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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 19 of 20

Toning Your Photos For Maximum Impact


Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 19 of 20

Toning Your Photos For Maximum Impact


Lesson Info

Toning Your Photos For Maximum Impact

I want teo I'm just going to turn a couple of these really quickly eso how would I decide how to turn a picture like this? This picture is all about the color to me it's a graphically driven picture it's all about the colors so I want to make it a little bit brighter I try to get my exposure's as close as I possibly can when I'm shooting um I would go in here into the what do you call this the brush tool that my post produced my postproduction guys says never to use but I'm supposed to use photo shop but I haven't got time so I would lighten up you see this hot spot behind the man's shoulder it's almost like there's a um there's trees or something out there try to balance it out a little bit not too much just just a little um and then I would punch up the blacks of it okay uh this picture is almost muted almost without it's almost monochrome already with exception of the gray with exception of the skin tone and those purple um codes in a jacket so I would turn that into black and white...

um I'm a little bit disturbed by that highlight here so you see the difference between what I just did there that's before not after like I think without seeing that highlight in the fire hydrant it actually helps the picture a little bit I would drop the highlights down a little bit bring back the exposure just to punch it up, give it some more blacks and then I would light in her eye like I said I was going to so not too much they aye there's different levels of turning that you could do to pictures some photography is like doing a lot you know, like those instagram filters that you see that a really intense and the picture is just like totally messed up some people love doing that I don't really like it is not my taste style is a style question now there's some newspapers who want except too much work to an image if you towing a photograph like if I do this for example in vignette if I've in yet that much a lot of newspapers are not going to accept that because I'm losing detail in the bottom right in the top right on the bottom left but you know, I'm allowed tio in my m allowed I'm setting the rules for myself here except my preference is a little bit of vignette ing in some of the pictures maurin others but never to actually lose detail um and then finally in this one I would just, um suffering this a little bit uh and then I would move on so I try not to go crazy with this um you can spend a lot of time obviously and photoshopped doing this sort of stuff so I mean increasing the contrast a little bit blacks I almost always like punch up the blacks said I want the picture tohave depth they get almost shining that way uh this is cooling color but I think I think it would look nicer in black and white and I think it would look nicer like a little bit so everything was a little bit misty there's too much on his face uh all right. Um that's good okay that's right when the wrong thing and then we got okay fine that's like that already had worked on it that was the one that I just pulled back. Okay, okay, so this one this one I really like this is I think one of my favorite two pictures from the day and that's probably because it's probably not the best picture you guys they're about a judge of that than I am some way too close to it, but I enjoyed spending time with brian. I like this I found I found really interesting enjoyed the tot the you know, the chance of the time that we had to spend together. So, um I'm still married to the experience it's definitely a black and white picture to me I don't like the colors and are very nice uh I'm going to burn in the highlights a little bit I'm gonna pull back his there's probably a million people online who is so much better at doing this than I am except um and then I'm just gonna vignette a little and just leave it at that all right? So that's my, um oh yeah and then once I finished that I export the mold is j pegs and filing with the client and that's it you've got well captioned final images that any client whether they work for a magazine, a museum or a family photo album the all the information they need including your name I had a question on when you're crushing the blacks like that you consider newspaper usage to and maybe do one that the blacks aren't so crushed that you're not gonna have a lot of ink block up I probably should, but I don't okay, just curious the printing presses I mean it's a good question the newspapers always have a problem with it, but printing presses have got a lot better on dh. The good photo editors that I've worked with are actually really keenly aware of that when they have photographers that are sending in dark pictures so they so be careful cause you know, like when you're when you're turning a picture that's doctor than usual it's just one or two points, everything falls apart line and then we can go to your question question is when do you choose to go black and white and when do you not do you are you always going back and forth earlier you mentioned that some of the elements and one of the images was already closer monochromatic how do you make that decision? I look at what I think the picture needs like I think I know what you know how is it going to read better like so in that picture was already monochromatic there was very little color anyway so why not just go all the way in terms of black and white I mean really when we're talking about manipulation not adding us attracting elements probably the biggest manipulation we could do the change to a picture is to remove the color right it's one of the weird things in photojournalism like that's okay, I'm going with a castle of black and white but how do I decide is you know, if the pictures are really if the color is really subdued than I will often just go to black and white sometimes and this is most often what informs my decision like a photograph like this brian you know I'm so um I want you to look into his eyes and look at his face and think about what he's thinking about you know, you know that is not old good there's no poppies and like happiness in that when you're looking at that picture in black and white you start examining the emotional content of the picture when you look at the same picture in color no it's back down that weird thing in the ice all right? Um, you look at the same picture in color in just a sec there I don't look at the emotional content so much, I start getting like the color starts taking it away from me. Andi what? I'm really you know, my intention is that you look at him and you start empathizing with him and wondering about him and drawing questions about him when I see people in the street and I build these crazy stories about what their lives must be like when they must have experienced I want you to do that when you look at him showing interest in this human being, you know, and it's, when we're creating photographs that are successful, I think that what we're doing, you know what we're having people ask questions? What? Who is this? I wish I knew more about them. So that's that's my working process on that? How many images do you actually send out for any individual? Story doesn't matter. Does it vary from publication publication? Uh, yeah, uh, like the new york times magazine will look often look at my entire take, uh, which back from the obama shoot was eight thousand pictures um and then there's other magazines like if I'm working on daily news coverage and I'm shooting for a newspaper like seven or eight pictures so it varies would you ever include both a color and a black and white version when you submit and let that be up to an editor this is from kenneth woo yeah, well this is you do and I shouldn't I shouldn't because their little like pep talk I just gave you about like your envision it should be that it should be your vision like did you see it do you see it like like you see it in color but I'm still a slave to the editors and sometimes they'll say like it was great and I'm black and white but I like to see in color and I'll bend um like the whole campaign that I just photographed about refugees in europe all of those photographs are gonna be the new york times you know, next week in the opinion section in black and white they're going to be on the internet in black and white but unicef who my client wass is using the same pictures in color it's really rather that happens but in that case like the one place that they would not give me any space to move was on color versus black and white it was pretty funny was a good man actually was like so clear you were shooting in color um so I've gone through all this like bad caption caption, um, all right, so we went, we hit this don't yeah, that's it just don't add up, subtract any elements to your photographs and your you're you'll be ok as faras journalism goes so that's before that's after before after before after. So the final files at this point after of export of the files, if I was sending these photographs out on a job like let's, say, I had an assignment from the magazine, whatever shooting seattle, I would send them the pictures, um, and then when the pictures had run in the magazine, then I would send the photographs to the people that I promised them, too. But if it's just if understood ng for me, then I would send the people in the picture the pictures now. But you can't show the people who you're photographing the pictures off them until they're being in the newspaper the magazine, because then they can start kicking up a fuss and saying, I don't like this, especially when its an assignment.

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!