Fear of street photography

Hello. Here I am writing a new blog about a fear that I recently discovered. One of my fears I never knew it's there. Sometimes, when I just wander the street of my city I observed a lot of people doing different things, getting excited about something, being sad about something, being concentrated to something and so on... a lot of situations I wanted to take a photo to - guess what - I never took a street photo. When I put my hand in the bag to grab the camera I get some cold shiver over my hand and I simply can't do it. I feel like invading those people's privacy and I fear they will hate me and get angry. Even if I shoot architecture people look at me like I would be some sort of freak. I don't know how people behave in other countries, but here, in Romania I get that feeling of being different (freaky way) if I take photos in the street. Is there anybody to have been experiencing the same symptoms and got over it ? I can shoot architecture oly if I someone comes with me. :) Some advices... please...

This one, actualy, I could do because there were so many cameras pointed on him... Mostly it was a parade so nobody minded me taking photos.

Photo credits: Oprea Ioan.

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Ok. So, I got my first MR photo of my nephew. Let me know your opinions on this. I tell you from the start that I know it's not very good framed but it's cropped from a larger photo which is a photo of my nephew(future nephew) together with his aunt (my future wife). :)


I never start the contact with taking pictures. Start to talk to the person first. Show your interest what he/she is doing, and take out your camera later....


Another very good ideea. Shooting in places where people are more friendly. I never tried to do that at country side with old people. My home village should be a start. Thx for the tip. And about that politician... Oh my. :D They always look for some good oportunities to make money- you just showed him one. I guess he has already bought a studio after a few research and get the thing going. :)))


Same feeling here with me in Nepal. i get the exact feel as yours while shooting in the streets, and i seldom take street shots. But here people likes "WHITE TOURISTS" (sorry - no offense) and love to be captured by them, they even pose for them. (you can come and try it here - they love you).

And in my village when i try to shoot butterflies/insects - they tell me that i'm so careless in my study and career.

One day a local politician saw me shooting a spider and asked what i'm gonna do with this photo - i told him that i try to sell it online - he got surprised and said "can it be sold, reeaalllyyyy?" !!!!! :D


With people related photos: Just ask politely - if the person says "NO", accept it. In most cases I got a "YES". With little children - ask the parents. Often I just point to the camera with a questioning facial expression especially in foreign countries where I cannot speak the language fluently. I used this technique in China with the parents of this little girl - her father was a photographer, too:

 Chinese Cute Girl Posing in Traditional Clothes 

In case of pure "street" photos I just take the photo. Once a farmer was concerned when I made photos of his straw balls - he was afraid I could be an officer of the government hygiene control - yes, I live in Germany. I just told him that these people normally don't work on Sundays and that I'm only a hobby photographer with a big camera and a small car.


He was artist just like you. Good ideea for the start. I can do the same. Take a photo of a street artist - they understand us the best - photography is just another form of art. Thx.


I watched an artist on the beach this Summer painting. I wanted to take a photograph of him but there was no way I could just walk up and take his photograph. He was sorting out his paints in his box. i decided I would approach him and just ask. I was surprised when he said yes of course. He then posed for me whilst I took the photograph. I thanked him for allowing me to take the photograph and he replied, "No thank you for asking."

   Artist on a beach.   


Your photos are just... breathtaking. What can I possibly say? It is amazing. I'm so glad you posted your experience here. It's a promise I would do the same. Somehow I do have to pass this test. I know it's a fear that I have to overcome. Thx a lot friend for you guidance. You have a very good night and I hope this arcticle helps others who do experience the same problems.


Great topic to discuss and I'm sure one we can all relate to Oprea. I have been in exactly your shoes and very recently realized how much further I have come after watching a surfer. I was at the beach and saw this guy surfing, knowing sunset was only an hour away I ran back to my place grabbed my camera and telephoto lens. By the time I got back he had started to make his way down the coast. I followed on foot and caught up with him as he had gotten out and was about to load up his car. I went up and chatted with him, told him what I had had in mind and although the waves had died down the sunset was quite nice. To my surprise he was quite excited by the idea and he offered to go back in to the water for a few shots. Of course I thanked him and offered to email him some free shots. I was even more surprised when he gave me his car keys and asked me to look after them, guess I look really honest :) It was only after this shoot I thought how I would never have dared do this a couple of years ago.    Sunset surfer   

Then there is my street photography, my most successful is probably this one with 51 sales in 6 months :    Rain in New York City   .

The tip here was to set my camera up on a tripod, out of the way, focus on the area I wanted, then turn my focus to manual so it will not alter, compose the shot and then using a remote shutter release just waited and took my shots when people were in the right spot. I did have people come up and chat with me but generally this was just about photography in general.

Then there was a few weeks ago, whilst out photographing in a high street I was approached by the police, wanting to know what I was doing and wanted my details. Now I know the law and as I was doing nothing wrong this was information I did not have to give, but they are just doing their job and I have nothing to hide so it was a friendly chat and I gave them all the request information. It does help to know the laws of your own country, here in the UK you can pretty much photograph anything you like whilst standing in a public place. There are a few exceptions like not using telephoto lenses to photograph in side private homes, or anything that could pose as a risk to national security, pretty obvious stuff. Later whilst on my walk around looking for stuff I saw a local business owner standing in his shop, I went in and had a chat about business. He could clearly see my camera and asked what I was doing, we chatted more about photography and I asked him if he would mind standing as he was for me to get a shot for editorial use, again he agreed and I got this shot:    Manager in retail store   

So to reiterate the title of a previous blog: If you don't ask, you don't get .

Often we create our own barriers, we are of course nervous, we worry what others think...


I uploaded some photos with my little nephew and my future wife. I gota wait some time until they can be reviewed. If they will be accepted I will kindly ask you to tell me your opion on them but please be fair and critical as much as possible - I realy need to know what I do wrong so I can refine my techniques and maybe the style too. Any criticisms from anybody are welcome! I never dared to upload people photos because I shoot people in their normal life - when they do normal stuff - meaning nothind is directed - I mean no makeup, special clothing or something like preparing artificial lighting - no other than the stock flash. the only thing I do in some situation, not always - I ask the to look at the camera. That's all. Thx for the encouragements again. :) It somehow became a habit.


i think perhaps for women it is easier. we are less intimidating, and not at all threatening. my bf is a jolly non threatening man but he is early grey haired and has the same feelings you do, so if I am shooting street photos he generally focus on landscape.
one easy thing I have found.. is have a child or other person with you that you are photographing and then simply shoot everything. the thing about street photography is.. yes you ARE invading someones space...but this is editorial. its news. its a moment. and if we did not there would be so much of real life never captured. amazing street photography is suddenly being discovered, thousands of photos. I have a ton of editorial and if I am in a shop or somewhere private, I ask someone if I can shoot- even at an airport. but on the street.. hardly ever. I capture life. if it bothers someone I will be happy to show them the photo and delete it. its never happened. what has happened is they are so excited they give me their email for a free copy. and that I am always happy to do.


@ Oprea ioan .."I can shoot architecture oly if I someone comes with me."...
I like to think it's a joke :) You're too young and therefore have this feeling. Dont't worry, Ioan! Keep shooting! You are talented and will grow faster if you really like photography. And don't forget: here is STOCK photo. Good luck further! Go! Don't stop!


It happened one time, when I shot this one    Citadel bastion at night   , that a man in a fancy limo saw me with the camera pointed to his car direction, he came to me (of course with the limo), lowered the car's lateral window and asked me what am I doing. He was no cop or any kind of authority. When I told him I wanna shoot traffic he said something like "IHAM" - english meaning "YEAH, SHURE YOU DO" - it was more like a mumbling then he left. It was a very strange feeling and creepy too. And some other time when I was shooting this one    sunset in central park, Brasov (Kronstadt)    in the central park, an old man came and asked me the same. What do I do - look at the stars, looking for aliens or somethin... Very strange... That's why in our country is very nasty to take street photos even architecture or light trails at night. People think you're a weirdo - the young ones even laugh when they see you holding your tripod or came and shoot anything. It's true not everybody looks at you that way but most of them are. So... It's a hard thing to do here.


Over here, not far away from you people suggest me what to shoot and where to send the photos, a newspaper or TV station to show the world how ugly our town his... strange people and feeling


I'm OK taking shots of strangers in very public events: sports events, parades, etc. But I'm not comfortable taking very personal images of people for two reasons. One is that I don't have anything I'd do with the images, and second, it would make me uncomfortable to be photographed in public that way. Plus I'm not that outgoing, I feel like I am invading their space, and their right to relax and enjoy being in public. It is a little different when travelling, as it is fairly easy to ask a shopkeeper to photograph their stall with them in it, etc...


You did some portraits in the street asking ppl you don't know? That's a very big step. I never even dared to think of. It's a big problem for me because I realy enjoy taking photos to people in different situations (only tried with my family) but I know street photos can be so good. :((( Don't know how to get the courage to do that. It's something like you go to a stranger's house and you see a very delicious cake and you want to taste it but you don't dare to aks for it. I know I would get some very good photos out there. Ppl are so interesting...


Sounds so familiar... for me it depends a lot from place to place... I was in a crowded Venice last summer and since most of the ppl in the street are tourists as me, I didn't had any problem... however I shot mostly people-less pictures (so non-editorials). But focusing on somebody randomly in the street... not my piece of cake either for the same reasons as you have (and I don't like it when ppl do it with me: so I don't like to force ppl in a situation in which I don't like to be in myself). Luckily I approach ppl from time to time... but then it becomes a portrait and then it's no street photography anymore, even done in the streets... so problem unsolved...

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