photography!

Camouflaged woman. Copyright: Mike Kemp

Camouflaged woman. Copyright: Mike Kemp

I saw this young woman in Leicester Square standing in amazing afternoon light. She was relaxed, in a world her own, and blending in with her surroundings in more ways than one.

I approached without asking and took a shot. Then moving slightly closer to crop out the right hand side without changing focal length, a second (the first one in the sequence below). At this point she realised what I was doing, so I gave her a big smile and looked her right in the eye. She looks at me, then away, and smiles. That’s what I call permission. It’s official!

I take one step in to frame it how I want, just as she takes a drag of her cigarette. I’m trying to time it with no-one walking in that gap to the right, but the drag was too quick. Then two more frames as she exhales and then flicks her ash.

It’s all done in 25 seconds from first to last shot.

For me, the one where she’s taking a drag of the cigarette is the winner, as there’s something definite about her. Also it turned out that having someone in that gap to the right actually helped the final frame, as they blocked out the yellow Lichtenstein illustration which was distracting in the others.

After this type of situation, I always say something. So thanked her and explained why the situation was so irresistible, and what I do as a photographer. She follows me on Instagram and says 'Cheers mate'. The whole experience is friendly despite beginning without permission.

It was by smiling and being very direct about what I was doing which made the situation work out.

Later, editing my website with the brutal eye of a fellow street photographer, it survived to make it onto my street photography section.

So, if you’re out there and want to photograph someone in a similar situation, I'd just go ahead and shoot first, but it’s worth remembering that despite interacting, your subject can look as natural in the first frame, as in the last. You just need to put them at ease.

Have a great week!

Mike

Second shot (top left) and final shot (bottom right). Copyright: Mike Kemp

Second shot (top left) and final shot (bottom right). Copyright: Mike Kemp

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