Make photographing in public easier

2971 DSC 0130 image Street photography is one of the most beautiful genres, yet it’s one of the hardest. It’s not at everyone’s convenience to walk down the street and put the camera to their eye whenever they come across someone or something interesting. The truth is, a lot of people have an anxiety about being photographed and pointing a camera at them can be scary for both parties. Not to mention possible angry reactions from some subjects. Here are a few ways of countering these difficulties.

1. Keep it small

Don’t bring you’re the biggest gear you own because it will only work against you. People will spot it from miles away and they’ll probably start getting defensive and avoid crossing your path. Get a good compact camera. The Fuji X100 seems to be the favorite these days and it sounds like there are good reasons for that. It’s small, easy to work with and less conspicuous than a full frame body. If you’re shooting with a phone , there are great apps, that will temporarily black out your screen while using the camera.

2. Have your work with you

By that I mean, an Ipad presentation or some of your previous photos to show suspicious people what you’re about and that you’re not looking to damage their image.

3. Have a business card

It helps your credibility if people see that you actually work in the field. You don’t have to be a pro. Surely you can design your own John Smith –photographer calling card and have a few copies printed out in case of situations when you have to justify what you’re doing. If you’re working on a project, mention that as well.

4. Ask for directions or the time

Making people feel that you need their help will also make them feel less vulnerable. Asking for a simple thing like directions before you take out your camera could establish a short term relationship with your model that will help make the process easier for both of you.

5.Use a distraction

Bring a friend and pretend to photograph them. Elliot Erwitt used to do this with a family member. He would actually shoot with a long lens behind them. You could also pretend to be a tourist if you’re working in a big city. I’m not suggesting a Hawaiian shirt but posing as a tourist won’t draw that much attention even if you have a bulky DSLR strapped around your neck.

NIKON Prime Lenses CANON Prime Lenses SIGMA Prime Lenses
Nikon 24mm f/1.4 Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II Sigma 24mm f/1.8 EX DG
Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
Nikon 300mm f/2.8G AF-S ED Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS Sigma 300mm f/2.8 EX DG IF
6. Just ask

A while ago, I wanted to try a street portrait project in London. The city is full of very interesting characters and I wanted to photograph a lot of them. However, I was finding it hard to just walk up to them and ask to take their photo. Finally , one day I got tired of wondering whether it would work or not and asked a girl if I could photograph her because she looked interesting. I was completely in shock when se said yes without asking any questions. I thought I was on to something so I carried on doing it. Out of hundreds of people , I think I got 10 rejections. People tend to be open to you if you are to them.


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Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Ralf Tenbrink