View Full Version : A question about Street Photography

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07-24-2009, 11:51 AM
I don't like the whole sneak around stealing pictures of people thing. I hate having people photograph me and I go by the old "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" bit. I think street photographers should be open and honest and if someone doesn't want to be photographed then they should be able to keep their privacy. I love photographing people at weddings because they expect me to photograph them and they realize the value of documentation of the event. Otherwise when I photograph in the street I shoot things with no people.

This issue has recently been clubbed to death in another couple of threads, and while this post is an answer to the OP, and I'm not picking on it specifically, I do not want this thread to degenerate into another mess about the morality of the activity, so please everyone respect the spirit of the thread thus far.

Thanks .

Domenico Foschi
07-24-2009, 11:20 PM
Alisha, the suggestions of Takef586 are excellent.
Also start shooting in areas where there are many people, like a street fair, an area where there is heavy foot traffic etc.
The awkwardness will go away in due time and sometime will come back but you don't let it take over.
I discourage you from using a telephoto lens: get into the crowd, feel it and love doing it and I assure you it will show in the pictures.
This video from Meyerowitz has been very inspiring for me and I hope it will push you a little further to actually take that dive.

07-27-2009, 09:44 AM
Alisha, the suggestions of Takef586 are excellent.
Also start shooting in areas where there are many people, like a street fair, an area where there is heavy foot traffic etc.

I just spent the weekend at a street fair, not shooting (much), just being there. One thing that may help is that the crowd is probably already full of people taking pictures. True, most of the people I saw were using cell phones, but images were being captured one way or another.

For me, that takes some strength away from the devil on my shoulder who says that I'll stand out as a freak.

07-27-2009, 10:14 AM
Actually most people don't use DSLRs for street photography, most use something small and unprofessional looking such as a Leica or other RF. It's also quieter.

07-27-2009, 10:14 AM
Go after the crowds like Domenico suggested.
My list of advantages in that situation:
1) You will not stand out and people are more likely to pay much less attention to someone taking photos of them.
2) You will feel less intimidated
3) People are more defensive when they feel alone and specifically targeted
4) Most of street photography is about the composition of the main elements: people and environment. A crowd creates opportunities
5) Happy accidents, out of balance dynamics, interacting elements, complex visual relationships are all part of the gig
6) At crowded places, people are not just passing by, but doing things together: filling tight spaces, talking to each other, selling goods, performing and so on
7) Faces, many, many faces and a myriad of expressions and looks
8) You might meet other photographers
9) Even if you focus at one or two persons, even excluded from the crowd, they are less likely to be as defensive as on an empty street

Also, excellent subjects are street performers: they are very welcome of the attention of a photographer (especially with a cool camera) and feel good when being noticed.

Street photography needs
1) Quick eyes
2) Fast hands
3) Guts
all of which have to trained and will only get better by doing more and more of it. Experience is the keyword.

Domenico Foschi
07-27-2009, 04:07 PM
Excellent points Ari, especially #5.
Alisha, you will see that as you get more uninhibited you will be able to see more. It has happened to me from time to time that I witness great scenes one after the other. That happens when your inhibitions disappear and you become the camera, and all flows in front of you.
It reminds me of Minor White's quote:" There are times when a photographer walks on water".

07-27-2009, 04:46 PM
Actually most people don't use DSLRs for street photography, most use something small and unprofessional looking such as a Leica or other RF. It's also quieter.

I think you mean "most people who know what they're doing." I was in downtown chicago yesterday and saw plenty of people with DSLRs. Then again, I shouldn't be talking. I was lugging around my RB67...

More on topic, I have the same trouble with taking pictures of random people. I've found that every time I do, people don't mind or don't notice, and it gets easier the more you do it.

07-30-2009, 10:40 AM
I would like to get rid of my shyness or the whatever stuff that it is. It keeps my camera at home, I feel discouraged to take the camera and take it to the street; I'm unable to go walking around the streets of a city with the camera hanging on a side; I feel uncomfortable... Just because I feel people will look at me odd. I don't like to be the center of attention.
It sounds stupid, but it's a big crap for me. Street photography would speed up my shooting a lot, so I would learn more, too.
I feel that I can get over it, but when the day arrives, I get discouraged and end leaving the camera at home.

07-30-2009, 10:44 AM
Hmm, go shooting with a friend?

07-31-2009, 06:29 AM
Hmm, go shooting with a friend?
Don't have any friend that has even a minimum interesting in photography.
There's though a classmate of mine that was curious about old cameras, though. But I won't see him in a while...
Seems like the situation is going better. There are days where I Don't care about anything and there are days that I've got that paranoia. :rolleyes:
Next monday, I'll return to the city.

07-31-2009, 09:56 AM
where are you located in Catalonia?

08-11-2009, 02:56 PM
where are you located in Catalonia?
Tarragona region.
From time to time I go to Barcelona, though I rarely carry the camera, It's close enough if I need to do any work. I go early and I don't like to have it all day hanging around, usually being a bit tired, with the economical situation nowadays, I think that any robber might think the camera is valuable.

08-12-2009, 10:25 AM
I suggest you get a small 35mm camera that is not heavy, that way you can take pictures as you go during the day. And regarding the robbers, don't you think they are more interested in the nice and expensive new digital cameras? If someone would try to rob my camera I would try to explain the robber that he will have a hard time selling a film camera today, unless he's got a blade in his hands of course!

08-12-2009, 03:41 PM
I got an OM-1 which is already light. Robbers may not care about anything. Heck, a mate got assaulted and the guy said he had a knife just for his worthless 2 year old cellphone. I never go alone, but no one ever knows.

I forgot, I love fall/autumn and winter. Because I have wear jackets, and it's easy to wear the camera on the neck, zip it under the jacket; it keeps it warm (no condensation problems) and hidden. I just forgot it because having this hot weather now, thinking about jackets is the last thing to do.
The OM1 body is just as thin as a minolta P&S my mother used, it the lens would be smaller, it would be impossible to anyone to see I wear a camera under the jacket.
And by the way. Stuff looks better on that seasons. Summer becomes boring. Blue plain sky, thank god today and two days ago

08-13-2009, 09:59 AM
But if he had a gun, you would argue?


robbers in Spain can't get guns as easily as in the states, they all go for the gypsy kind of knife, it is cheaper and no need to buy bullets. If he's got a gun I will give him my underwear if he asks for it!

08-13-2009, 10:03 AM
Just go shoot. Your personality will determine your shots. That is not a bad thing. When you see your shots and do not like them, it may, in fact change your personality. Whatever happens, it will be natural, and you will produce pictures that reflect who you are.

08-13-2009, 10:33 AM
I have a tip for you Prest_400, you are in Tarragona area, I know there are Roman ruins in Tarragona where tourist go. Go there and you will look exactly like another tourist with a camera. Instead of taking pictures of the ruins take pictures of the people walking around the ruins. It is a slightly different version of street photography but can be a starting point.

Domenico Foschi
08-14-2009, 04:14 AM
Prest, your mind (your fears) is making the matter worst than what it is.

I am ready to bet with you 1 kg of "Hamon Serrano" that you will conquer your hung ups sooner than you think , and that fear will transform with enthusiasm and your images will get better and better.
It's all about starting, and not minding any thought that is trying to stop you.

Colin Corneau
08-14-2009, 04:39 AM
I've spent the past 8 months or so shooting the downtown street I walk to and from work each day...use a small SLR (FM or F90x) with a 35mm f2.
Small simple and it works..surprisingly simple but you really have to want it and be aggrssive - in the sense that you don't let moments pass you by.

09-29-2009, 05:25 PM
For me, shooting "street" is a matter of nerve, and I don't always have enough. My most successful efforts (successful being a relative term - read as, "I took pictures on the street!") were done with the following parameters:

1. Used a rangefinder -- it was helpful to be able to put the RF viewfinder quickly to my right eye while keeping my left eye open to observe the whole scene around me. The RF is much less intimidating, I believe, than most DSLRs would be. A "big rig" SLR used to mark you as a pro, but now every doofus in town is walking around with a massive DSLR with an el-cheapo 5mm-500mm zoom on the front!

2. Used Tri-X film, allowing F8. This f-stop allowed me to focus the camera at approx 8 feet, then not worry about focusing each time I shot - depth of field kept the scene in focus.

3. Kept walking toward my subjects. I took a long walk mostly shooting as I passed people on the sidewalk. People will seldom make an effort to stop and confront you if they are "on the move" - not worth the effort, I suppose.

4. Shot a lot of pictures in "tourist" areas -- particularly in D.C. near sites with lots of other people carrying cameras. As several have indicated above, this lets you "blend in" as you build up your nerve.

5. Always striving to get closer to the subjects. this is tough at first, because my natural tendency is to avoid getting too close to someone and snapping a picture. I really have to work on this!

6. Smile at people. This always tends to disarm anyone suspicious of a roving photographer. Garry Winogrand seemed to be a master at this - smiling and exchanging light banter with people he was trying to photograph (at least when he was being filmed doing his street photography).

7. Don't bother to ask permission.

Rinse and repeat, often!!