Street photography can take photographers out of their comfort zones. The idea of wandering the streets and getting in someone’s personal space to take a picture can feel obtrusive and awkward.
So how do you overcome the fear of street photography? I often wondered how I was able to overcome my own fear of shooting in public, so I thought I would share 10 tips that helped me.
Street Photography Wise
Being on the street with a camera, whether you have your iPhone or your DSLR, it’s easy to draw attention to yourself.
Use an unassuming/smaller camera.My first tip would be to use a smaller camera. Henri Cartier-Bresson used a Leica with a 50mm lens. The Leica afforded him the opportunity to move around quickly and unassumingly.
With all the mirrorless cameras available, finding a smaller camera is easier than ever.
Turn off the sound of your AF so people won’t hear you focusing constantly.
Get your camera set before you shoot.
With this third tip, there are a few considerations. You can usually set the function button on your camera to toggle between settings. For instance, I use my function button to change my aperture, and one for shutter speed so I have total and fast control over whether I want a shallow depth of field or a wider.
You’ll want to set your camera to the right exposure, which is easy to do with some test shots to make sure you ISO, white balance, and AF are on point.
Always keep your camera on and ready to go.
I carry around an extra battery just in case I run out of power, and most importantly I keep my camera on just in case something I want to shoot happens fast. I can just pick up my camera, activate the shutter and find focus within a matter of seconds to get the picture.
Keep your eyes open and moving.
One way I like to uncover pictures is by observing everything around me. If I am at a crosswalk and see an interesting woman walking my way, I will wait for her to hit the spot I like and pick up my camera and take her picture. If she gives me a funny look I just smile back at her.
By looking for opportunities, you will uncover them when you least expect them.
Don’t let things get confrontational. Respect people’s boundaries.
More often than not, people won’t really care they’re being photographed, and if they do, it’s usually one of two things: they don’t want their picture taken, or they just want to see the photo.
If someone approaches me and is upset I’ve taken their picture, I will apologize and delete the photo on the spot. The people in the other camp might just want to see it, or even have the picture for themselves. If this is the case I keep my business cards on me and give them my email address and tell them to email me a copy.
For example, I asked a homeless guy last week holding a sign asking if I could take his picture. He said no, so I offered him money but he was adamant about not taking his picture. I respected him and moved on without shooting him.
Don’t chimp. Just shoot and keep going.
It’s a dead give away to people that you’re photographing them when you’re constantly looking at your LCD screen. Have confidence in your shooting ability, take the shot and move on.
Be a silent/confident observer.
Exuding confidence when you’re shooting makes people feel comfortable in your presence. Smile at them, but don’t stare. Some of the best street photographers in history have blended in perfectly with the environment.
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Robert Capa
Some street photographers suffer from being too far away, so make sure you’re getting close enough to get a good angle and perspective. Carrying a telephoto lens is impractical in the field because it’s heavy and makes you stick out like a sort thumb. So get in close with a nice prime or small zoom lens.
Compose and wait.
Compose your scene and capture the decisive moment. HCB, Robert Frank, and Garry Winogrand, and other street photographers, all have had similar styles of shooting: they would compose and capture when the moment was perfect. If you find the perfect composition, and your have it framed and exposed just right, you may find the decisive moment.
Photography is a waiting game and hard work that can unnerve and frustrate you, and sometimes you have to wait seconds or even hours to get something worthy. But once you’ve got it, then you get that feeling that is was all worth it.
I am still chasing my best photograph. It’s just the one I haven’t taken yet.