I rarely ask permission, but on the other hand I usually work slowly in the beginning. Taking out the camera, showing my intentions of using it and allowing the reluctant to get away, pick up a newspaper or tell me not to take their picture.
The choice of camera is very important to the reaction I get. A folder or LF camera will get them positively interested. A TLR or some quirky RF is also ok everytime.
Big SLRs are the only ones that can be considered threatening and are likely to scare people.
In my experience:
You don't have to ask, but give people time to get away (or tell you to do the it)
Choice of camera decides other peoples reaction to being photographed
i don't know if i would call surveillance photography from state/city owned cameras,
and ATM machines portraits but some people do i guess ...
when i was working for a newspaper i was asked to do surveillance images
at a hotel --- i set-up across the street, on a tripod and long lens for about 35mins
photographing people getting out of their cars and being "bellhopped"
the chief of security ( 6'5", 300lb weight lifter ) wasn't too happy,
and at the request of his customers came over and got in my face about it ...
he didn't take my camera and threaten me like the other guy did but just the same, he had some "choice words" for me and nearly clobbered me when
i reached for my cellphone to have him talk to my managing editor ..
I have shot an event or two in my day, many of which have been volunteer gigs for charitable events. There are always some people there who don't wish to be photographed. I've always approached groupings of people in attendance and informed them who I was, who I was taking the photos for, and given anyone who was uncomfortable ample advance warning so they could back out gracefully. I've even seen it announced in advance at some smaller gatherings that photos would be taken, and if you don't wish to be in them, please identify yourself in advance.
I, too, am not fond of being photographed (perhaps a bit ironic, given my interest), like that fellow about whom the OP wrote. We've all been speculating as to the "why," but they're just that - speculation.
Perhaps his reason(s) may be similar to mine.
When my sister and I were children, our father would often get the camera, or pick it up if it were already out for some occasion, e.g., Christmas, birthdays, vacations, etc., and photograph us.
However, while he wasn't "in your face" about taking the picture, it could be distracting, because he'd often ask us to look at the camera, even though we were busy doing something at the moment. I think his attempts to photograph us leaned more towards photographing me proportionally because I was his first child; my sister came along two years later. (My mother would also do that, too, but, as I recall, not as often.)
Yet there is something to be said about photographing people in one's life in general. While it obviously allows us to relive happy and fun times, it also allows us to remember them specifically. This past May, for example, marked the tenth anniversary since my father died at the age of 68 from a lifelong heart condition. Alas, I don't have photos of him at all, even any taken towards the end of his life. (Sorry for the melancholy tone.)
Dieter, this is what I suppose will happen to me. I'm the only with the shutterbug in my family. I have plenty of images of other people from holidays, or of my family from family gatherings, but only a very few of my beloved self, and those few quite horrible to be sincere. I hope somebody takes pictures of me because in the great number there is a probability of one with me appearing as a human being .
If I had to die tomorrow (touch everywhere) it would be quite hard for my family to find a picture to put on my gravestone (merrier and merrier tone, I know).
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Hardly anyone takes my picture either. In fact not even strangers and I wouldn't mind if they did. A few weeks ago my wife and I visited a local castle and she sat down on some wall and was reading the guide book. I wandered off to take some photos and when I came back I noticed a guy in the distance with a long telephoto pointed at my wife. It looked like he'd composed a photo where she was visible through a window in a ruined wall. Might have looked nice. But as I got closer and started talking to my wife he just hung around waiting - I got the feeling I was ruining his composition. I can hardly blame him as a photo of a pretty girl is better than my mug. Anyway, I stepped a few paces back so I'd be behind the wall and I heard his shutter click. When I walked back he'd gone.
Some people do not like being photographed. "You do not need to understand the reason but you need to respect their wishes". In this time of social media a photograph can be sent around the world! It's only common curtesy to ask permission first. Your mother didn't teach you manners?
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
One of the ways I avoid having my picture taken is by being the one with the camera. I very seldom have a problem at family events, b-days, reunions, holidays, etc. because I think the expectation of privacy is relaxed at an event type situation where people aren't surprised that a record would be wanted. Candid photography is a different kettle of fish, and I think the subject's expectation of privacy is elevated. I think people view un-announced, or intrusive photography as an invasion of that privacy, and I think some people do consider such a photograph a "theft", if not of their soul, then of their privacy. Most people, in my limited experience, are willing, if not eager, to commemorate an event with a posed photograph. If a member of a group doesn't want to be included, then show them what button to push and let them be the photographer. I wouldn't be surprised to find them in the second photo taken...
"We often think that when we have completed our study of one we know all about two, because 'two' is 'one and one'. We forget that we have still to make a study of 'and'."
-A. S. Eddington
Nope. I never ask. If I am in a public space, I take the picture. Am I dehumanizing my subject? Nope, I feel my photography glorifies the human face. Am I objectifying them? Yep. Oh well. They become part of my artistic vision.
I don't shoot where people have a reasonable right to privacy.
And I am damned good at not being noticed. Little bro saw me shooting a family function once and came over to me asked me how long I had been shooting... about an hour and a half. Know your camera, get the shots and move on.
tim in san jose
Where ever you are, there you be.