It really helps if you have a way to show that you are both respectful and serious.
It is hard when you are just starting, but once you have a few good results, you can put them into a "proof" book and show them to new people, who are then more likely to consider seriously your request.
It probably helps to have a working title. A business card too.
If you are shooting for a news publication, you can rely on a press pass.
I don't ask permission - I just make my photographs.
I've made thousands of street photos and have never been badgered or threatened physically. I have had questions or discussions with subjects about why I photographed them. When people ask questions, I explain what I'm doing and show them some street photography prints which I always have in my camera bag. This shows them I'm a "real photographer" and I'm not doing anything wierd or unethical.
I've hardly ever been "caught" but it does happen. When I get "caught," it's because I have gotten careless or had a lapse of concentration. I view getting "caught" as a shortcoming or a failure on my part.
In some situations, I will ask parents if it's okay to photograph their children - sometimes I just make the photos. It all depends on the location, situation, circumstances and demeanor of the parents and the children. With time, you seem to develop a sixth sense about this.
I photograph in such a manner that people rarely realize I'm photographing them. I use a 28mm lens on a 35mm rangefinder, so I have to get close - anywhere from arm's length to eight or ten feet, depending on how much background I want and how much of the frame I want the subjects to fill. With one or two people, I want them to fill 1/3 to 1/2 of the frame so I have to get pretty close with a 28mm lens.
How do you get to within three or four feet of your subject and not get "caught"? You get your subject to ignore you.
It's all in the way you physically approach your subject. You approach slowly and discreetly. You look around, at anything but your subject. You "dance" to fine tune your composition - subject sees you, look at camera and pretend to fiddle with it, sujbject looks away, a foot closer, six inches to the left, look away, look thru your viewfinder at something else, six inches closer, your subject is distracted and not looking at you and *click* you have your image. Look away, wind film, reframe, *click*. Six inches to the right, *click*. Lean in six inches, *click*.
Using ISO 400 film at 1/60 and f/11 (in open shade) makes this possible; you don't have to focus and you have depth of field from 3.5 ft. to 12 ft. or 4 ft. to infinity with a 28mm lens. In direct sunlight, you can shoot at sunny 16 with ISO 400 film (1/500 @ f/16) and have depth of field from 3 ft. to infinity.
Henri Cartier-Bresson did this "Leica dance" when he did street photography. It worked then and it still works today.
HCB also said something to the effect that street photography was a game of millimeters - and it is.
Gee, you must have a lot of disposable income if you're thinking you just pay whoever you think you might photograph on the street.
Just do it. Do it respectfully, the advice given above by lensworker is close to my experience. Sometimes I say and ask outright, other times I do it discreetly. At any time, I'm not out to 'cheat' someone or pull a fast one.
I'm in the midst of getting a business card printed up for my upcoming website and the street photography blog I've started (reservedatalltimes.com) so if anyone asks or challenges me, I can just hand out a card with the website and explain it calmly...honestly, it's never been an issue.
Stop worrying, start shooting. Experience is your best teacher.
I do a lot of street shooting, and as far as I'm concerned as soon as my subject/subjects notice me and start reacting/posing I've blown it because It's no longer candid photography but portraiture, I know many members will disagree but that's how I feel about it
I feel pretty much the same way.
Originally Posted by benjiboy
I used to ask if it was okay to photograph people and they would say yes probably 95% of the time. In a group, someone would always stare at the camera. I'd say "just do what you were doing - pretend I'm not here." After a little while, they would relax, ignore me and go back to acting naturally; that is when I would make my photos.
That's not the purist approach, but sometimes you need to do that - groups of women or moms with children are usually not to receptive to being photographed without asking and letting them know why you want to photograph them beforehand, depending on the location and circumstances.
Same here, that's why I don't do street photoghraphy.
Originally Posted by benjiboy
The whole point of photojournalism is to be discreet and "invisible" in your picture taking. Once you approach people "for permission" and start offering payment, then you've blown it.
Right on man, once you start paying them it turns you into a tourist :D.
Originally Posted by rolleiman
I recently saw a youtube video of an interview with, I think, Winogrand that showed clips of him shooting on the streets of LA. He was doing the dance that Lensworker describes and I remember thinking how most of his subjects seemed a bit disturbed as he approached, because he looked so jangly doing his dance. They seemed even more perturbed immediately after he triggered his shutter, as they weren't 100% sure but thought he had just taken a picture of them. Now this may have been aggravated by the video camera presence for the interview. In any case, I think the slight pre-exposure unsettling may have actually made some of his shots more interesting. Personally, I can't see myself doing it. I'll see if I can post the link later. Best of luck to you.
Many of my favorite Winogrand photos involve the subject realizing they are being photographed.
Originally Posted by 36cm2