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11-26-2019, 10:02 AM   #1
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Street photography advice

One of the two biggest reasons I got into photography is to take photos of people being people. However I donít have the chutzpah to take photos of strangers. My fiancť on the other hand has gotten some great shots of people in Central Park. She just cracks off these photos like nothing. Does anyone have any ideas/exercises/methods to overcome my shyness?

11-26-2019, 10:13 AM   #2
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You can find tutorials, generally they say something like pretend you're shooting video, shoot from the hip, or pretend you're taking a picture of something else. These all work, or you can just be as obvious as you want if that's what you're going for. In general, being obvious is perceived as less creepy if you're close.

Regardless of technique, think of what kind of imagine you want. I used to like having people stare into the camera so I'd raise my camera to my eye, maybe even ask for permission, now I'm shooting more from the hip and very close. Busy people won't notice anything around them, those that are alone are a lot more aware.

Experiment Try to both have an image in mind, and to react spontaneously as you walk, see what style suits you better, and the same goes about subject matter. If Central Park doesn't inspire you, try something more crowded, indoors, windows, the subway, etc. Try walking fast, and walking slow, and standing still. If you have a DSLR try using your phone to begin with, or a smaller camera . Getting comfortable also means finding what works for you.

Be quick, that's very important to get the right moment, to some extent regardless of how you approach street photography, good moments are brief. To do so you may need to use zone focus, restrict to only one focal length you know well so you can previsualize the framing, and crop if that's what you need to do.

Last edited by aaacb; 11-26-2019 at 10:21 AM.
11-26-2019, 10:35 AM   #3
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Use a wide to normal lens and get close. Don't lurk behind a tree with a long lens.
11-26-2019, 11:13 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by bikehead90 Quote
However I donít have the chutzpah to take photos of strangers.
I don't do that either in general, although maybe for a different reason (street photography is a somewhat squishy subject regarding the law in western Europe).
My solution is usually a somewhat slower shutterspeed so the people in the image apear ghostlike and are usually not recognizeable (you will likely need a tripod so not very stealthy though) or I photograph them from behind so noone can recognize them either -> if someone asks what I plan with his/her picture or even demand to delete it I can usually appease them because of the way I took the picture and they won't be recognized that way. The downside of this approach is that you won't get interesting portraits obviously and the people in the pictures serve more as garnish in the picture and not the main course

11-26-2019, 11:53 AM   #5
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Another option is to find a great location, something that works well as a backdrop, point your camera at it and wait. People will walk through your shot then apologise for spoiling it. Try a longer lens. 50-200 is good because it isn't enormous. You can shoot from a safe distance until you feel comfortable. Try to look confident and dress in dark, plain clothing, this will help you to be invisible. You are in a great place for street but read up on the law and what constitutes a public place. Street is the best enjoy it
11-26-2019, 12:00 PM   #6
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This is a tricky subject indeed. I'm tempted to side with dlh on depreciating yourself, but that, to my mind, is only part of the solution. The other is to appreciate just how little most people see in an urban environment. I've been able to capture some nice portraits at short range simply because people paid no attention at all, even with the camera at eye level and at less than ten meters. And if they do notice you, be willing to explain what it is that you're doing and, if they insist, delete the photo (never happened to me).
11-26-2019, 02:38 PM   #7
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ehhhh..... Have you asked her for guidance?
11-26-2019, 04:06 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by bikehead90 Quote
...Does anyone have any ideas/exercises/methods to overcome my shyness?
I dabble in candid street photography. I take photos of distinctive looking people, but avoid embarrassing and voyeuristic photos. This gives me confidence because I know I'm not doing anything wrong.

Parades are one way to get more confidence photographing strangers. Participants expect to be photographed and you'll likely have a lot of interesting subjects. NYC has many parades but they can get crowded, so either show up very early to find a good spot or look for smaller parades.

Times Square is a good place to practice. Stand to the side or find a seat and snap people as they walk by.

11-26-2019, 04:21 PM   #9
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Go with small compact size camera or even phone.
or
Go with longer lens, so you can stay in the distance while capturing.
or
Simply smile and ask if you could take his/her photo
or
Do Cityscape photo instead

my 2 cents
11-26-2019, 04:35 PM - 1 Like   #10
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Have you tried using the furthest focal point to the left or right. On a wide lens people assume that because the lens is not pointed directly at them that they are not the subject.
11-26-2019, 09:29 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I taught street photography for years. The best way to feel comfortable doing it is progressive exposure - getting closer and taking more calculated risks. Also, understanding why you're doing it; if you feel guilty because you want to mock people on the street, you'll tend to feel anxious. If you find people and photography interesting and fun, you'll find you and your subjects enjoy it more. Be open about what you're doing. You don't need to draw undue attention to what you're doing, but you definitely shouldn't try and be sneaky. People sense it and it's off-putting. Respecting your subjects goes a long way.

Here's a short video about the process;

What I didn't mention in the video meant for a mass audience is the how to push situations for better pictures. It's amazing what's actually possible but only possible to teach in person. I'd recommend watching magician/ sleight of hand artists to learn the misdirection of attention. You can get much closer than you imagine if you understand how narrow the focus of attention is and dance around it.

Also, try and capture those topics and archetypes that exist before language; joy, grief, the parental instinct, aggression, sexual tension, body language etc. It can make the photographs more interesting than visual puns and amusing juxtapositions.
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11-26-2019, 10:23 PM   #12
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Take pictures of street performers, they usually do not mind. Once you do that, it is easy to get the reactions of the people in the crowd around the performer.

I agree that skulking is worse than openly taking photos, be fairly close, but don't get in people's faces or their personal space.

The best thing to minimize the chance of being seen, or being annoying is being quick to capture an image. Get very familiar the FOV of one lens with between 24 and 50 or so, and mentally compose pictures before you raise the camera to your eye, that is when people notice. Also, I prefer using f8 and manually zone focusing, the main subject will be in focus, but you have some leeway in DOF .
Learn your gear, the less fiddling about the better.
11-26-2019, 10:25 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by English-Photographer Quote
I taught street photography for years. The best way to feel comfortable doing it is progressive exposure - getting closer and taking more calculated risks. Also, understanding why you're doing it; if you feel guilty because you want to mock people on the street, you'll tend to feel anxious. If you find people and photography interesting and fun, you'll find you and your subjects enjoy it more. Be open about what you're doing. You don't need to draw undue attention to what you're doing, but you definitely shouldn't try and be sneaky. People sense it and it's off-putting. Respecting your subjects goes a long way.

Here's a short video about the process; YouTube

What I didn't mention in the video meant for a mass audience is the how to push situations for better pictures. It's amazing what's actually possible but only possible to teach in person. I'd recommend watching magician/ sleight of hand artists to learn the misdirection of attention. You can get much closer than you imagine if you understand how narrow the focus of attention is and dance around it.

Also, try and capture those topics and archetypes that exist before language; joy, grief, the parental instinct, aggression, sexual tension, body language etc. It can make the photographs more interesting than visual puns and amusing juxtapositions.
The video is unavailable.
11-26-2019, 11:08 PM   #14
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11-27-2019, 02:36 AM - 2 Likes   #15
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I do street portraits in Japan. I have found the best places to go to are tourist places. People are a lot more friendly and relaxed than they would be on their way to work or similar. I just hang around and when I see someone who catches my eye I just say "Hi, you look great. I am going to take your photo" and that's it. I have never had any problems. I am currently doing the 100 stranger challenge on Flickr where I write about my experiences. People are FAR more open to having their photo taken then you think!

You can see my photos here: Andrew Allan Jpn | Flickr
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