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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 20 of 20

Career Tips For Street Photography


Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 20 of 20

Career Tips For Street Photography


Lesson Info

Career Tips For Street Photography

Is anyone mad enough to do this is a job for you, huh? You're crazy uh other any questions about turning this into a career? I think I mean yes and as you people definitely, um want to know is this something that you couldn't make money off of? Is this something that if you work hard enough it's something that you can do for money yeah, just just like it's a shrinking industry and I think that what's I think there has been a time in the past in which we could rely on assignments and working really, really hard, you know, being up there for long periods and working ass off, but today I think it is still working very hard, but you're working on a variety of different things now it's not all assignment work, you know, you might be doing a commercial assignment one day you might be doing some private assignment for like, a citizen another day then you might be doing an editorial thing that doesn't pay very well except you want to do it. You know, I think, um a lot of us do jobs in order to...

do what we really want to do, which is our passion and photography is great except I'm still doing that, you know, like I do a little bit of work for the devil in order to pay for the photo journalism that I adored doing so it's manageable except you need to approach this like I don't call myself a photojournalist very much anymore usually call myself a photographer because it means that I could do the weird commercial jobs for like the wine company or the haven't sold cigarettes yet but you know who have a shooting for whoever you can do all of these other jobs if you're photographers if you are walking around as a photojournalist it's pretty rather you get any other sort of work outside of that people don't know what to do with this um that was a question I had had for my mentor um well what if I dabbled in photojournalism how could I do that part time especially as a mom and my husband travels is not an option for me toe go and be away for a long time and she had mentioned she she told me how much the newspapers the magazines pay and I said well that might not even be worth my time but let's say that that's what your hobby and you not being you went out and took those pictures of seattle who would you submit those two would you submit didn't somewhere if they're just photos you've taken um be personally probably not I mean this is the cool thing about where we are today like I'm not doing it for an assignment I'm just doing I'm doing it for you know, out of interest and curiosity of the people um what's really interesting about the way we live today is that we can publish we don't need a publisher anymore we don't need new york magazine of the times magazine of new yorker behind us you can publish on instagram you can write to like a street photography you know a bunch of different collectives on instagram of street photographers in public or I mean there's a lot you guys know about them umm you could start using that as an out but you know it's unpaid except you want to show people what you're seeing on dh the internet is an amazing place to do that where you can actually author your own work but also author how it's how it's being presented to the world which is really pretty like I think it's inspiring amazing I love it. And so, um how do you go about becoming established with a group like seven uh, well, you working by working a lot but also by working on the photographer's radars? Um I mean, I I definitely set out to like I looked up to all of the photographers in the agency that I'm in now um so I would be seeking them out any way to try to have a coffee with them, to swap ideas with them or to learn about them, you know, so it was a question being on their radar, but also doing work that they respected like I tried to get into this agency. It goes three times in total. In the end, in the first two times I was showing like war work, I thought was a war agency, and I thought all they would want to see is my conflict, and they said no twice, and then finally I showed my what? My work from wall street like you here, this is more like it coming in. So curious? Um, how many projects do you generally have going on at one time, as we've talked through sort of, oh my god, all the different all the different pitches and stories and ideas are you? How are you managing those? I don't know, I really don't know, uh, lots of coffee really early mornings? Um, lots of lists it's really hard, like there's a few projects that I that I put a lot a lot of work and energy into, and then there's some, you know, as they get closer to the actual shoot day, I'll spend more time and energy on focusing on them except there's certain things that I'll be doing a lot of research on, and then we actually get out in the field, you know, that translates into actual photographs. But there's always a lot of projects going on like I've got a folder on the computer just filled with different proposals and pitches, and so if I find myself with a free morning, which just doesn't happen but shoot at the should that happen in the next year or so, then I would I would re jiggle those pitches that I'm interested in sea, what you will still have life in them and like sending new editors so there's, always like the hustle of being a freelance photographer is insane, but in the end it's worth it it's always with it, but the hustles really it's pretty intense is something else. Is there any particular of all the people in stories that you've shot? This's has many votes on it online. Is there one that has changed you the most of all the people of all the people in the stories and everything that you shot? Is there one that has changed the most there's a man called william miller, who was a lance corporal in the marine corps? Um and in two thousand four he died in fallujah, iraq um while he was protecting me and there's, not a day goes by that I think about him there's, not a day that goes by that I don't look in my life and recognize how lucky I am to be experiencing the things that I do to have the family that I do because billy went first up is minaret and died as a result of a decision that I made now if there's any single person has affected me more in my entire life it's billy there's no question about that um and that is I think a part of being not just a photographer but a person make bringing this stuff bringing these difficult moments that you have in your life and trying to turn them into something like I tried to live is honorably as I possibly can a cz happily as I can on account of partially on account of the fact that billy died um and and I survived so that had a profound effect on my life on going every day that every day of my life and as far as people go there's been some really inspiring people that I've been lucky that sort of reigned me in over the years you know, my mental has been amazing with me but there was a guy called eric kuka who was an albanian refugee in australia and I went over the cost of all when I was when I was really young like ninety nine souls twenty one um the fighting and just finished and it came back and I was so angry I'm so angry that these cost of refugees have been sent home from australia into this awful god awful shitty environment possible it wasn't fair and I was angry. Um, and I still get angry today, but I didn't know how to express it is a twenty one year old, so I was drinking really heavily as getting in if I was being a jerk and I sat down with this guy are kuka who was albanian himself, and I said, I'm so angry it's, so unfair. Why can we sit here and enjoy the football on these these dinners and coffee in the morning? And like, we had this life when these people are suffering, um and eric said, my people want the same thing when people want what these people have. My people want to be able to enjoy football and enjoy lunch outside in safety, insecurity, they wanna be able to have families and safety and security, and I always remember that and it's, it was a short conversation, except it's affected me throughout my whole life, like it's. True, we all have the same hopes and dreams. Thank you. Um, so as you might guess, from what I just said, this is not a job, you can make enough money just to get by on it, especially if you broaden yourself out, but this is absolute commitment and devotion to this, like you have to be so so excited to get up in the morning, go out and meet new people and go out and challenge yourself on dh be in the moment and constantly evolve is a human being and that's like that's the commitment, you know, the commitment is not just a photography is to bettering yourself as a human being and believing, and I think those people around us, um, I love this, you know, even for the two hundred dollar day day rates, um, this job, it's still, I have the opportunity to turn every single day of my life into an adventure, which is a dream come true like this. There's, nothing better than this. When it's, when it's working, when you're in the moment and you're you're on the high seas, you know, off the filipino or the chinese coast, some crazy muslim smuggler's ship about to jump onto, like, beached vessel in the middle of the ocean, life doesn't get better than that. It's absolutely magic. Um, and I, um I'm supposed to give advice at this point about inspirational advice of being a photojournalist. I mean, I hope the whole thing has bean inspiring that if you need advice to get into this industry, you're probably not gonna make it. You were born into this you have a drive and a fire in a passion in your belly that like makes you want to do this it makes you so hungry like nothing will stop you nothing will get in your way like this is your driven in yourself motivated like some of these lessons you can learn but to turn this thing into a korea to turn this thing into a life there's no question it's like it's it's it will it will be already happening um no one's going to be pushing you to do this no editor is gonna push you they'll hire somebody else you know it's you've gotta wake up before everybody else you're gonna be out there shooting when they're still drinking coffee you work longer through the day you get back after dark with an old drinking beers in the bar you're still shooting you work harder you worked longer you engaged deeper you know you try to be the best photography you possibly can be I never know what I'm going far enough but I know that I'm getting close when I stop feeling sick sick from exhaustion sick from mental exhaustion I could barely keep my eyes open and I'll be in the car between jobs I'll be taking I'll be falling because they can't stay awake but we have to see somebody else I'm pretty extremist characters you might have guessed after this eight or so hours together but this is what I think pushes us to be great, you know, there's, a lot of really, really good photographers out there. I'm sure that you all are but there's, not very many great photographers. I'm not a great photographer, I'm still learning. I would love to be one day and I'll keep trying. But I think that we all have the capacity to go from good to great, and it'll take commitment and hard work. But I believe I believe that eventually it'll be worth it, and I believe that we all have that capacity, so I'm thanks for having me. I hope it's helped.

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!