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lensworker
10-02-2011, 11:27 PM
I don't know why, but I don't have any trouble to speak of when photographing people on the street. Maybe location has something to do with it (I'm located in the midwest - "flyover land").

Perhaps in a big city, people can be more confrontational or aggressive. But I do recall reading that some people say that in New York City, people will see a street photographer photographing them and just ignore him/her because they are busy and in a hurry.

I just go out and photograph people - I have had people ask why but they are okay with it when I explain what & why I'm photographing. It could be that if a photographer is at ease and not acting nervous or jumpy, their subjects are put at ease by their demeanor. I would say that 95% of the time if I ask to photograph someone, they say yes - although probably 90% or more of the time I don't ask and just shoot as I want to.

I always carry some of my B&W work prints of my street photography to show people if they ask questions, and some of my postcards with my contact information, an image and my website address. When I show the workprints and give the person a postcard, this seems to establish that I'm a "legitimate" photographer and not some weird person who is up to no good.

The main thing in my opinion is to establish the fact in your own mind that you are doing nothing wrong, unlawful or immoral in doing street photography. This conviction will put you at ease and allow you to project a demeanor of relaxed, quiet professionalism.

When I photograph on the streets, I use a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera and generally shoot in the arm's length to eight feet or so distance range from my subjects. Arm's length works well in a more crowded area such as a farmer's market, street fair, outdoor festival or county fair.

If you want to photograph at arm's length, ease up to your subject and look thru your viewfinder at something other than your subject. Look thru your viewfinder, moving the camera around slowly as if searching or a subject to shoot. Your intended subject will eventually come to accept your presence and ignore you.

This is when you can slowly move your camera to include them in the viewfinder and make a few photos of them. After you shoot a few photos, keep your camera to your eye and look away from your subject.

Return to them after a short time (perhaps 20-30 seconds) and make a few more images of them. This seems to work for me without alarming or offending the subject(s) of my photos.

Give this technique a try and let us know how it works for you.

cliveh
11-24-2011, 06:30 PM
Read and tried enough things here and there. Tell me how do you take photos of complete strangers on the street without pissing people off, or how to blend in a way that they don't even notice you. Especially using a wider angle lens. For me, 8 out of 10 times I'll get the cold stare, or, they have that look in the eye which I know if I take a photo of them they're gonna go crazy on you. So my question is, how do you stick a camera in someones face without them picking a fight with you?

I would suggest that by asking a question like this, you should re-think your approach to the subject. Perhaps it is not about sticking your camera in someone’s face, or having any angst or hyper attitude when taking the shot, but complete relaxation. When considering street photography, why not try and learn from the greatest master of all time, namely HCB. To illustrate this point, let’s look at his picture that appeared on the cover of Picture post, with the caption “Military appraisal at Moscow trolley stop” taken in 1954.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2011/apr/24/henri-cartier-bresson-moscow-1954?INTCMP=SRCH

What do people do at trolley stops? Just go down your local bus station to find out and get a sense of what is happening (no, I don’t mean think about it, but actually go there). What you will find is that it is full of people waiting. If you suddenly appear at a location and start taking pictures, you will attract attention. If you go to a location where people wait and wait with them, after an hour or two you will dissolve into the invisibility of just another person waiting.

Having said that the shot in illustration is quite amazing. If you read HCB quotes, one of them states – “The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture is a question of millimetres – small, small difference. But it’s essential. I don’t think there’s so much difference between photographers, but it’s that little difference that counts, maybe. - Henri Cartier-Bresson - quoted in the interview by Sheila Turner Seed. [cited in: “Popular Photography, May 1974, p. 142 “Henri Cartier-Bresson”]

Now, you may say that quotes like this are bullshit, but just look at the profile of the woman on the right and the small dark line separating the woman behind, who incidently, if not standing is walking in a direction to cancel this out.

StillKicking
11-28-2011, 12:48 AM
A) small camera
B) don't think about what people think.

Funny you should say that.. I find that when I walk around with my battered old Rolleiflex (not a small camera) people don't seem to mind.. in fact they often stop me and ask if they can look at the camera and are more than happy for me to take their picture. I think the eye contact helps and its easy to discretely shoot a frame without even being noticed.

Otherwise I use a very battered Leica M3 and shoot quickly. I try to pre focus so the camera is at my eye for no more than a second or two. Again, I find eye contact helps.. and if the person looks like they really don't want to have their picture taken then I just smile and move on.

benjiboy
11-28-2011, 10:21 AM
P.S my street photography pisses off my wife who can't understand why I "waste film taking pictures of people I don't even know" :)

lensworker
11-29-2011, 08:45 PM
P.S my street photography pisses off my wife who can't understand why I "waste film taking pictures of people I don't even know" :)She doesn't get it. I would suggest educating her on street photography, if she is open-minded to learning about it.

If you can get hold of a copy of the book, Street Photography Now - that might be a good place to start. Of course, any book of Henri Cartier-Bresson's work is the gold standard of street photography.

If you subscribe to LFI magazine or can find back issues at your library, there's usually some good to great street photography in every issue. You can subscribe or get back issues here http://www.lfi-online.de/ceemes//page/show/portal_RELAUNCH/__language__=en

Funny thing - I didn't use to get street photography either. Last Saturday, I shot three rolls of Tri-X doing street photography at the local farmer's market.

Street photography will get in your blood like that.

graywolf
06-23-2012, 06:51 PM
Good point, smaller camera does help i noticed. People react less to my Olympus Pen than my SLRs on the street.

Sometimes I can't help to think about what people think. For example if i am going to photograph a bum on the street, I can't help but to think what he'll do, "is he crazy enough to get mad and chase me down the street?" haha. Or better yet, when I'm in the hood.

Maybe your problem is you are taking photos of "bums on the street" rather than "people on the street". Maybe if I picked up on a negative attitude about me like that I would take your camera away from you and stick it up your.... Maybe the guy is a day laborer on his lunch break. Maybe he is an undercover cop. And maybe some one kicked him out of his apartment and he does not have enough cash for the deposit on another. On the other hand, maybe he IS a homicidal drug addict and is about to kill your stupid ass, you do not seem to be able to tell the difference.

Why would anyone, other than a spy of some sort, want to photograph people they did not like? I used to read these kinds of posts and threaten to go uptown and shoot derogatory photos of the "suits". Never got around to it, and now I live in a small town where the only people who wear suits are the attorneys. It is the county seat so there are quite a few attorneys about.

If you are taking photos of people because you think they are interesting, you can use a 5x7 speed graphic with flash and they will probably smile because you took their photo. There are some people who do not like to be photographed, and if they indicate that, just smile and turn your camera courteously away.

I do not even have good people skills, and I understand this stuff. What is so difficult about it?

oneANT
06-24-2012, 01:51 AM
I made the mistake (on flickr of all places) of telling a guy I liked his pic (was just giving some encouragement) ...he thought that was reason enough to go back and take some more but more than this he spent the day with the guy and it looks like he bought him booze or gave him enough to buy and then hung out and you could see he was pushing the drunk on. The pics are of the drunk having fun abusing people on the trains and in the streets and this 'street tog' captured it all. I pretty much stopped talking to anyone after that.

Use this, use that, big camera, little camera ...maybe someone reading this thread will find out what street photography is before they try to take a picture of it with whatever and then realize that 'whatever' is best because they understand what they are doing with it.

Street photography needs a new name so that some of us can get away from the rest of us.

Newt_on_Swings
06-24-2012, 02:59 AM
I was at the mermaid parade today at Coney Island, out on the boardwalk after and was just shooting people dressed for the festivities. I had asked a group of women for a photo, which they kindly posed, I thanked them after, they thanked me for asking. Then were hounded by a group of digi photographers. Kinda made me realize there are lots of people with cameras that are just plain rude, and this is where lots of negativity occurs. I saw lots of shoving huge 5ds with grips and zoom lenses in people faces as well as just walking into peoples paths to block and stop them, snap and walk away, worst were the guys trying to use fill flash popping away with their speedlites.

Steve Smith
06-24-2012, 03:50 AM
P.S my street photography pisses off my wife who can't understand why I "waste film taking pictures of people I don't even know"

Actually, that's how I usually think of street photography.


Steve.

Zewrak
06-24-2012, 04:15 AM
Actually, that's how I usually think of street photography.


Steve.

I kind of agreed with you before. But recently I have been looking for pictures of my ancestors and buildings around the village where I live. We have a county archive of photographs where people donate pictures and negatives. Which are all scanned and browsable at the library. It's a true treasure. People find errors, identify people and tag the photos. I have found photos of my grand grand grandfather for example. These are glassplates that were shot by that times "streetphotographers".

Today I am grateful to those that do it. Having some kind of respect and common sense though, is important. But that applies to all people, not only the morons with cameras. But also morons without one.

Good practice, go out and meet people without the camera. If you can meet and talk to the people without a camera. You probably have what it takes to be a streetphotographer. Any idiot can take a sneaky shot. The art is in actually interacting with the people you meet.

benjiboy
06-24-2012, 11:22 AM
Actually, that's how I usually think of street photography.


Steve.
If a photographer is afraid of "pissing people off", they should pursue another branch of photography they are more comfortable with, street shooting isn't for the timid, you have to be thick skinned.

Steve Smith
06-24-2012, 11:28 AM
If a photographer is afraid of "pissing people off", they should pursue another branch of photography they are more comfortable with.

It wasn't the "pissing people off" bit I was commenting on (I don't mind doing that). It was just having photographs of people I didn't know. It doesn't bother me if other people want to do that though.


Steve.

R.Gould
06-24-2012, 11:46 AM
Depends on what you mean by 'street photography'' if it is simply taking photos of people in the streets going about their normal business then that, to me, is a waste of time and film, but I do a lot of photography at street events and street theatre,I always ask first, and show my camera, and never have a problem, and get some great studies that way, there are times when I am out and about, and I see some one with an ''interesting'' face and I always ask and very rarely get refused these days, I think it may be the cameras I use, people don't seem to feel threatened by an old folder or Rollei, or a small old rangefinder, where when I used to use big SLR's people seemed to shy away from them, but I find that they think it's fun to be photographed by something that looks to them, as if it has come out of the ark, I always get asked for a print, and always make certain that they get a copy, although it can take a while, but I make certain that they know it may be a while. I also think that sometimes people are bothered by the perception that digital photographs are so easily altered, and that they can be made a fool of, where with old cameras they some how trust the results, as I said, it is a perception, but whatever, for me using old cute cameras,( their idea not mine) means the photographs will somehow look better than modern cameras,
Richard

cliveh
06-24-2012, 03:14 PM
Depends on what you mean by 'street photography'' if it is simply taking photos of people in the streets going about their normal business then that, to me, is a waste of time and film, but I do a lot of photography at street events and street theatre,I always ask first, and show my camera, and never have a problem, and get some great studies that way, there are times when I am out and about, and I see some one with an ''interesting'' face and I always ask and very rarely get refused these days, I think it may be the cameras I use, people don't seem to feel threatened by an old folder or Rollei, or a small old rangefinder, where when I used to use big SLR's people seemed to shy away from them, but I find that they think it's fun to be photographed by something that looks to them, as if it has come out of the ark, I always get asked for a print, and always make certain that they get a copy, although it can take a while, but I make certain that they know it may be a while. I also think that sometimes people are bothered by the perception that digital photographs are so easily altered, and that they can be made a fool of, where with old cameras they some how trust the results, as I said, it is a perception, but whatever, for me using old cute cameras,( their idea not mine) means the photographs will somehow look better than modern cameras,
Richard


Richard, does Joe public really think like this? If you point a lens at them from whatever camera, I doubt if they are evaluating it’s OK with an old camera, but not with digital.

Roger Cole
06-24-2012, 03:36 PM
Richard, does Joe public really think like this? If you point a lens at them from whatever camera, I doubt if they are evaluating it’s OK with an old camera, but not with digital.

Not my experience; it's more limited but seems to agree with Joe's. I see people avoiding those with DSLRs, ignoring but not asking to be photographed with my 35mm SLRs, and approaching me to ask about and sometimes asked to be photographed with my TLR. My Mamiya 645 looks more like some kind of big digital and is similarly viewed a bit askance. Setting up the 4x5 often attracts people but I don't typically carry it down the street so I can't say about that for "street" but getting a Graphic with working rangefinder that I can shoot handheld is on the "someday I'll do that" list.

R.Gould
06-24-2012, 04:04 PM
Richard, does Joe public really think like this? If you point a lens at them from whatever camera, I doubt if they are evaluating it’s OK with an old camera, but not with digital.

Clive,
as I said I do not do a lot street photography in the sense of photographing people going about getting on with their lives, but my experiance at street events both over here and in France is the same, I have seen people turning away from the digi look SLR's etc but happily letting me take their photographs with my old folders and tlrs, it has happened time and again, and more often than not we end up talking about the cameras I am using, memories come from them about, in some cases, the cameras they used when they were younger, sometimes their fathers or grandfathers using this or that camera,even when, on the od occasion, I have approached people in the street, I would always have my cameras on view, and they nearly always say yes, then want to know about the cameras, how old they are etc, I personally think their is some sort of old world charm about these cameras,Remember I always do people the courtesy of asking people first and making sure they see the camera, and a rollei or a folder just look old, antique, and as often been said to me over the years, safe somehow, you have to take your time,not just fire off and then stare at the display to see if you have got something, I can't tell you why, but I have only experianced this since my love affair with 50+ year old cameras, all that I use now.
When I used so called Modern cameras such as the AF Slr's and my Bronica etr, I more often than not would get a firm no or people trying to avoid looking at the lens, these days it is just the oppisite, maybe these cameras just look so totally different to those that most people use today, something from a more relaxed and happier past, I don't know, all I know is that here and where I go in France there seems little resistence to the charms of ''oldworld'' cameras.

Richard

cliveh
06-24-2012, 04:26 PM
Richard, as I have only ever shot street photography with old cameras, I have never been able to compare the experience of old and new you speak of and therefore accept what you say. I was just surprised that the general public are that perceptive about what to us is a specialised knowledge.

Roger Cole
06-24-2012, 10:53 PM
They generally don't know much about it. But a DSLR, a P&S digital, and to some extent 35mm SLRs and P&S cameras all look like cameras to them. Most older designs, TLRs, press cameras, medium format rangefinders etc. look either old or, if clearly pretty new, at least quite odd to them. Medium format cameras with grips, eye level finders, motors etc. (my 645 Pro has all three) can easily be confused for modern medium format digital - they might not know the words but they have an idea of "digital pro camera" - or even digital video cameras.

Cameras that look old, whether they are or not, seem to get a nicer welcome.

R.Gould
06-25-2012, 12:59 AM
They generally don't know much about it. But a DSLR, a P&S digital, and to some extent 35mm SLRs and P&S cameras all look like cameras to them. Most older designs, TLRs, press cameras, medium format rangefinders etc. look either old or, if clearly pretty new, at least quite odd to them. Medium format cameras with grips, eye level finders, motors etc. (my 645 Pro has all three) can easily be confused for modern medium format digital - they might not know the words but they have an idea of "digital pro camera" - or even digital video cameras.

Cameras that look old, whether they are or not, seem to get a nicer welcome.

Roger, that is my point in a nutshell, the average man or woman in the street, without the knowledge that we as photographers have, seeing the folders, old fixed lens cameras or Tlrs, that I, and many others use, see is a nice old camera, very often one of the first thing someone will say to me is what a lovely old camera, It is very rare for me to go out with a camera without someone wanting to talk about ''that lovely old camera'' they are not seen as a threat, and you are not seen as a threat, as someone with a '' modern'' SLr camera,
Richard

Ken Nadvornick
06-25-2012, 01:27 AM
Richard, does Joe public really think like this? If you point a lens at them from whatever camera, I doubt if they are evaluating it’s OK with an old camera, but not with digital.

At the state fair last year I was using a 4x5 Pacemaker Crown Graphic for walkaround people photographs. Not a single compaint. Rather, it was difficult to achieve anything other than wide smiles and/or friendly waves of the hand. Almost impossible to get anything unposed.

At one point while walking along I had a young lady actually grab my arm from behind to stop me. Her request? Could she use her DSLR to image me pretending to photograph her friend using the Crown. THAT was an unexpected twist. Of course I said yes and dutifully posed. That Crown was a better ice-breaker than anything used by the US Coast Guard.

Old (or old looking) cameras make a huge difference. It's an ancient antique, so you can't possibly be a threat.

Ken