Tips on How to Get Rid of Your Fears of Shooting Street Photography
Good street photography is able to capture fleeting moments in the streets and summarize the entire experience in one photo. Part of it is also accepting that not every photo you shoot will be breathtaking. But before you even think about any of this, you'll need to get rid of your fear of shooting, which many people have. Here are a couple of tips on how to do this.
Editor's Note: Many of the photos in this story are selections from the B&H Flickr Group. Hover over the photos to see who shot them.
Close Your Eyes
When I first started shooting street photography, the people I was trying to photograph looked at me as I was about to press the shutter button. This used to frighten me a bit because I was trying to be the fly on the wall and their eye contact was usually pretty intense. Then I learned a little trick: I closed my eyes. For a little while after that, my procedure was to focus and compose very quickly then close my eyes and shoot the photo.
This didn't last long and eventually I learned to shoot the photo and then give the person a genuine and warm smile afterwards. In most cases, it disarms the person.
Use a Smaller Camera
Smaller cameras like point and shoots, Sony NEX cameras, and Micro Four thirds cameras are often small enough to not look intimidating. When someone has a big DSLR and lens pointed at them, they often think that their images are being taken by a professional. But they don't always act like that if the person is using a point and shoot.
Of course, it also depends on the person: I've had a man look away from me when I used a Leica M9 (but not an M7.)
I recently purchased an Olympus EP-2 and pancake lens for this reason.
Shoot From the Hip
- Sling your camera around your body.
- Pre-focus your lens to a certain area; this often works best with a smaller aperture.
- When someone is in range, press the shutter button on your camera while it is still slung down by your waist. You can get some very interesting results this way.
- If you camera has a tilting or flip-out LCD screen, you can hold the camera down by your waist and flip the LCD screen out to compose your images.
Put the Camera Down on a Surface and Shoot
When I was using the Leica M7, I was working on a personal project to document the effects of the economic recession on New Yorkers in the streets. The job often required taking candid photos in public in order to capture the people as they were. While in a park in Chinatown, I found a subject that seemed a bit stand-offish but I knew I wanted their photo.
To get the shot, I used my environment wisely:
- I saw that there were some musicians performing a piece in the park, so I sat on a rock close to the subject I was trying to capture.
- I put the camera down on the rock and faced it towards the person I was trying to photograph. I stopped the lens down to F/8 and set the shutter to auto mode and wrapped the strap around my hand with my finger on the shutter release.
- I pretended to be paying attention to the musicians but instead was looking at a reflection of my subject in a glass window.
- While the subject was zoning in and out of consciousness, and was in a position which I felt was opportune for me to capture them, I snapped the photo. After around 30 seconds, I left the area and advanced the film. This way I was able to slyly capture the photo.
Remember Your Rights in Public
If you're in public, you're often allowed to photograph anyone or anything you want. Most of the time, no one can stop you from doing this because you're in public. Keep this in mind if someone gives you any trouble.
What tips can you offer to other potential street photographers? Let us know in the comments below.