Capturing intriguing expressions of people is one of the most rewarding results in doing street photography.
Whenever I review my latest street photography images, I’m always interested – and struck by – the relationship between myself, the photographer, and the persons in the image. Often, the subject is unaware they are being photographed, which may be what the photographer desired. At other times, they are obviously very aware, and reacting with their facial expressions. If it’s a negative reaction – a scowl or angry expression – it can make me reject the image. I much prefer, as I assume most street photographers do, a friendly smile, look of curiosity, a questioning look, perhaps one of surprise, or at least indifference – even defiance is good! In other words, anything but an angry scowl!
Expressions in candid street photography is one thing you obviously can’t control, although you can wait for the moment when you think you’ll obtain a desired expression. That requires patience and anticipation. The more experience you get, the better you get at knowing when to press the shutter. Waiting for the expression, however, makes it harder to remain inconspicuous – the longer you wait the more likely the subject will become aware of your presence.
In the photo of the bus driver, below, I was happy to see him have a friendly, slightly questioning expression. I made this image fairly slowly, over several seconds, giving him time to notice me and react. Unless you speak directly to them, one can only wonder what your subject is thinking, but it’s fun to guess from their expression. In this case, hopefully I provided a pleasant diversion from his busy routine. He simply looks pleased to have his image taken.
As an aside, one of the problems with a lot of my street photography, is that the images are taken quickly, in fleeting situations, and I always wish I could give a copy of the image to the subject, afterwards. Most people simply don’t have a image of themselves acting in their everyday jobs and lives, and I think they’d appreciate having a copy or print of the image.
The Bus Driver
Expressions, and gestures, are the most important ingredients in a compelling street image of people and, as Forrest Gump said, they are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get! Getting a good variety of expressions is always a plus, and a positive expression is always rewarding to see.