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07-20-2011, 12:23 PM   #1
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Picture taking etiquette for People

I'd like to begin to take some candid on the street photographs, but was wondering what the proper etiquette is for taking someone's picture.

For example, I was in NYC the other day. I saw a veteran sitting on the street looking for money and displaying his prosthetic leg in front of him as a collection vessel. My instinct was to donate some money and ask his permission to take his picture, but I felt like I might be exploiting his situation.

Do most people take "stealth" photos with a large telephoto lens and not let the subject know that their picture is being taken? I see interesting people, yet don't know if they want to be photographed.

I saw another interesting thing in NYC the other day. A guy was driving a convertible with the top down and standing in traffic. He had a very creepy looking doll in the passenger seat. Unfortunately, I could not get to the proper angle to take the photo before he left. In this case, I could have just used the telephoto from across the street.

Any help/suggestions would be appreciated.


Last edited by njpentax; 07-20-2011 at 01:00 PM.
07-20-2011, 03:15 PM   #2
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Some people use a wide/normal lens and just shoot "from the hip". There are a couple photo threads going with that theme.
07-20-2011, 03:20 PM   #3
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Yes, we have had many many threads on etiquette-morality-legality-strategy of street shooting. Search for those and ye shalt be enlightened.
07-20-2011, 07:25 PM   #4
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Candid/street photography is more about what YOU're comfortable with -- no two targets will ever feel the same about it as you do anyway.

Some people can do it, some ultimately just don't want to. Don't force yourself.

I can't/don't want to, an' I'm comfortable with that. I can spend more time doin' what I want to do!

H2

07-20-2011, 08:48 PM   #5
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I use a 50mm f1.4 and just shoot as I walk along. If people notice me (and they do!) I just smile and nod at them. I usually get a smile back or a strange look lol. I've been told off a couple of times, by shopkeepers when I've photographed from the footpath. But generally speaking it's been pretty confrontation free. I did take photos of homeless, but didn't feel right about it and have stopped doing so. When I did though, I usually dropped some money in their hats. I really enjoy street photography, as it's so candid/unstaged.
07-20-2011, 08:50 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by NicoleAu Quote
I use a 50mm f1.4 and just shoot as I walk along. If people notice me (and they do!) I just smile and nod at them. I usually get a smile back or a strange look lol. I've been told off a couple of times, by shopkeepers when I've photographed from the footpath. But generally speaking it's been pretty confrontation free. I did take photos of homeless, but didn't feel right about it and have stopped doing so. When I did though, I usually dropped some money in their hats. I really enjoy street photography, as it's so candid/unstaged.
This. Word for word (though I usually use the Sigma 30/1.4 or 43 Ltd and on rare occasions the Sigma 50-150/2.8).
07-21-2011, 08:07 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by njpentax Quote
For example, I was in NYC the other day. I saw a veteran sitting on the street looking for money and displaying his prosthetic leg in front of him as a collection vessel. My instinct was to donate some money and ask his permission to take his picture, but I felt like I might be exploiting his situation.
My take on this particular situation - - -
First it was in NYC in a very public place so people sort of expect tourist photographers.
I think the thing to do would be to make the donation FIRST then ask for permission to take his photograph, acting like a sincere photographer and not like a tourist. Use your body language etc to let him know you feel empathy (not sympathy) and are not doing "freak" photography. It is not easy to carry this off but I think it is the only proper way.
After the shot I would also make to him a quick discrete salute and perhaps a quiet "Thank you for your service" since he is presenting himself as a veteran. Discretely, not grandstanding.
Using a "stealth" telephoto would I believe be "exploiting his situation" and would be shouting that out.
If a situation requires a quick to-the-eye and snap to catch a fleeting moment of any person on the street, I would do so and then make a friendly thank you wave as I turned and left.
Street photography IS a challenge and it is all about your attitude and what you feel somewhat comfortable with.
Remember, you are documenting something, even something humorous, but the people are not re-enactors placed there for your pleasure.
It may not be easy but it sure can be rewarding especially in places like DC, NYC, etc.


Last edited by TomK; 07-21-2011 at 08:17 PM.
07-21-2011, 08:15 PM   #8
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To lighten up a little - - -
There is a very old photographer's joke.
A famous photographer (pick a name, any name) is describing a scene he came across in some third world country (pick a name, any name).
He happened on an incredible old lady, wrinkled and frail. She was sitting on the roadside just asking for pennies to get some food to carry her through one more day.
Incredibly sad and heart breaking.
Listener asks, "So, what did you give her?"
He answers, "f/8 at 1/100th."
07-22-2011, 06:59 AM   #9
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IMO, To be a successful "street person" shooter You have to be a people person .

If you have difficulty approaching people and interacting with them (like me), then it will be very difficult to have nice shots of people.
07-22-2011, 07:37 AM   #10
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When travelling, it depends a lot on local customs.

My experiences:

- Marocco: it is not done. People can get really mad. It is considered rude.
- Uganda: Don't take pictures of people, they can get real, real angry. They believe western people become rich with photos taken from them. Except for the pygmese, they like it, show them the results.
- Egypt, Jordan and the like: ask, bring a balloon, small tokens, small change.
- Tanzania, Zambia, Kenia, RSA: bring balloons for the children or something. Ask, smile, not a real problem.
- Western Europe, if you ask, nod or something it is normally Ok, if they don't want it, don't take pictures.
- South East Asia, (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos) people may even like their pictures taken. Smile, bow, smile some more and they will smile back and pose for you.
- Eastern Europe: ask, sometimes giving a small fee helps.
- Non-western countries: Be carefull with all people wearing uniforms.

Stealth photography can be exposed and you might be confronted with some very angry people. Even more so than when taken in the open.

- Bert
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