Taking Candids of Random People

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by htmlguru4242, Nov 14, 2005.

  1. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Something that's always bothered me:

    I'll be walking around or driving with my camera, and I'll see people that are arranged perfectly for a picture, and I'll really want to take one, but they don't know I am. Like the other day, there was an old man smoking a pipe, with his dog, standing at a rest stop along the highway, against a background of trees; it would have been a perfect picture, just the way everything was set up; though I'm always wary of taking pictures of random people whom I do not know.

    What do y'all think? What to do...
     
  2. eric

    eric Member

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    Ask?
    That's why I like portraits with shorter lenses. It seems more like the photographer actually had a rapport with that person.
     
  3. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Well, that would have been the obvious solution; sometimes I don't think. At times, though, asking people will make them adjust from their natural position, thereby ruining some of the effect...
     
  4. PhotoPete

    PhotoPete Member

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    Shoot first, ask permission later...
    Just take a look at Bruce Davidson's MO. Up close and in your face with a 28 mm...
     
  5. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Always ask, othewise you may end up with something in your face that you didnt ask for. And its simply polite.
     
  6. PhotoPete

    PhotoPete Member

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    Agreed, this is a somewhat confrontational approach, and you have to be prepared for what can happen.
    I again agree, but I am glad that HCB and others who have followed in his footsteps choose to ignore that social convention. We are collectively better off for it, IMHO.
     
  7. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    One good way to avoid this is to prefocus, pre-set exposure, and only bring the camera up for the shot. A rangefinder is great for this. And follow the advice of TR, "walk softly and carry a quiet click". The carney in this photo never heard the shutter and backed down when I lowered the camera.

    http://www.apug.org/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=3363

    It's a calculated risk. I could tell from the way he was holding the softball that he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn... at least not very hard.

    Lee
     
  8. argus

    argus Member

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  9. rduraoc

    rduraoc Member

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    I do a lot of street shooting, looking for candids, and I always shoot and never ask. If you ask, as someone said, the candid is lost. I used to use a 70-300, but now I only use a 135 f/2.8 with a noisy AF SLR and it gives me what I want. The worst I got was a bad face, while I was walking away. Always be discrete, prepare the picture, shoot and walk, like if it had never happened. But it may be a cultural thing. Maybe in your country people will come after you...:smile:
     
  10. markbb

    markbb Member

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    Regardless of the ethics, you should also be aware of the legal position in the location. This will depend on where you are (on the street, in a private shopping Mall etc), and what you intend to do with the image.

    Here in the UK there is an on-going discussion on the letters pages of Amateur Photographer about the dangers of taking candid shots, especially of children. People have been attacked and beaten up/robbed and accused of being paedophiles in some situations.
     
  11. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    Bruce Davidson. I'll take the East 100th Street photos over the in-yer-face ones any day.
     
  12. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I've taught a street photography workshop in Brighton, England for the past 8 years and have noticed some changes in how people respond. I sometimes ask permission but most of the time I make the exposure without speaking at all to the subject. If I think there is more photography to be done by engaging the subject in conversation I will. I mostly use a 20mm lens and sometimes an 80 to 210mm zoom mainly at the short end.

    Children are wonderful subjects but after I had a situation where a parent thought that one of the workshop participants' was photographing her child, accused us of being peadophiles and called the police I no longer point my camera in that direction. Clearly, as responsible people we must first think of the concerns of parents for sadly it's a strange world we now live in.

    My advice would be to make your photographs in whatever way you feel comfortable and don't be afraid to talk to people. Once you have plucked up the courage to do it are unlikely to have further inhibitions. My experience has shown that most people are happy to be photographed and even if they are not they are unlikely to attack you. Those who have refused me simply said no, or sometimes NO but never have I been physically threatened. A relaxed body language and pleasant manner will take you a long way toward achieving success. You should also make quick decisions and make the exposure immediately you see the shot you want for if you tend to hang around and be hesitant you will look uneasy and perhaps suspicious.
     
  13. ChuckP

    ChuckP Subscriber

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    Maybe you should use one of those 90 deg lens attachments.
     
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  15. laz

    laz Member

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    I take the shot then approach the person and tell them. I ask them to sign a release and promise not to use the shot in any way if they don't want me to. Either way I give them a personal calling card (I'm not a professional) and tell them to contact me for a copy if they want. (this takes them off the spot they would be in if I asked them to give me their address)

    I absolutely never take a picture of any child whose parent I don't know. As a parent I would have been made very uncomfortable if a stranger took a picture of my child, even if they came up and asked. Sad maybe, but the way of the world.

    -Bob
     
  16. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    One of the things I want to try is to take pictures in a real crowded train in Japan. I don't know if I have to ask everyone in the train car first, which is almost like making a real announcement. I don't know it's all that necessary, and If I did that, I might miss the kind of atmosphere that I want to take pictures of. I know I'll need my SLR with a real wide-angle lens, so either way I'll be very noticeable to the crowd. The people in the crowd could probably tell this is not going to be a commercial photo shoot anyway (if so, you need a release form sign by everyone in the finished pictures, etc).

    So, do I still have to ask the entire crowd first? Has anyone done this sort of thing?
     
  17. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Whats important here is that you get the picture, your right to exercise your artistic vision should not be compromised in any way by the unknown wishes of your subjects.
     
  18. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I've done this in both the London Underground and the New York Subway using fast film, 3200 ISO, and my trusty 20mm Nikor lens. A useful dodge is to shoot blind, by that I mean don't put the camera to your eye and either pre focus or use auto focus. Clearly there is no way that you can sk everyone in the carriage. Another tip that I have found to be useful is if someone spots you and looks hard at you, I meet and hold their look but not in an aggressive way. I can't stress enough the need to be seen as not threatening.
     
  19. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Subscriber

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    * 17 mm Tamron, f11, HP5 - and shoot from the hip
    * 300mm and shoot only a few images before moving on or sit in a sheltered area.
    * TLR - nobody knows what you're doing, looking down into that box on your chest

    A person who agrees to have his or her picture taken is interacting with the photographer - not always what you want in an image.

    That said, I do not take pictures of children without parental permission- ever. Even then, I know you can get in trouble. My student, getting permission from two mothers to photograph their children playing in a park, was harassed and threatened by a third mother whose child may or may not have moved into the field of view some 30 feet further away.
     
  20. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Interesting ideas here, all. I definetely try not to take pictures of kids, unles I know them, becuase, as people have said, is quite sad, but that seems to be the way it goes.

    I'll see how people react next time I'm out and about with my camera. And, thinking about it, in a crowded city or subway, nobody's going to know what your doing, especially, as Whiteymorange noted, if you are using a TLR.
     
  21. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Thank you for your advice on this. I'll try that one of these days.

    The thing is, lately in Japan, there seem to be so many perverts who use their camera phones and other devices and hold them under women's skirts in the trains. They get caught, and that's onto the national news almost everyday. So apparently a lot of people do not feel comfortable when they have stand next to a guy who has a camera in a confined space. It's just crazy.
     
  22. rrankin

    rrankin Member

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    I used a Mamya TLR in Manhattan on a number of occasions with no problem. Most times no one even knows what you are doing and probably thinks you are a weirdo, best avoided. When I used a Nikon 35mm with a 70-300 zoom lens, I had no end of glares and gestures. People knew you were pointing at them. My favorite antagonist was a drugged-out street bookseller who was not even in the vaguest direction I was shooting, yelling at me not to take pictures of him for the FBI.... If I did it again, it would be TLR all the way.

    Cheers, Richard
     
  23. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    firecracker. I spent two weeks in Okazaki and Tokyo a few years ago, and took a fair number of photos of people. Many of them cut me a great deal of slack when they saw my Kowa 6x6. Perhaps they thought it was a gun, and they were simply petrified, but my impression was that they respected serious photography in a way that has disappeared in the west. At temples and other tourist sites I couldn't move for old codgers offering me the use of their tripods. My advice would be to be open and straightforward, and look serious about what you're doing. Sneaking about just attracts the wrong sort of attention.
     
  24. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Struan, thanks for your input. I just have to make extra effort for that. Maybe I'm just too influenced by the media in a way; indeed I get scared to take pictures of people sometimes, which I never felt when I was in other countries like the U.S. some European countries (Germany, Austria, etc) in the past.

    It really seems like I'd better use a big SLR or something equivalent to that size rather than a small and quiet P&S, which might lead some people to think it's a spy camera of some sort. Or a classic camera would be a good choice for that.
     
  25. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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    Les, I'm all for the rights of the photographer to take photos in public places, but I too have confronted someone who was taking unauthorised photos of my child at play. If you wish to take photos of my child, wander over and ask for permission first. By simply doing that you will show that you're not a pederast, are a photgrapher, and think my kid is something special.

    Regards
    Graham.
     
  26. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    ..
    Fair comment Graham, but no one was photographing the child.