Catch Their Eye
The mention of eye contact will always fuel an interesting debate among street photographers. If someone is looking at the camera, can the shot be considered truly candid? Does it matter? Probably not: it’s more of a convention than a necessity, and the decision will depend on your approach to street shooting and your aims for that particular shot.
Generally, we aim to avoid eye contact with people on the streets. It’s best to remain remote and detached from your subjects, because if they “out” you as a photographer their behavior will probably change and the scene you originally saw will not be the scene you photograph. However, there are occasions when direct eye contact can help you capture a great image, as it adds an extra dimension to a shot, be it a cheeky acknowledgment or a menacing glare. The direct connection with the photographer can also bring a sense of intimacy to the image, drawing the viewer in.
Explore the work of Dougie Wallace to see how eye contact can make a good image great. Then give it a try for yourself. The next time you see a scene you want to photograph, first shoot it instinctively and candidly. Once you have that shot in the bag, somehow draw attention to yourself and engineer eye contact for the next shot. Compare the two and see which version you prefer.
View the images
- Try to do this at fairly close range with a lens somewhere between 28mm and 50mm; shooting from across the street with a long lens could be perceived as creepy or voyeuristic.
- This is not the sort of shot where someone poses for you, so the second you have eye contact, shoot! Timing is everything here.
- To catch the subject’s attention, you could make deliberate movement.
- When you have taken the picture, smile, say “thank you;’ and walk away. No further dialogue is needed!
- A smile can be quite disarming, so don’t be afraid to smile once you’ve taken someone’s picture.
- Be straight with people: if someone asks if you’ve just taken their picture, just admit it. Remember you’re doing nothing wrong!