When I discovered Street Photography, I was and still am in awe at the amazing photographs the greats captured. From the emotion in the subjects face to the way they carry themselves to the way they interact with the environment. Fell in love with it immediately. I grabbed my camera and went out in the streets to achieve the same thing. Taking pictures of people… How hard can it be. Way harder then I thought. I had a fear of shooting random strangers.
Why do we have a fear of shooting street photographs
I still remember the first day I went out to do some street photography. I had just bought my first DSLR, the excitement was out of this planet. Walking around the lower east side of NYC, I was determined to make some amazing photos that I could share on social media and have people like and compliment my images so that I can feel even better then I already felt (vanity is a dangerous thing).
So many interesting characters in NYC. You’ll see impeccably well dressed people and even those that don’t pay any attention to their appearance. I was going to capture all those moments and share them with the world. Mwhahaha. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I quickly realized that I had a fear of shooting people in the street.
What If they get mad at me? Am I even allowed to shoot random people? I don’t want to seem like a creeper. They are looking at me, I can’t shoot them now. Do I ask them to make their photo? Do I make the photo first, then ask for forgiveness later? What about candid shots, I don’t want to feel like I’m invading people’s private lives. My mind was blowing up with excuses about why I could not shoot people in the streets, so I spent a long period of time just shooting buildings and inanimate objects that don’t have the capability to talk back.
After going through plenty of youtube videos, blog posts, talks with other photographers and countless hours of practice, I’ve reached a point where I’m comfortable shooting in the streets. I still have the fear of shooting that pops up every now and then, but I’ve found ways to eliminate that and go after the shots that I want.
The following 5 bullet points are simple ways I’ve used to overcome my fear of shooting in the street. I know that if you use them, you two will overcome your fear of shooting in the street.
1. Compose and wait
This right here is a tried and true timeless way to start shooting street photography if you have a fear of shooting people. The old compose and wait consists of composing the shot with the background that you want and then waiting until an interesting subject comes into
the foreground. This is very simple to do. The only thing you might run into is people being afraid to walk into the frame because they don’t want to mess up your shit.
2. Crowded Streets
Crowded streets mean busy streets. Busy streets means nobody cares what you’re doing. When I’m in crowded streets, I usually just find a good spot where I can stand and compose my shot without blocking the traffic. From there, I can make as many photos as I want without having anyone say anything. There are so many people around, who ever you’re photographing has no idea you’re photographing them.
3. Back Shots
This technique is very good in getting you comfortable with shooting individual people in the street. I thought to myself instead of shooting them head on, I can just shoot them from the back. This allows you learn how to get really close to your subject. The best part is when they look back and you get some eye contact in your photo.
4. Street performers / Events
Street photography does not get any easier than with street performers or random events you happen to encounter. It’s so easy that I don’t even do it anymore. When I was starting out, it was a great way to get my feet wet. You have interesting subjects, they don’t mind getting photographed. They actually expect it. Only thing I’d recommend is for you to actually tip them. Win-Win.
Like my grandma always said… If you don’t ask, you don’t get. When I see someone who strikes my fancy, I have no problem at all going up to them and asking if they’re okay with me making of quick photo of them. Approach them politely 9 times out of 10, they’ll say yes. I put this step last as it is kind of advanced and it requires you to actually interact with the people you meet in the street. Here’s my simple go to opening statement that works 99% of the time. “Hey… I like your (compliment them on what you like), can I take your photo?” As simple as that. Give it a try.
There you have it. 5 ways to overcome your fear of shooting in the streets. These are simple actionable steps anyone can do today.
Until next time,
P.S. If you’re like me, you scrolled all the way down this article without reading anything so to help help you still get something out of this, read the points from 1-5 to get the gist of what the article is all about.