3 Tips For The Optimal Subject Distance in Street Photography

 

Do you have to get closer to your subject? Or should you get further away? If you go by Robert Capa's famous quote, you already have the answer:

“If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.”

I do agree that getting closer often improves your street photos. If you don't care about the scenery at all, it's a pretty great rule of thumb. However, if you love a bit more context, then a bit more distance truly improves the shot.

Let me show you 3 great ways to find the right distance for your street photos.

 

Tip 1: Which distance do you consider respectful? 

Fresh by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Fresh by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Street photography is about capturing strangers in public. In its essence, you are taking a photo without someone's consent. Although it's not forbidden in most countries, you should still ask yourself which distance you consider ethical.

Do you think it's okay to get really close and jump into someone's face with a flash? Or do you think it's too invasive? What helped me the most was this question:

Would I be okay with the photo if I was the subject?

If you really wouldn't want someone to take a close-up photo of you, it doesn't seem right to capture someone else like that.

Choose a distance that fits your moral standards.

 

Tip 2: Which distance do you prefer visually?

Untitled by Vijce | Amsterdam, 2016

Untitled by Vijce | Amsterdam, 2016

Whatever your ethical answer to the distance question is, it's also a question of taste. Would you rather produce and look at highly detailed close-up shots or photos with a bit more distance?

I personally realized early on in my street photography journey that I like more abstract, distanced photos. That's why I got further and further away throughout time.

Try to capture all sorts of distances and see what appeals to you the most! Pick your top 5 street photos and check how far you were away from the subject.

 

Tip 3: Which distance do you feel comfortable with?

Dipped in Blue by Vijce | Bangkok, 2015

Dipped in Blue by Vijce | Bangkok, 2015

Yet another aspect is what you feel comfortable doing. Maybe you think it's okay to shoot someone up-close. Besides, you really love the visual look of it. But are you comfortable producing these shots?

Of course, it takes a while to overcome your fear. However, if it's an absolute struggle for you to do it, you should reconsider it. What's the point in turning your photo walk into a pain walk every time? At the end of the day, your street photography should be fun!


Chrome by Vijce | Amsterdam, 2016

Chrome by Vijce | Amsterdam, 2016

Ask yourself these three questions over and over again and you'll reach your optimal distance over time. There is definitely not an ultimate answer to how close you should get to your subjects.

I just want you to know one thing:

Whether you are incredible close or far away doesn't matter as long as you capture what's close to your heart!

 
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