Thank guys for the response. After I posted this thread I kind of laughed at myself for being so nervous, but after reading your responses makes me feel a lot more comfortable with going out and shooting. I think I'm just getting the jitters of starting something I'm not familiar with. I just have to get over that and focus on what I want to do and enjoy myself while I'm doing it.
By the way, would anyone want to suggest some of their favorite street photographers? I thought it'd be a good idea to get a look on what others have done before I start mine.
Alisha - you'll get a ton of responses with widely varied photographers. Here's what I would suggest as a start (no particular order of importance, though I will list in order of personal favorites):
1) Henri Cartier Bresson (the one and only)
2) Brassai (no one else ever made night photographs like him)
3) Eugene Atget (no people in his street photographs; he used large format w/ time exposures. But they are sublime!)
4) Elliott Erwitt
5) Garry Winogrand (had an interesting philosophy about street photography. Shoot everything, whether or not there is anything worthwhile photographing (you can decide later); and get in people's faces, whether it pissed them off or not).
These are all B&W photographers. To my taste, street is more compelling in B&W, but that is only a personal preference.
Last edited by Shawn Rahman; 10-14-2008 at 10:56 PM. Click to view previous post history.
You might want to look at it as if your just going out to shoot some city landscapes and people may or may not be in them. I've shot every camera from a Minox to a 4x5 on the street and find that no matter what or where I shoot everyone notices me; Probably the red hair. Then again some people can just blend in and you won't hardly notice them at all. I've found it best to always present a cheerful demeanor when approached ( or sneered at) which usually disarms anyone who might have a bad attitude and take no offense at what you might hear, usually from security guards who don't know your rights. All in all it's just part of the trade. Try shooting at events to start with where many people will have cameras and go from there. If your shooting some camera thats older and metal you'll probably have someone approach you and tell you that they use to own one. Great conversations can ensue and ask them to pose. Here's where an online site (could be something like a image hosting site) for a promised image and a card goes a long way to beginning to establish a clientele if your interested. Of course your photography must be good, but thats why you get out and shoot.
People noticing you can be a good gateway into a terrific conversation and/or photo. When I first started shooting at a newspaper, it was hard to approach people cold, but a lot easier quicker than I thought...mostly because I've grown to realize photographing someone is like having a conversation with them. I've always held that, anyway.
How you handle a situation is what really determines it - you're not doing anything wrong by photographing (homeland security lunacy, be damned) and I've found that simply being honest, and putting forward your belief and passion for what you do always wins people over.
What has been written all makes sense; and can apply to just about every photographer, in whole or in part. I found the self-consciousness was submerged by a genuine desire to show every person I photograph in a manner which captures what I feel to be the essential goodness and decency of every member of the human species, when given a chance, and unless they prove themselves otherwise. My zwei Groschen.
John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
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A word of caution
Whilst I fully encourage anyone to try street photography...it is really rewarding...might I voice a word of caution. After a while it is likely that someone will notice your efforts and get angry.
Even completely innocent shots can provoke explosive (and unreasonable!) reactions, and this discourages me from taking street images for days. I get back into it by seeking out street situations where photos are expected: Buskers, promotional events, demonstrators.
I use either a slr with a noisy motor drive, the most conspicuous lens I can carry and a monopod, or the little Zeiss ZM rangefinder with a 35mm lens and a 90mm in the pocket.
It all depends on what I'm after:
If I'm out taking deliberate photos of some event or to get a specific result, it's the slr.
If just casually walking around at lunchbreak to see what others are doing, the rangefinder.
Mostly I take photos of either parks and folks relaxing in them, old buildings and their relationships to each other and the environment around them, or pure people street scenes.
So far only had one instance of anyone putting up a hand and saying: "no photos, please". Which was promptly and courteously acknowledged, accepted and followed.
I've had a railway station security officer ask me rudely "what I thought I was doing". That ended up in a formal written complaint to the railway authority and a written apology sent back to me as the result. Haven't had a problem in railway stations since.
I get the odd "filthy look" from folks who obviously can't think. Those I just ignore and that's the end of it.
Sometimes I get weird looks in the beach when carrying a camera. I only have the camera when my kids or my wife are around, so I just take a photo of my own family and that ceases the "another weirdo" look straight away.
Oh, and there is a local coffee shop owner who always likes to pick my F2 or whatever other film camera I'm taking and play with it: ex photographer, he loves anything non-digital.
Let me suggest a very simple exercise. Start off with a looong focal length, say 200mm or even 300mm. Just find yourself a comfortable bench or cafe table and pick out some interesting scenes from afar. Next go to a 150, then to ~100mm, etc. Work with primes because they force you to use your feet and move strategically through the scene.
Originally Posted by Alisha
I had some students who were petrified to approach people. We did longs and then shorter focal lengths.
Street shooting makes you learn your equipment
One thing I have noticed in my limited street shooting, just not much time to do it, is that it takes me a while to get over my shyness and to feel comfortable handling the camera in a new situation. These days, however, people are generally much more used to having cameras pointed at them and pretty much everything being recorded all the time. so, now, I feel people are less concerned about being photographed while in a public situation, so this may help some of us get over that initial shyness.
I also find, that when I am out, even in SFO, while visiting my daughter, people wanted to pose, and when handled in a frinedly manner it can be fun to meet people. I shoot with a Bessa R RF, and that is usually enough that people ask about it.
And, with the desire th have everything preset, I feel much more comfortable with my camera every time I get finished.
Those who know what they are doing shoot film. Others shoot digital.
@ Shawn Rahman: Thanks for the insites. I haven't had time to thoroughly look into each photographers, but I will do so once I'm able to buy more time.
Some of your guy's tips I never even thought of, like using a longer focal length lens.
Luckily, I was able to go around with a couple of my friends today and shoot around the school and apartment complexes. It was a lot of fun and being with them definitely eased my anxiety and I'm quite edger to go out and start shooting by myself. Even if I were to run into trouble, or a person who's having a bad day, it's not like it's going to be like that every time I step out of the door with a camera.