Busted! How to shoot street portraits

Busted -how to shoot a street portrait

Busted! Is a close-up street portrait series I made at the beginning of this year in Rotterdam. That’s when I decided to enter the first Urban Street Dive contest, which challenges photographers all over the world to submit their best street photos.  

Scuba diving in Rotterdam

I really enjoyed this contest. They challenge each photographer to literally dive into a single urban location, street or area. My goal was to take the pictures within a limited time frame and area. These limits were set to sharpen my senses. It’s like scuba diving, where your oxygen is limited and you have to use your time wisely to discover new things. It is tempting to cover as much ground as you can, but taking 20 minutes on a single train platform can give you just as much cool opportunities to take interesting street photos. During six Saturday mornings I went on on little street dives in search of the best street photos.

Busted - how to shoot a street photography series


Busted! turned out to be an edgy close up street portrait series where most of the people looked straight into my lens. I don’t know any of these people and I didn’t ask them to pose for me. They just stood out on the street, at the platform and in a crowd by the way the looked or completed the view through my lens. All you need after that is a camera with a telelens, some ‘cojones’ and patience. I found out that after a while people don’t notice me and my camera. They choose to ignore me or just assume I’m not interested in them. If all else fails; take the shot and if they ask to delete it, you do. No guts, no glory. I named the series Busted! because most of the people photographed, ‘catch’ me taking the picture. Don’t worry – no photographer was actually hurt during this series.

People person

These pictures are not polished portraits, all smiles or perfectly lit. Each picture tells it’s own story. Like the older man who radiates authority, or is it just his hat? (More people should wear hats like this, they look fabulous). The musician, sitting on his music case while waiting for his train. And the girl who frowns at me…or at the delayed train. Who knows. My point is: there is a beauty in the spontaneous portrait. As a street photographer, you need to be a people person. Imagine their back stories. Make contact, even if you don’t speak to them. Because in the end, people make pictures so much more interesting to look at.

Urban Street Diving

After six Saturdays of Deep Street Diving I had much more material than I expected. I could only submit one series to the Urban Street Diving Contest and eventually Busted! didn’t make the cut. Thankfully, I can show them now on Top Floor Pics. Stay tuned though, because I will show my other Street Dive series as well. Small spoiler alert: I didn’t win the contest. If you’d like to know who won, check out Urban Street Diving Contest 2017 because their pictures are amazing. You can also follow the contest on Instagram @urbanstreetdiving to see really great street photography.

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