Street photography community is divided on the idea: whether a staged street photography is an authentic street photography or not? People have range of opinions which means there are people who advocate altering the candid street scenes, whereas, others look at it as detrimental to documentary photography. Yet, there are pool of photographers who accept staging street portraits but want you to mention it rather than hiding the fact on what went behind the scenes.
Whether or not you should stage the scene, and how much you can change the scene, depends on your narrative of the photography. Let the art form stay free from what others think about your photography. So long as you’re honest that you’ve staged the scene – why should anyone question your artistic expression!
You’d know by now that I’m not against staging a street photo. But I’m honest and candid about how I make the photo.
Before you decide whether you can pursue staged street photography, it’s important to know the skill.
What is staged street photography?
In the year 2019, when we could go to public events that seems improbable in 2020 and 2021, I spotted this lady with a unique native dress of Ladakh. She’s native to Ladakh and the community is called Dard Aryans of Ladakh. I asked her can I make a portrait to which she gladly accepted. This was a staged street portrait photography – the genre which is very close to heart. How?
1. I asked her to turn her face so towards the position where I could get flattering light for the portrait.
2. She was aware of my presence
3. I posed her a little bit
What did I not stage in the street portrait?
1. I didn’t change any bit in her dress
2. I didn’t change the location
3. Her expressions were still natural
I’d leave it to pundits to analyze whether this is a street photography or not. Since I’m happy with the portrait, I don’t care how people tag the photograph.
What is candid street photography?
On the contrary, a candid street photography is a situation wherein you don’t change the scene, don’t direct people, and, mostly, people are unaware that you’re composing them in your frame. I wrote a great deal about it in my last post… So, won’t delve much into it here.
Said that, in my mind, what people are most upset about is fake street photography, which, by mistake, they’re calling it staged or posed street photography. I don’t qualify or disqualify staging a photo. But I do have problem in faking a photo.
Staged vs fake street photography
A fake street photography is one wherein you alter the scene in your photo editing software such as Photoshop. When photographers add an element, which was not supposed to be there or remove an element which was supposed to be there, the photo becomes altered. Well, a little bit of tweak in shadow, highlights, and exposure is ok. Because the mechanical camera would’ve caused some error in exposure what you saw with naked eye. But altering the elements, removing or adding, is a no-no.
Staged street photography is ok, as long as the scene is not faked. Be honest about it and pursue your narrative of street documentary with the help of this skill.