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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 15 of 20

Always Have a Street Photography Backup Plan


Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 15 of 20

Always Have a Street Photography Backup Plan


Lesson Info

Always Have a Street Photography Backup Plan

Okay when you get a little nose in a specific location you can try to shoot wide try teo incorporate the people in your photographs into a wider environment where you don't really need permission where they're not like super identifiable central in the frame you know, working in their personal space so I'm going to show an example of you know what we did city hold actually where we looked at sort of graphic elements and people working on walking within that graphic element sure she was pretty great so where I'm shooting around the place now I'm having trouble finding a lot of people so I found a spot that I'm noticing a lot of people are walking by and I love this bright red wall when I'm shooting that it's balancing actually out with a light outside perfectly so it's a really beautiful lighting situation it's graphically strong so most of my street photography and approaching strangers involves like you no interaction with people and discussing with them what I'm doing but then their ...

situations like this where it's just you know, visually powerful um so sometimes you just have to make whatever situation you're in work continues that's graphic sometimes it's emotional it's connected um sometimes just less so so there's a pretty good example of, you know, graphically strong frame I think right at least I hope we'll find out in the right clothes right where is everybody so one of the keys when you're shooting is looking for different elements in the frame so we've been waiting to someone tio you lean up against a wolf pass that red window and now I'm waiting for someone to walk in front of it at the same time and ideally I'd love somebody on the street walking by at the same time but we'll see if all of the different elements coming to play at the same time it's like so much of this is a waiting game finding a good frame and then shooting at least that's my style there's a lot of people who work in different ways where they'll be walking around and grabbing pictures always shoot but I'm more of ah uh I've been called a camper before uh so now we waiting for the right person in the right and walk through the frame making the right sort of body body motion whether it's stepping or their hands out just something interesting to happen. So that's what I talked about earlier um you need to learn your rights as a photographer about where you can and can't shoot what you can shoot what you can't shoot on dh then stand up for them like there are so many people who tell me that I can't shoot because they're having a permission or I can't be in this space because they haven't got permission and is not true I we usually into that conversation you know, with um with understanding and say actually that's not true the law stipulates that blah blah blah blah blah but occasionally doesn't end that well and like everybody ends up shouting I call the cops and then come down and so he's got like, full right to be here in person but you should think about you don't have to but I always think about the next person is going to be coming after me and shooting in that same spot make it a little bit easier for them if you give up because somebody's giving you a hard time even though you know you're allowed to be there and that person who's throwing that person out throwing you out today is going to have you know, even more fun throwing out the next person to turn up so I try to set a precedent for the next person by by saying like this is actually what the law states so I understand what your rights are where you're shooting um and you know how to operate within the law so can we do some some questions wear we go uh talk about what's coming up next? Um I really appreciate that last sentiment about giving us permission tio uh no what we do have the rights for because I think a lot of people you know will just kind of hold back so question is when you are out shooting have you ever run into a situation where the person gets upset and demands that you erase the photo? How do you handle a religion belligerent person per se belligerent? Um well, every belligerent person is different, right? Um in the past, I think I want to lead any pictures I don't do it any pictures to anybody treat my digital files as I trade film it's like, oh, it's a one way ticket once I shoot them, they're there don't delete stuff that's that's to be done by somebody else like, if I stop cheerleading stuff, I find that it's a slippery slope that's not editing in camera because like what's the difference it's a garbage frame that doesn't mean anything like today it's a garbage frame in ten years from now, it might be something that I'm looking for, you know, like um like the first and last frame of a roll of film, you know often has stuff that just looks totally bizarre, but it could be great you never know, so I want to lead any photographs for somebody who's like, pissed off that I'm taking pictures, I'll try to understand why they're so upset um and definite empathize, you know, like when I say empathize were talking of a lunch about what that actually means and, you know, empathy is making sure that people feel head, you know, sympathizing is saying that that sucks, that you feel that way. However, I'm not deleting pictures, I'm sorry, I'm a professional photographer. This is how it works. You're in a public space. I'm part of the contract that you are in. When you're in a public spaces, like you're being photographed, you're being photographed anyway. I'm working for a magazine I'm working for my

Class Description


  • Confidently approach strangers for street photography
  • Refine your eye for strong compositions
  • Choose the right gear for street photography
  • Tell a story through street photography
  • Write captions to accompany your work
  • Cull and edit your street photography images
  • Use street photography tips for building a career


Find the courage and skill to photograph strangers in public. Work with renowned street photographer Ashley Gilbertson to build both the confidence and skills necessary to succeed as a street photographer. Learn how to capture people moving through everyday life in artistic ways. Find out how to approach people in the street -- and how to photography anonymously in public places when everyone says no.

From understanding gear and the nuances of focal length to working as a documentary photographer in a public space, take your passion for street photography to the next level. This class isn't for beginners learning shutter speed and aperture for the first time -- it's for anyone that's ever wanted to work in street photography but struggles to build the courage to do so.

Watch behind-the-scenes videos following a real street photographer in action. Hear tales -- and see sample images -- of street photography across the United States and abroad, including major cities like New York and Chicago. Build captions and edit images with Photomechanic and Adobe Lightroom Live. Dive into an art form that reveals the complexity of human nature with Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers.


  • Intermediate photographers eager to try the street photography genre
  • Enthusiast photographers branching into documentary style photography
  • Advanced photographers struggling to come out of their shell to approach strangers

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom 6.0


Australia born photographer Ashley Gilbertson is a well-respected documentary style artist that many consider among the best street photographers. From working on editorial shoots to personal projects, his work has earned him an Emmy nomination, the Robert Capa Gold Medal, and an American Society of Magazine Editors Ellie award. The street photographer is also the author of two photography books and a regular writer for publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Based in New York City, Ashley's work has been featured in major publications as well as museum and art galleries around the world. 


  1. Class Introduction

    Start this street photography workshop with one of the most frequently asked questions: how do you photograph strangers? Meet your instructor and dip your toes into the world of street photography in the introduction lesson. Learn what to expect in the first lesson.

  2. What Do You Mean by Photographing Strangers?

    In many cases, street photographers photograph first in the decisive moment, then talk to the person in the photograph afterward. In this lesson, Ashley explains when he introduces himself first, and when he waits.

  3. Why Photograph Strangers?

    Carrying a camera gives you permission to be curious, to meet new people. See why strangers make such great photography subjects. Gain insight into how Ashley gets strangers to open up about their vulnerabilities.

  4. The Psychology of a Street Photographer

    Can you be a street photographer and an introvert? Learn how Ashley become extroverted for the sake of street photography and how to get out of your own shell. Work to build the confidence to approach strangers by looking at the worst case scenario and imagining how you would feel if the roles were reversed.

  5. Establishing Trust When Photographing

    Ashley says that trust is essential to successful street photography. Gain insightful tips to start building trust with potential photo subjects, whether you are working with them for one image or working with them for months. Learn how to confront your own fears and build trust with subjects.

  6. Decide on a Story to Tell Through Photos

    Begin the segment on the pre-shot process with a look at storytelling through street photography. Work through the process of determining what story to tell, from finding what you are passionate about to working for a specific cause. Just be sure, he says, to be open to changing your opinion as you work. Find inspiration from some of Ashley's past projects.

  7. How To Tell Your Story Through Photos

    Some stories try to change the world, others just celebrate the beauty and fun of it. Dig into researching the location, narratives, and existing work on a potential story. Learn how to build and pitch a photo essay, including a sample pitch.

  8. The Gear You Need For Street Photography

    Gear matters in street photography -- but perhaps not the way you think it is. A good street photography camera, whether film or digital camera, is simply a tool that helps you get the job done, whether that's a fancy Leica or an inexpensive camera and a prime lens or two. Ashley says, however, that you should know your camera inside and out. Street photographers also need to consider the conditions, traveling, and whether or not you need to be discrete when choosing gear.

  9. Know How to Present Yourself as a Photographer

    Perception goes with trust -- including what you wear and how you present yourself. In this brief lesson, gain tips on presenting yourself as a street photographer.

  10. Observe Your Shoot Location

    Scouting out the location helps prepare for a successful shot. Observing the location helps street photographers find the best light. Learn what to look for when scouting out a location.

  11. Where is Street Photography?

    Street photography doesn't require a street. Ashley explains how any public or semi-public location is fair game for street photography. Find insight into additional spaces to shoot besides just outdoors on the streets.

  12. How to Approach Your Subject

    Street photographers can approach subjects in three main ways. Work through each situation to interact with the subject while keeping the interactions unposed. Ashley also shares insight about getting a variety of angles to increase the chances of getting good shots with the right perspective. Go behind the scenes and watch Ashley interact with real subjects in Seattle.

  13. Ways to Connect with Your Subject

    Talk through ways to connect with your subject and how men and women may have different experiences in street photographer. Watch a behind-the-scenes video showing how Ashley talks with subjects. Learn why being at ease and comfortable is key.

  14. What to Do When People Say No to Photographs

    Not everyone will say yes to having their photo taken -- so what happens then? Ashley suggests not taking no personally and moving on to other photo subjects. In this lesson, learn how to capture photos of bystanders in ways that don't require a name.

  15. Always Have a Street Photography Backup Plan

    What happens when everyone says no? In this lesson, Ashley suggests some alternative projects or backup plans when the original plan isn't working.

  16. What to do When You've Finished Shooting

    The post-shoot workflow includes captioning and initial editing -- often on the same day as the shot. Ashley suggests writing down captions while it's still fresh in your mind, instead of waiting for the next day. Learn how to organize and cull your images.

  17. How To Find The Right Caption For Your Photos

    Documentary style photography isn't complete without a caption. Build a caption for your work in this lesson, from a generic caption for large batches of images, to captioning individual images.

  18. The Street Photography Editing Process

    Work through a three-step culling process for street photography. Start with culling photos in Adobe Lightroom using a star system, then continue narrowing down the frames.

  19. Toning Your Photos For Maximum Impact

    Street photography's journalism roots means editing should be minimal. Walk through the process of adjusting the tones in the image from maximum impact using Adobe Lightroom. Work with photos shot in previous lessons during this live editing session.

  20. Career Tips For Street Photography

    How do street photographers profit from their work? In this lesson, Ashley talks about the state of the industry, the different types of assignments, and how to approach street photography as a career.



I have taken more than a few of the Creative Live courses. I have, in general, found all of them to be very good and I have learned something important from them all. Not always enough of exactly what I was looking for, but something useful and important. This course was absolutely amazing. The best I have taken. I would like to download it and see it again and again. Ashley's style was authentic, humble, yet confidence inspiring. The information he gave was focused and totally useful. He shared both philosophy and thinking as well as real tools to learn - whether they be soft stuff (like how to approach someone) or hard stuff (like gear and settings and such). I cannot recommend this class highly enough. If you want to learn to do "humanistic photography" (his term which resonated with me), this is best I have ever taken!


This was a terrific and wonderful class. Ash was superb. His stories were awe inspiring, his passion was evident and his ability to teach was flawless. I would take any other class by him and actually can't wait for more of the VII agency programs eminating from Ron's class during photo week 2015. A great great addition to Creative Live's orbit.


Wow, I loved this course - I watched the whole thing, and most of it twice, during the first run. Ash is is intriguing, a good teacher, honest. I found this class to be so inspirational. I especially loved his encouragement about talking to strangers, asking to take their picture- "what's the worst thing that could happen?" And the videos watching him in action were motivating- you saw him make connections but also saw him get rejected too, but he keeps such a positive outlook. Love this class, please more photojournalism!