Would random people feel more comfortable photograph if the Photographer uses a smartphone?

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by johnfantastic, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. I noticed that if i shoot with my smartphone, people just don't notice and go on their way, but If I shoot with my DSLR, I get stares all over, some of them angry? Do you guys have the same experience? :)
  2. I don't have a smartphone but from observations it seems like phones are absolutely the way to go for street/people photography. I just looked at the Phone & Mobile Forum for the first time and as far as how photos appear on the Internet, phones are there. Perhaps even better than "there" with a spontaneity not seen with regular cameras.
  3. I get annoyed by any camera pointing at me, but I am more inclined to think that the person with the smartphone is doing something other than photographing.
    Sanford likes this.
  4. Since almost everyone (except for Sanford) has a smartphone, you sort of blend in better than you would with a DSLR with a big honking lens. I find that using the back screen instead of the EVF on a small mirrorless camera (with a small prime lens) is less conspicuous than other interchangeable lens options.
    Sanford likes this.
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Smartphones? Based on myriad stupid / dangerous things users film themselves doing, the product is likely smarter of the pair. Wouldn't give one houseroom.
    Sanford likes this.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Smartphones are arguably less likely to initially attract attention than a DSLR.

    However my experience is people being photographed in the street are likely to get angry because of the Photographers' actions, mood, body language and demeanour, rather than the anger being caused by the photographic gear being used.

    Dieter Schaefer and samstevens like this.
  7. My experience has been good, and I mostly use my dlsr on the street. Even though I'm tall, I don't get the feeling many people see me as a threat or seem uptight when I'm around, I generally feel pretty comfortable in my own skin, am familiar with the city streets, and don't seem to attract negative attention. I'm not shy, either. I think a lot is about demeanor no matter what camera is being used.
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    thinking further . . .

    On the other hand, the potential, implied or perceived secret use of mobile phones for Photography . . .

    An anecdote: I do Sports Photography, including many youth events, mainly Swimming and Field Hockey.

    Apropos photography at a Swimming Event where the competitors are minors - I’ve walked into the change-room/bathroom, for a toilet break or to refill my water bottle and I have been carrying one or two DSLRs and have never once been challenged by security, coaches, swimmers or parents.

    On the other hand, I have noted on more than one occasion, the person walking toward the bathroom, with the habitual carriage of the mobile phone in front of their face, has been given very short shrift by Parents and often disallowed entry by security.

    mikemorrell likes this.
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    A smile goes a long way, too.

    On demeanour/demeanor - even without any spoken words, clear cut body language and confident and honest eye contact can be used to provide excellent communication - both these were made with a 5D Series DSLR, with Battery Grip and 24 to 105 Zoom Lens -

    US Secret Service Officers, Rear of the White House, USA, 2019




    A smaller camera used for this - Fuji X100s


    "Bikers" - NSW South Coast, AUS, 2018

    mikemorrell likes this.
  10. Great examples, William.

    I do occasionally get waved off, and usually accede, but this time he was a little too late. I mimed an oops to him with a sheepish smile and got a smile back. Thankfully, his rifle stayed right where it was!

  11. I have a few times (or more) been out with my phone trying to get a WiFi signal.
    I point the phone in different directions to see where there is more signal.

    So far, I haven't had any complaints, but it could look like I was looking around
    to take a picture of someone.

    I suspect, though, that it is easier to make it look like you are not taking a
    picture, than aiming a big SLR or DSLR at someone.

    Reminds me, though, that some years ago there was a device with a mirror
    such that you could take the picture in a different direction. It was round and
    went on the end of the lens, so if you didn't look carefully it looks like a longer
    lens, and not pointing at you.
  12. DCC_2164.JPG

    This was meant to be of the sketcher. The mom looked like she might say something, but didn't.
    (And this is with a DSLR.)

    Last month I was taking pictures around my elementary school (50 years after graduating)
    and someone told me not to take her picture. As I was trying to get buildings and playground,
    and not especially her, I didn't. But sitting on the grass, she could easily have gotten
    (very tiny) in a shot of the whole play area.


    It looks about like it did 50 years earlier, though a roof over the lunch tables.

    Also, the buildings are now air conditioned, unlike they used to be.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  13. All the "random people" I know don't give a s**t , but any camera with a long, honking telephoto gets annoyed looks from people and wildlife
  14. I agree that for street photography, a smartphone draws much less attention - and may be less 'íntimidating' for those photographed - than a 'large camera'.

    However, as previous responses have pointed out, smartphone photography makes 'surreptitious photography' much easier than when working with a large camera. So IHHO, questions of motive and ethics in 'surreptitious photography' have become even more important in this age of smartphone photography.

    For sure, there are artistic/photographic projects for which 'surreptitious photography' is justified and may even be necessary. At the other extreme, 'surreptitious photography' may have no other purpose than to photograph attractive young women or wizened old men without their knowledge.

    In general, I fully agree with previous responses that the the best 'street portraits' are taken in full cooperation with (or with the permission of) the subjects. This principle applies to both traditional cameras and smartphones.

    I suspect that a smartphone implies that the photo will be 'for personal use only' while a DSLR + backpack is less convincing as 'personal use only'.

  15. There may be several assumptions here worth looking at.

    Depending on how it’s used and the attitude of the user, also the proclivities of the subject, any camera and any photographer can be more or less intimidating and any subject, due to their own set of issues, can be more or less intimidated.

    When I’ve wanted to, I’ve been just as surreptitious with my dslr as with my smartphone. There are many good reasons to be surreptitious with street photography, even when one’s mind isn’t in the gutter. When a crowd is watching street musicians, I may want to be as surreptitious as possible. When an innocent but visually interesting scene seems to be unfolding, I’ll be surreptitious so as not to disturb the flow of activity or attention.

    Questions of ethics and motives haven’t become any more important to me than they’ve always been. Mostly, other photographer’s motives are none of my business. I will often perceive their intent via their photos. Their motives usually require more biographical information. An intention is about a goal. A motive is about a reason. I prefer not to dwell on the extremes other people might go to when considering my own use of a camera. My own extremes and the reasons I might go there are enough for me to keep track of.

    Can you point out the words above that gave you the impression someone said the best street portraits are made with the cooperation of the subject? I can’t find them. And I’d argue with that.

    These days, I wouldn’t draw any conclusions about eventual use of photos from the kind of camera used. Many gallery shows and books are now dedicated to smartphone cameras and they are being used in both professional and commercial circumstances.
  16. Masks wearing should be factored in now.
  17. I'd also argue with the contention that the best (whatever that means) street photos require subject cooperation. Seems you will only get one kind of photo that way: the cooperating kind.
    William Michael and samstevens like this.
  18. Though I think many adept photographers are able to get, if they want, a “cooperating” setup not always to look like a “cooperating” photo.
    William Michael likes this.
  19. Yes, but they will always be cooperating. Cooperating photos can be good photos of course, but it's not a requirement for a good shot.
    William Michael likes this.
  20. We agree on the latter point. I guess we’ll just disagree on the former. To me a “cooperating photo” is one that looks it. A photographer can make a spontaneous-looking photo even with cooperation. I’ve gotten visual ascent from some street subjects, which means cooperation, but didn’t necessarily take the picture right away. I may have waited a while to let things unfold a bit and taken the picture when they were basically paying no more attention to me because they were focused on what they were doing. I’ve also worked with actors who are trained in making things rehearsed look spontaneous. True, many or most street portraits made with cooperation look it. But I maintain they don’t have to. YMMV.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020
    William Michael likes this.

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