The Street is Everyone’s Catwalk

Posted on May 27th, by Danny Santos II in Personal Project. 29 comments

City Strollers collage

One of the reasons I love shooting in Orchard Road is that it’s teeming with good-looking people frequently walking around, almost strutting… especially on the weekends. Even with relatively modest getups, the air of confidence is often noticeable from their head-turning allure down to their subtle swagger. Early on in my candid shooting exploits, it was this crowd that I wanted to capture.

I tried out a number of different ways on how to do this. With no style in mind, I would just haphazardly shoot strangers at any distance and with careless framing. Then after a LOT of mediocre shots, I came up with a few keepers which I really liked. I decided to replicate the style and stick with it — I would shoot subjects at front-view, full-body in frame, and at waist-level perspective. And if I’m lucky, I wait until available light shines on the subject. Their inherent style was already enough to isolate them from their surroundings, but the light definitely helps to make the shot a little more dramatic.

So weekend after weekend, I would walk around Orchard Road until I see a good spot with good light and good people traffic. The wait was hard, but spotting the right subject was easy – they would just so naturally stand out of the crowd and almost demand attention. I imagined myself a paparazzi taking fashion photographs of beautiful people walking nonchalantly in the streets. These are some of my favorites:

Blue angel
I camped in this spot for its soft light that shined through the trees from the overcast sky. I was crouched down looking at my camera’s preview screen, reviewing the mediocre shots I’ve gotten so far. It’s been almost 2 hours, and no ‘keepers’ yet. Suddenly when I looked up, I saw her right in front of me… I panicked and hurriedly pointed my cam and fired a couple of shots. The shot was worth the wait. The soft light complemented her subtle elegance. She’s an angel in a blue dress.

Urban warrior
When I saw this guy coming my way, I hesitated a bit. This guy can beat the crap out of me. But I took the risk and took the shot. Time slowed down when he continued walking towards me… then past me. Whew. I reviewed the shot, smiled and thought, “Yes.” The light shined strongly on him, producing harsh shadows that complemented his brusque stature. (Thanks to Billy Gomez for the title.)

Mango girl
I was looking intently into this spot with good light, waiting for people to pass by it. When i looked back, I saw this girl walking quickly in my direction. I swung my camera around, took a few shots, and swung back. The light wasn’t ideal because it was shining from behind her. But her allure, I believe, was enough to make the shot a keeper.

Police cuties
I doubt that they are actual police officers… they’re most probably models in cop costumes. A lot of my friends wished they were the real deal, though :)

Top model
This girl just has ‘star’ written all over her. She’s tall, very stylish, and her walk was almost a strut.. yet she looked so natural. People who saw this shot recognized her, saying she was Sheila Sim, one of Singapore’s top model. Aesthetically though, the shot could’ve been better. I wish the light was softer on her, like the light on the ‘Blue angel’ shot. But then that’s how it is when shooting in the streets, not all elements cooperate with you. You have to make do with what’s there.

Biker chick
Rarely will you see a head-turner lug along a big motorcycle helmet while walking in the street. This girl was cool in every sense of the word. Even more rarely do I unknowingly photograph the same stranger twice in different occasions. Months later after taking this shot, I find out through Facebook that she was also in one of my candid street portraits that I photographed later. This is her up close.

biker chick

Being the premier shopping and entertainment hub of Singapore, Orchard Road is commonly frequented by locals and tourists alike. It’s easy to spot beautiful people walking around the street, cool and comely in their very own subtle ways. In a place like this, anyone can be a model by their own right. A street like Orchard is everyone’s catwalk.


A fellow photography hobbyist happened to spot me while I was working on this series. He discretely took my photo and later emailed me asking if it was me. This was the first time I saw a candid photo of myself while shooting in the streets. Thanks, Erwin :)

shooting in the streets

I would sometimes see people curiously staring at me as they pass by, probably wondering what I was doing crouched down in the middle of the street. I didn’t let it bother me, though – I was busy waiting and shooting. A lot of people ask me why I crouch down when shooting full body shots… well, the waist-level perspective is just different than a shot taken standing up. You see more of the horizon, less of the ground, and it’s just.. well, different… better in my opinion :)

29 thoughts on “The Street is Everyone’s Catwalk

  1. so that is how you position yourself?? coolness. haven’t really tried doing what you’re doing. it’s really interesting and very much challenging.. biker girl is my fave followed by blue angel and then the urban warrior.

    more more more.

  2. hi danny!

    great to see i’m not the only one doing these nice figures on the street :)))
    but usually i point to the ground and try to frame legs and shadows ;)

    i don’t know why you put first the angel but that’s my favourite… love the light… the depth… and she looks like an angel (even looking at her mobile :)))

    the process… the maturing… the how you’ve came up to that good looking crouched position for your “front-view, full-body in frame, and at waist-level perspective” style is really great…
    this is something i also do when i come home to see the photos and i think “this i like and looks really great… i should try more like it… ”

    fabulous series….

    keep them coming :)

    all the best


  3. Very well said Danny! I’ve been following your flickr for about half a year already and still enjoying it! Great job and keep it up! You inspired lot of people with your pictures and your shooting style :)

    We have the same experience with our shooting position! haha but who cares as long as we take good shots! :)


  4. As i was reading this piece, i was going to ask you what you mean by waist-level, and then you described it at the last part.
    Thank you so much, reading your blog (and your flickr page) is always a treat, Dan!
    Question tho, how far away are you normally from your subjects when you’re shooting these types of shots? Like, how long is the lens that you use?
    And, have you had somebody walk up to you and ask (or worst, confront) you on why you were taking their pictures? And how do you deal that situation?

  5. @bycane: Just as far as the 85mm allows me to be to capture a full-body frame… so i think i was between 6-8meters from the subject. And fortunately for me, I haven’t had anyone confront me for taking their picture… maybe someday though.

  6. Nice post, Danny. I echo that ‘crouching position” for street photog for full frame capture. However, I’m quite short and sometimes find my photos “tilting upward” rather than have a parallel shot. That should be a photog no-no, since nobody likes to have shots of their chins.

    I think street photography is not as widely prevalent in Singapore, so nobody will raise any particular issues. I read somewhere that a street photog had set up hidden flashboxes for that perfect shot (create your own lighting instead of finding pockets!) though that will be hard in SG. The police will get to you first.

    I am curious, driving by the gigantic Ion the other day I was in SG, have you ever thought of shooting street using that as a background?

  7. @Sue Anne: You’re referring to Philip-Lorca Dicorcia in his series “heads”. He’s actually one of my inspiration, his works are great! Yeah, I’m not too sure if secretly setting up strobes in the streets here would sit well among the authorities :)

    @StyleAnywhere: hehehe that shot was taken way before I started wearing the flat cap :) Thanks, Onin!

  8. in that last candid shot of urs…like that guy is “actually watching” you shoot. and in the bLue Angel Shoot, you said you were there for two hours (taking mediocre snaps :))…now when you are at one place for so long, don’t people take note of you…or even ask you what you are upto? nobody bothers to come up and ask?…forget about the cops, i mean normal public, seeing a man sitting in that position for so long…might feel the need to ask, whats going on….and longer would mean more number of people asking the same question. what do u tell them?

    plus i am assuming you go on these crusades (politely put, :)) alone… so, has it happened that you ever had to explain to a group of people what exactly you were doing there?

  9. @Billy: Nope, none so far. Maybe someday, though.
    @manraj: Well, the 2 hours weren’t spent in just one spot. I usually walk around, stay in one spot, then walk around again. The spots I usually camp in are areas that’s always full of traffic. Nobody has bothered to ask so far.

  10. This is absolutely brilliant work!

    Fantastic depth!

    I’ve never really had the stones to crouch down and capture strangers in the street, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. I think you’ve found some fantastic locations on Orchard Rd, good research ;-)

  11. Beautiful photos. Ive been wanting to do something similar to this, but 1) i am mainly worried about peoples reaction and 2) the location i am at, doesnt always provide u the comfort of shooting people in the same location for a very long time. Security reasons in the capital, and peoples negative view of people who shoot with dslrs(ie: dslr holders are considered spies by some :P) really hamper such a beautiful project.
    Am thinking of getting close up shot and askign the people to shoot. It would be easier i think. Ur page is a good motivator for such a project

    Any chance you can check my photography page on facebook? would like to get ur opinion on my photos.


  12. I’m really a fan of your street photos! Looking at it over and over again keeps me motivated to somehow replicate your work hahaha! I love how the colors are centered and the sides are all black. The photo itself is telling me “look at me and appreciate my beauty” Keep it up Sir Danny!

  13. Pingback: The Street is Everyone’s Catwalk « Pazarlama, Sosyal Medya, Tasarım , Dijital IDEAs

  14. I feel weird too when other people looking at me taking pictures.. Guess I have to take more to get used to it. Nice shots by the way.

  15. danny! my friend just gave me your link to check on your style and you are fabulous! love it love it love it! congrats! nice shots, dude!

  16. Just wonder is there any privacy issue that you may face when posting people photos on the net. After all, those strangers may don’t want there face to show up in the net. Google Street View is a good example.

  17. dear danny, i can’t help but notice that you only shot caucasians/ eurasians. do you have colonial mentality? tssskkkk

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