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Tips from Top PDX Photographers, Part 2: People & Street Scenes

By Kathleen O'Malley @frugalportland

Portland is a city rich in life: kids skating in Waterfront Park, browsers cradling books at Powell’s, friends drinking beer in low-lit bars, folks queuing for a food truck. Freezing these moments in photos is one of the pleasures of spending time here, and a way to remember things we might otherwise forget.

In our first Photography Tips post, Frugal Portland offered tips on taking photos of landscapes and food. In this piece, we talk to two local photographers to learn how best to capture street scenes and families or friends. Our Q & A follows.

Ryan Katsanes: Street Scenes (IG: rkatsanes)

Tips from Top PDX Photographers, Part 2: People & Street Scenes

Photo by Ryan Katsanes.

FP: What’s your favorite thing about street photography?

RK: Street photography is about capturing the human condition. Whether it’s people or there are signs of people in the frame, it’s the hunt for the next story that I enjoy the most.

FP: What is the best time of day or setting?

RK: Autumn. It’s often cold but not rainy, or rainy but not frozen. People wear more interesting clothes. Wet streets tend to be more interesting than dry ones. The North West has great light in the fall.

FP: What makes a great street photograph?

Tips from Top PDX Photographers, Part 2: People & Street Scenes

Photo by Ryan Katsanes.

RK: Relationships. Relationships between two or more things, be it between people, objects, people with objects, or implied relationships. A great street photograph makes the viewer put themselves or their experiences into the image, and relate to it in a way that’s unique to them.

FP: What’s one app or filter everyone should try?

RK: The app called Streetography has a mission of documenting and sharing where you are when you took the photo so others can see and go there too. It’s available for iOS and Android.

FP: When should you ask for permission before shooting someone?

RK: I rarely ask permission. It’s one of the hardest things for folks to get accustomed to, being bold. Most people fear people will get upset or even attack you for taking their picture. In reality, if you have a good intuition, you smile or nod at the subject before or after making the frame, you’ll be just fine. Most people simply want to know why you took their picture. Having a good response to that goes a long way. Use a compliment, it diffuses most situations.

That said, whenever there are kids, or if you’re looking to take a more posed portrait, you should ask the subject, or the subject’s parents if it’s OK.

FP: What’s your favorite iconic Portland scene or landmark?

I gravitate to the Saturday Market area because there are always colorful people and images to be made there. There are a lot of tourists, which means variety as well.

Top tip: Always have a clear subject or focal point and never make a photo that would embarrass or disparage the subject.

Sarah Willey: Family & Friends

Tips from Top PDX Photographers, Part 2: People & Street Scenes

Photo by Sarah Willey.

FP: What’s your favorite thing about shooting families & friends?

SW: Getting to know them. It’s awesome to interact with new people and ask them questions. You get a little piece of everybody’s story.

FP: What is the best time of day or setting?

SW: Fall. I love all of the colors. If you are going to shoot around, try to do it early in the morning or later in the evening, the softer light is more forgiving.

FP: What makes a great group photograph?

SW: Real emotion. I love candid moments such as people laughing, running around, and being goofy together.

FP: What’s one app or filter everyone should try?

The best app on the market right now is either VSCO or Facetune.

FP: What’s the secret to getting everyone to face the same way?

Tips from Top PDX Photographers, Part 2: People & Street Scenes

Photo by Sarah Willey.

Tell funny jokes. I love being weird at shoots to get smiles out of everybody. My jokes are so dumb they usually make people laugh.

FP: What’s an iconic Portland scene or location you love to shoot?

The Pearl District. The little urban area on 23rd always makes for awesome photos.

Top tip: Always be patient and never have a bad attitude! Go to the shoot with positive vibes.

With these ideas – and those we offered in Part 1 of this series – your picture-taking activities should be more enjoyable while producing better results. Perhaps even that “goes viral” quality Instagram shot.


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