Marc-Aurèle Palla's BLOG


Photo shooting session: from 3h to 3mn long - why, and how?

  • By Marc Palla, 03/11/2023 (Updated 05/11/2023)
BLOG: Photo shooting session: from 3h to 3mn long - why, and how?

Instagram, TikTok, and easy travel methods radically changed street photo shoots. From "Let's take an afternoon and do some photos" to "Hi, can I take a photo of you? Thanks! Bye!". It may look bad, but this put me back into photography.

Being interested in arts and mostly in photography and videography, I often get related content on Instagram. A recent one which often pops out is about street photographers asking women if they could quickly shoot their portraits. They take out their phone and show their Instagram account to prove they are not creeps, and then proceed (with the approval of the subject) to take a few, very nice, photos.
And it's great! Everyone is happy, it took only a few minutes, it's free photos for one and free content for the other.


'Hey, have you ever done photography?'

Back in the time, 10 years ago when I started photography, and after I didn't have any more friends willing to be my models, I would find new subjects outside of my inner circle: university, clubs, bars, and sometimes in the streets.
I would come and ask 'I'm sorry but, have you even done photography? Because if not think you should try.' I would then give my card and let the person contact me back after they've checked my website.

Later, we would agree on a day to shoot and which clothes to bring.
On the shooting day, we would take hundreds of photos for 1 to 3 hours, wander in the streets of Paris, and maybe have a coffee at the end.

Finally, I would edit around 10 of my favourite clichés (out of around 300) and keep the rest of the files on a drive.
Today my drive is several Go large, and 95% of the photos will never be edited.

I stopped taking photos when I moved to Scotland. Not because I moved, not because of the Scotts (love you guys), but because I was getting bored by all the heavy process.
I would find models, but never follow up...


'Choto chachino tottemo sōdesu ka?'


On a trip to Japan in 2019, I thought: 'Hey, why not ask people in the street if I could take a photo of them?'. I learned how to ask this (the only real Japanese I know so far) and to my surprise, it worked well: zero 'no'.

Suddenly, I had just a few pictures to edit in just the blink of an eye (or the blink of a shutter), and I could do it with many people just in one day. How exciting!

Portrait of Rina in Okichi-jima
Discover my Japan photo album


Time is in the essence

Are we living such a fast life that even classic street photoshoots are too long to organise, or were they already not ideal beforehand?

I honestly don't like to do regular photoshoots anymore unless I already know the person. The trust is there and the work is more effective. Instead of spending time helping the model get at ease, I can think creatively and take more time to think about each photo. And it doesn't make the directing part less important.

When doing portraits of people in the street though, getting the right photo in a very short window of time is indeed the hardest part. Yet, with the right instinct and some experience, you can manage to quickly, precisely and clearly direct a perfect stranger. The key is to actually take the time.


Don't rush it

When someone agrees to do photos with you in the middle of a street, why rush to do it in less than 1 minute? Unless it's 7 a.m. and the person is most likely to be heading to work, you can assume they have probably 3 to 5 minutes to give you. It is plenty of time to find the right spot, check the light, and direct the person to get the effect you want.


Don't forget the essentials!

Although you save a lot of time and hard drive space, these fast-forward street photoshoots give you fewer opportunities to know the people you encounter. So when taking photos of people in the street don't forget to:

  • ask for their names
  • give you name
  • give your business card / social media accounts
  • state how you will use their image


Just be human

Taking portraits of strangers in the streets may seem like a cheap way to get photos of people when one may think they should pay professionals.

Working with professional models is just another way to take photos. I don't think there's a better or rightest way to take photos of people.

When I travel and simply find people attractive, pretty, or stylish, why not ask them? The truth is that these people often hope to be seen, and if not they are so positively surprised by my asking to photograph them, that either way it's making their day.

Two models who had never done any photography before I asked them are now professionals and good friends. To me this is priceless.

That's why after a few years without photos, I am now so happy to be back at it.
It's different, faster, lighter, but not less cool.