I love street photography, but it’s a challenge for me to step outside and get in the mix. I’m an introvert which means I recharge by myself – too many people wear me out. To top it off I can also be quite shy in new situations. Being out on the street can be exhilarating but also exhausting.
Getting my camera in people’s faces makes my heart beat faster and my palms sweaty but there is also a part of it that makes me feel alive. The comment I most hear from someone when they are fearful about street photography is someone noticing them and saying something. I worry about this myself. What will I do? What will I say? It’s an uncomfortable situation but here are some steps I’ve used to help me overcome my fears and get out on the streets.
Fears in Street Photography
What if someone says something? I’ve been shooting street for many years and I’ve only ever had a few people say anything. Not one of those situations was confrontational, in fact, most were light-hearted exchanges. I have found most people just want to know what you are doing. It also helps that I won’t take compromising photos of anyone, when someone is vulnerable they are more likely to get confrontational. I’ve never had to do this but the best advice is to delete the photo if it becomes an issue and move on.
I could never get that close to take a picture of a stranger. Then don’t if you are new to street photography use a longer lens. I happen to like the wider lens but if that is what is stopping you grab a mid-range zoom and get out there. What I would avoid is using a massive telephoto and shooting the picture from a mile away (that is getting into creepy territory). Part of street photography is being in the street with the people.
What if I can’t bring myself to take front facing pictures? Then don’t Valerie Jardin has an amazing book all about how to shoot people anonymously. It’s a great resource that I would recommend. Use shadows and reflections to get great images without getting into someone’s face. If it tells a good story then you don’t have to have a face.
I’m too scared to go shoot alone. Then take a friend. Street photography does tend to be better as a solo trip but no one says you can’t have a good time. Just remember that two people stopping to get a picture might draw more attention that one person subtly stopping to get a snap. If your friend is not into photos have an arrangement that if you stop to get a photo they just keep walking slowly. It’s easy to catch up.
Here are some practical tips I use to get shots that I might not be bold enough to walk up and get.
Tilting screens – newer cameras with a tilting or articulating screen have been a miracle for street photography. They allow you to hold the camera away from your eye and use your finger to get the shot. My current favorite street camera in the Olympus PenF.
Shoot From the hip – this is a great tip IF you know your lens. I shoot 95% of my street photos with an Olympus 17mm. That means I know where I need to stand to get the shot. I can walk by take a snap and never draw the camera to my eye or look at the screen. Of course, there are times I have missed a shoot using this method so make sure you know your lens.
Look up – Take a shot, look at your screen, look up, and recompose. People will naturally think you are taking a shot of something above them but it allows you to get a straight on shot of someone.
Practice – Over the years, I’ve shot a lot of street photos but without fail every time I take to the street my heart starts pounding. The introverted part of me kicks in but I keep going back.
Being an introvert does not exclude you from street photography, it just means you might have to work a little harder and put a little more thought into your process.
The great thing about being an introvert is that you might notice a quiet scene, away from the noise, that someone drawn to the chaos might miss. Lean into your introvert self and go shoot those photos.
Do you have any tips for getting good street photos?
I would love to read them in the comments below.