Shooting Street Portraits / by William Wallace


Street portraits are a fun way of capturing people in an informal setting. All you need is the street, an alley, or wherever you happen to be. A couple of weeks months ago, Marilyn Rishkofski, of The Art Experience, invited me to exhibit some of my work in her place for the First Friday Pop Up Artist in Conway, AR. I asked if she would allow me to set up a little area in the alley next to her building to take some street portraits as well. She was all for it!

Photo Credit: Jeanetta Darley

The bonus? It was the first night of Toad Suck Daze. If you're not from here then it would take too long to explain the history in this blog but, suffice it to say, it is a weekend with a lot of rides, food, and booths for people selling almost anything you can imagine. I had some printed greeting cards with my photos on the front, as well as a few framed prints and a lot unframed, that my daughter, Liberty, would sell while I shot portraits outside.

Photo Credit: Jeanetta Darley

The day came and we (a couple of other artists and myself) were set up and ready to go with the threat of rain. Pressing on with determined optimism, we started at 5:00 p.m. with the goal of making it to 8:00. The crowds started moving from their parking lots traveling right past The Art Experience location to attend the event. One thing I learned is that most people were there for the event and not the art. So while most slowed down and were gracious enough to hear about the art we had inside and the street portrait opportunity in the alley, not many were stopping other than to color in a portion of the community art project on the sidewalk outside. 

My original intent of charging a sitting fee and sending a free digital portrait to those who agreed, was now transforming to the thought of abandoning the fee altogether in exchange for their email address to try to build an ongoing connection. The black marker from the community art project box allowed me to scratch over the $5 fee and replace it with NO sitting fee. That, along with me intercepting people with the promise of a free portrait, quickly gained the attention of several who agreed to stop and let me make their portrait for them. Families, couples, individuals and friends lined up to stand in front of the wall to have their photos snapped. 

Of course, Marilyn (the shop's owner), and the two artists, Jeanetta and Evelyn jumped in to get theirs along with some of Marilyn's family. 

At about 6:30 or 7:00 we began to experience rain ending our outdoor activity for the evening. I hope you enjoy some of these street portraits I captured. I appreciate all who stopped during this busy weekend in Conway. By the way I was using my Samsung Galaxy 9+ on a tripod using the 58mm telephoto lens by Moment Lenses. The portraits were shot with natural light on an overcast evening.

Would you be interested in me conducting a class on how to produce street portraits like this with your smartphone? Let me hear from you in the comments section below. If you would like me to make your portrait get in touch with me soon here!