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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 13 of 20

Ways to Connect with Your Subject


Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 13 of 20

Ways to Connect with Your Subject


Lesson Info

Ways to Connect with Your Subject

I just remember this I don't know what the video is gonna look like but um so I find this like I find approaching people pretty easy on dh I'm not you know it's still uncomfortable sometimes accept yeah sorry would you repeat again what you said about asking people to spell their names out loud repeating it out? We didn't hear that at home because it was fun so when I'm taking people's names down in the photo caption when I'm writing it down, I'm always like first of all, I'm writing it down so that they can see it make with leslie the first woman I photographed there I said it out loud l e s l e y and she said no it's e um but I'm also writing it down and they're looking at it while I'm writing it, so if I'm getting it wrong, then they correct me there on the spot because it's the most basic thing we can do to show respect of these people who actually let us take their picture is to get their names right, so get it right get it right the first time. Um, yeah, sorry, I'm just another f...

ellow question on that last video, so I was I was surprised that you went up that close with out having engaged with him yet and I don't think as a woman that I necessarily would have done that um and so I have a question that had come in saying I love your openness to jumping in putting yourself physically and emotionally close to strangers and places if you were a woman do you think that you'd be as open to it? Do you know many women photographers who would be as openly and independently as you as the male photographers? And I'm sure this is kind of a classic conversation in your world I've seen I've seen a bunch of friends of mine that very confident and get really close to people better women you know, I think like lyndsey addario comes to mind andrea bruce comes to mind nina berman comes to mind who are really I think probably than I am uh um you know, inserting themselves into these situations but in a in a respectful manner um I don't know what it would be like as a woman I can talk to that but I can say there there are plenty of women not enough but plenty of women working in the industry that you know way better at this than I am in terms of safety or uh those other considerations of putting yourself in potentially harm's way is that something that you've talked other for female photographers about that you have any advice occasionally except I can't really be like shooting on the streets I can't like this is not my area especially yeah like I know in conflict situations that could be really, really rough. Um, I mean, as we saw in cairo a couple of years back, but I'm not sure about shooting in places like this, you know? I can't I can't speak to it. Um, it's just it's better to ask oscar pro oscar professional, yeah, yeah, yeah, professional photographers. Woman yeah, I mean, do any of you guys who shoot a lot of experience with this? Yeah, we we did bring this up at lunch time, and I did I mention lyndsey? Lyndsey addario is book because it completely blew me away. I've I've I've been blown away by photojournalists that there are women and the work that they do but myself doing photo walks here in town when I've gone just down to pioneer square, I will not go by myself just because, um, I feel like they're there is kind of an issue with, like walking around alone, but I don't feel like, totally unsafe, but I think there are definitely times of day that I would feel more unsafe than others, but I think there's, if you're a man, there are definitely different issues than women walking around it's like you shouldn't be afraid of a situation, I don't think I think it's important to be brave enough to walk into a situation but be really knowledgeable about what you're walking into and like really be aware and like have a plan and like make sure people know where you are and other things and I know that specifically like and pioneer square that is somewhere that's a little bit more dangerous especially being a woman with very expensive can't hang here around your neck ah and that's something to think about but also like I can say that I've done a lot of work like this and I've never had any really problems other than just being afraid s o that's something I think that speaks maulings I've I've mostly made sure that I'm carrying minimal gear that's that's one thing and also just just having an accompaniment and just being confident but it's sometimes I think as we think it's an advantage to speaking to people I felt like approaching some people it's actually been easier because some people have passed up on speaking to a man that I've been on a photo work but they've said yes to me right? So it can be an advantage as well yeah absolutely thank you well thank you guys so my wife I thought she was joking but she wasn't I wish she was drugged me and she says that like, I'm pretty open when I'm photographing people in like interacting with people and like that she says that I still get nervous sometimes like noticeably nervous around girls I didn't think it was true but then this happened I'm sorry I'm a photographer I'm working on ah I'm fed up with the photo agency in new york called seven I'm working on a photo essay about downtown seattle um on so I'm just photographing around the area and I don't even write your name down for the caption the photo caption right angela angela okay and g l a yeah okay on joining the email you the picture so no cool so I would I would use that as a pretty good example of how teo attempt not to be aunt how when you when you're awkward that immediately rubs off from the person that you're photographing like I don't want to be near this person fits freak being me um so um or tease you are with what you're doing and you're talking to the better it's gonna work out because you don't want too much of that and every day after that I just wanted to go home but instead we went out and kept shooting and that's that's one of the keys like that's one of the keys to being a street photographer like you screwed up really badly sometimes like that or at least I do but then I going off having a cigarette saying okay, that was pretty bad why don't do that again let's go out and keep trying you know, like, getting up and doing it again is really important. Because if you just, if you finish a day on that, you're not gonna go out again for a long time. It was not that bad, it's. Just. I'm really embarrassed, and they were shooting me. So now it's now it's for the christmas tape and online forever.

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!