Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by reallife, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. I quite like the idea of shooting Street Photography but am worried that people may object to being photographed. Any tips on how to get around this please.
  2. Some possibilities:
    1. Ask before you shoot. Many people are happy to be photographed so long as you do ask. Of course, this is not going to produce “candid” portraits.
    2. Be sneaky*. Use a long telephoto or a right-angle auxiliary lens or a twin-lens reflex turned sideways or use an urban “blind” (e.g. take a duck blind, paint it gray and set it up on the sidewalk) ;)

    Be aware that you can shoot in public without permission, but you cannot use pictures of recognizable persons in commercial applications, nor can you use the pictures to ridicule or demean anyone without a signed release form in most parts of this world.

    People like Weegee used to get away with a lot; but, nowadays, it’s very likely someone will see any objectional use of their pictures. The world is a vast electronic village with lawyers now.

    *If you are ‘sneaky’, wear sneakers so you can run away and carry an inexpensive camera. Many older SLRs sell for less than a pizza these days. ;)
  3. Love your 'sneaky tips' JDM :)
  4. As for the converted duck blind idea, I figure that what is source for the goose is source for a 'gander'. :)
    Urban geese, by the way, can object strenuously to being photographed, thus illustrating the origins of the verb "to goose",
  5. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Fun is fun but now it is time for some serious answers. I can't help because I never felt comfortable shooting strangers in the street and just stuck to tree bark and dried mud. I would avoid taking pictures of small children. At some point a concerned citizen may report a pervert taking photos of the children playing in the park.
  6. I'm also not terribly comfortable photographing unfamiliar people up close without permission, as it is not something I'd enjoy as a subject (Do unto others etc..).
    So the solutions are:
    1. Ask (as JDM suggests) - many will say yes, and some won't. Of course, candids are out with this approach.
    2. Shoot candids without intruding - street photography doesn't have to be done with 35mm or wider lens, filling the frame with frontal shots of people; you could capture wider street scenes that include people as one element. And shooting people from the side or the rear (while dismissed by some who only value images of people whose faces are fully visible) can yield expressive results if done right, and is less confrontational.
    3. Shoot 'street' stuff that doesn't include people, but shows evidence of human activity - you're only limited by your imagination with this approach.
    Of course if you are willing to risk offense or confrontation (which may be rare, but is inevitable), you could throw caution and your reticence to the winds and 'get in people's faces' a la Bruce Gilden and his ilk.
    And as James suggests, avoid photographing kids (unless you have parental permission), just to avoid any potential unpleasantness.
    Hope some of this helps :)
  7. If you Google "street photography do's and don'ts" you'll get a variety of good sources from handy lists to videos. If you read through (and watch) a few you'll see common threads that run throughout. Some of them are pointed out here (don't photograph kids and don't be intrusive). I'd add: Know the laws where you live, don't carry any gear except your camera, dress to fit in and be aware that these days authorities can be touchy about people photographing certain things such as government buildings. Street photography takes a bit of nerve. I can't say that I've done a lot, myself, but the times when I've done it I haven't had any issues. And when I seek permission about 90 percent of the time people say, "Sure!"
  8. There is an interesting article about street photography here on, in the learning section, by's founder, Philip Greenspun. Make sure to read the comments, some of which, by photographers devoted to street photography, are rather critical. Also keep in mind that it was written in 1999, with a partial update in 2007.
  9. Mostly I try to photograph the environment, such as building or other scenic sights. If people happen to be there, they will get in the picture. Sometimes they make the scene look more lifelike.
    If you have a short enough telephoto lens, such as with a telextender, you might manage to get close-ups of people while it looks like you are taking in the whole scene.
  10. The first thing you need to realize is that most people out on the street have no interest in you. If you're not doing something to grab their attention, most people won't notice you taking photos. Being casual and confident is a good way to avoid attention, so it's helpful to be comfortable with the camera you plan to use. If someone does ask you about what you're doing, give them an honest answer.

    If you're making an effort to be sneaky, it's likely to attract negative attention. People are generally quite good at picking up on subtle, non-verbal cues. If you're acting like you're doing something wrong, it's going to draw more attention than if you're comfortable and open. I can't think of any notable street photographers who use long telephotos or right-angle lenses to "hide" what they're doing.

    I've taken photos of thousands of strangers over many years, and people posing or asking me to take their photo have been much more common than people objecting.
  11. Thanks for the tips guys some really useful information there. And James you put the fear of God in me at the thought of being suspected of spying on young children! Have to ensure there's not a child anywhere in sight before I begin Keith
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Your question is actually about your worry: I agree with Mike, most people in the street aren’t that interested in what you are doing, so on that point I think it is generally a false worry that you have. I suggest that the first step is that you get used to carrying your camera with you most of the time – for example when you go shopping; to and from work and always whenever you use public transport.

    Secondly (and I also agree with Mike on this point) the more covert that you act, the more suspicion you will attract to yourself. So, that is why getting used to carrying your camera everywhere is a good first step to you acting naturally with it, when it is on your person.
    The longest/biggest lens that generally use for “Street Photography” is a Canon EF 24 to 105 F/4 - and that is only because now that lens it is my go to “walk about” lens. I normally use a 35mm Prime Lens on a DSLR or I use a Fiji x100s, which has a fixed 23mm Lens for Street Photography. Although sometime a photo is just begging to be made and then one needs to use the gear at hand - in this case a 70 to 200/2.8.
    As for sneaking around and/or using 90 degree mirrors - I think those actions would be simply silly and in some situations constitute potentially dangerous behaviour.
    I do think that one should know the laws of the country, but probably more importantly one should know the local customs and the expectations of the local people.
    I don’t think that children or youths should necessarily be avoided – either by themselves or with adults. Nor do I think that the military or under-privileged people or the police should necessarily be avoided as Subjects either. I do think that respect should be shown to people and that I have a purpose for making the image.
    Sometimes a conversation is quite useful before making the shot but that conversation need not necessarily be with words. Often actions speak louder than words and the act of carrying the camera openly and by displaying the intent to make the image will indeed be reflected by the Subjects acting in a willing and co-operative manner. I think when it is possible and convenient, it is polite to offer a copy of the image to the Subjects and this is very easy to do in these days of email.
    The two most confronting, impolite and unlawful experiences I have had, were not when I was making photos of people, but once when I was making this photo with a 70 to 200 mounted on a tripod and the second was when I was making a photo at night-time of an outside hotel lift (elevator) with a 135 mm lens supporting my camera and lens on a fire-hydrant.
  13. Thanks William. I intend to start some street photography soon. The nearest I've got so far is a folder on Sutton on Sea which is shots of the village where I live.

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