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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 2 of 20

What Do You Mean by Photographing Strangers?

Ashley Gilbertson

Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Ashley Gilbertson

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Lesson Info

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.

Lesson Info

What Do You Mean by Photographing Strangers?

A lot of it is pure street photography um and that's where you sort of stand back a little bit and you wait for things to happen you find amazing scenes like this shot this during two thousand eight during the economic crisis down on wall street obviously I'm all straight um on I'd be photographing down there and I found this great corner I knew that a dawn it would have amazing light so I came back down there and I staked the spot out they waited for somebody to walk through it in a case like this I'm not engaging with a subject you know they become part of the scene well usually talk to the subject's after I take a picture like hi sorry excuse me do you mind stopping I just took a picture of you would you mind sharing your name for the photo caption how old do you where do you work and things like that I always try to provide as much context to the work that I do is possible oftentimes I need to interact a lot before I actually take photographs teo especially when moments ah more int...

imate when things are quieter when things are really hustling and bustling you sort of disappear into the crowd but you know situations like this a few years later in two thousand eleven during occupy wall street this couple have been recent you know, engaged during the actual occupation of zuccotti park downtown s o I spent I think was like fifteen or twenty minutes like chatting with him smoking with him drinking coffee until you know she's that are going on a phone and he came up behind her and hug her but at that point you know after fifteen minutes of actually engaging and it sounds really fast I know except fifteen minutes is a long time when you're engaging with a stranger and they get bored they get bored of your presence it comes up behind her and hugs you know and I managed to photograph this moment which I'm proud off I think it's a beautiful sort of intimate moment but you have to build that trust with the subjects and then other times I think as your career develops you start getting assignments on dh then you're entering places as an official sort of photographer this's a story that idea about the south china sea which is this disputed sea between china, the philippines in vietnam on dh there you actually have a job to do people are still strangers but you're not going in as much as you know like hi, I'm actually I'm just taking pictures of downtown new york today do you mind if I ask you to picture of you? You're there with a very official job, you know, so photographing soldiers in iraq like I'm here at the new york times I'm here to see what you're doing it's the same sort of thing in this explain what I'm working on a story about the south china sea explain why I'm working on it that you know it's it's a conflicted area which they know very well and I'm here to tell the story that you're experiencing, um and people as soon as they see that you're actually out there, you know, in the thick of it with them, they drop their guard very quickly. I think the initial meeting that was always difficult and there's a period of discomfort after you introduce yourself when they like what am I supposed to do? And if you don't do anything and you just sit it out, eventually it starts becoming normally that is go about their business. So this this is a photograph I shot during a giant snowstorm in new york, but this is an example of there's, a mix of sort of work, a mix of these different approaches that often works. So all of these past examples of bean really specific you're on a story you need to build intimacy or you just shoot and ask later or talk later, but this is a case where, you know, I was riding my bike, which wasn't pretty up this bridge at the brooklyn bridge, and I rode past this guy there's one guy walking across the bridge early in the morning I was like, slipping and falling off allover the place and he's laughing, and I'm lopping and I say, hi, asai, ride by, like, full full by, um and I turned around and I photographed him on. Then I catch up to run, run up to him again and photographed them again like, hi, how you doing? You're right, like funny morning for it, isn't it? And I keep shooting until I get this picture and then I start engaging with him like what's your name. How old are you? What are you doing? He's. Like I walk across the bridge every day. They called us the bridge walkers every day that he goes to work. He walks across the brooklyn bridge. Regardless of the weather. So turns into this story within the story. I'm out, in a way, the story except in fact, there is this group of manhattan will broke the nights, actually, who walked the brooklyn bridge into work in downtown manhattan every day. So there's no one right approach this. It could be a mix of all of them. It could be one. It could be another, but you have to gauge it as you're shooting.

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. 



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!