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Tips On Overcoming Your Fear Of Street Photography

By Hanssie on April 2nd 2016

For me, street photography is a scary thing. Maybe it’s because I am an introvert, or maybe it’s just because I am a wimp who lacks self-confidence, but in either case, thinking about photographing random people on the street gives me anxiety. About 6-7 years ago, I was in Africa to photograph a team of educators inservicing teachers there. While on the school’s campus, I was fine – able to shoot and observe with no issue, but on the street, so many rich scenes passed me by, but I was too fearful most of the time to raise my camera. (I did get the image you see above, though).

There is still one image burned into my mind of three Ethiopian old men in hats sitting on a concrete wall – one was snoozing, one was reading, and one was staring into space – but let the moment pass me by. I still think of that missed shot to this day.

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Street photography is intimidating. Not only do you need to be very quick and observant, but you also need to approach strangers who may be skeptical of you and your lens. I’m a people pleaser at heart, and I don’t want people to get mad at me or confrontation if someone should get upset that I’m photographing them. If you feel the same, the video below was helpful for me and may be helpful for you as well.

[REWIND: 10 VALUABLE LESSONS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT STREET PHOTOGRAPHY]

Street photographer Eric Kim gives some practical tips, insights and anecdotes on overcoming your fear of street photography. Some of these are common sense, basic polite human interactions, like “Smile and say thank you,” which of course, you know this to be true, but in the moment, you tend to forget. Others tips he gives I hadn’t thought of, but makes sense – such as, when you are the most scared or in doubt, that’s when you need to take the photo. (That’s happened so many time to me).

The video is long (43 minutes), but it’s an easy watch – something that you could have on while editing (if you’re into that) and still glean some great advice.

Eric Kim also has many other resources on street photography on his YouTube and website. He also provided the slides from the video above if you want the Cliff’s Notes, here.

[Via DIY Photography]

 

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and www.fittedmagazine.com. Follow her on Instagram. Email her at:
[email protected]

3 Comments

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  1. Philip Roseman

    Thanks for posting the Video Hanssie! I’ve always had an interest in doing street photography but living in New York City makes the prospect very intimidating since, as any New Yorker will tell you, they value their privacy more than most. I loved the quote Creepiness is proportional to focal length. For some reason I always thought the idea was to take shots from a distance but this makes a lot of sense. I’m gonna put my wide lens on the camera and give it a shot. Wish me luck! LOL

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  3. Lenzy Ruffin

    I put earnest effort into developing the courage to do candid street photography. After a few fruitless outings where I really did try, I realized that a big prerequisite to developing that courage was having a genuine interest in making those kinds of images. I concluded that I enjoy looking at those kinds of images, but I don’t enjoy making them. I reached the same conclusion about landscapes once I gained some knowledge about what it takes to make those images in terms of planning, getting up way early, missing dinner, etc.

    I do love creating portraits, though, and I found that while I could never find the courage to pull the trigger in candid street photography, I have no problem at all walking up to strangers and asking if I can take their picture. Just last week, I got what looks like a candid street shot, but it was done around 10pm with a 15 or 20-second exposure. I saw an interesting scene and asked the guy if it was okay for me to take his picture while he kept doing what he was doing. There’s no way I could have gotten that shot without his cooperation.

    All that’s to say that there’s nothing wrong if candid street photography just isn’t your thing. For a while, I thought it was something I had to force myself to get good at like it was some kind of merit badge that all photographers had to have in order to be legit. There are other types of street photography. I can’t do candids, but street portraits are no problem. I know that anxiety you describe and that’s what made me realize I needed to try something different. Photography is a meditative practice for me and trying to shoot candidly was introducing stress into my life that photography normally took me away from. Didn’t take long for me to change course when I looked at it that way.

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