10 ways to overcome your fear of photographing on the streets
Newbies to street photography may experience anxiety and fear about photographing strangers in public spaces. But once overcome, photographing ordinary moments in extraordinary ways can be a joy as much as a passion. Such is the magic of street photography!
In this article, we’ll explore 10 of the many ways to overcome your fear when starting your street photography adventures.
1. Use a logging application
Journaling might seem like an unlikely candidate for this list, but many creative people find it positively influences their lives. In fact, there are digital diary apps to help you improve your mental health. Street photographers may find it helpful to write about what makes them wary of photographing people in public. In the long run, this can prove to be beneficial, especially if you set goals for yourself as part of the process.
You can include other items in your journal related to street photography, such as places you would like to visit and photographers you would like to emulate. If you enjoy writing in general, journaling can help you overcome your fear and improve your street photography.
2. Small cameras attract less attention
If you’ve ever lugged around a DSLR camera and taken street photos, you probably know people tend to look at you and wonder what you’re doing with that professional looking camera. It’s no wonder, then, that street photographers generally prefer smaller, under-the-radar cameras that attract less attention.
It helps a lot when you are just starting out and can relieve a lot of anxiety about photographing strangers. For more outgoing personalities or advanced users, there are many advantages to using a full frame mirrorless camera over many smaller compact cameras and cameras with smaller sensors.
3. Use icebreakers
Icebreakers are little things you can do to relieve tension when photographing people when they notice you. A simple smile can go a long way, and so can a compliment. For example, comments like “nice hat” or “great shirt” are icebreakers that are engaging and can help break the ice with a subject you would like to photograph.
Practicing the art of conversation with strangers will help you overcome your fear of street photography. It’s a long-term effort that will pay off and potentially open the doors to other opportunities in photography.
4. Use your camera’s LCD screen to take photos
Use your LCD screen if you have the option on your camera. Besides being a convenient way to take street photos, it usually relieves the photographer. For a variety of reasons, just holding a camera up to your eye is more confrontational than just walking around and looking into the back of your camera.
This brings up another point: Avoid making eye contact with your subjects if you don’t intend to interact with them. If you look into your LCD screen, your subjects are less likely to think you are photographing them, especially if you pretend to photograph other things near your subjects.
5. Make a game of approaching people
It’s a fun exercise that even seasoned street photographers use when walking around with newcomers or just for fun. You can play it in a number of different ways, but it depends on your imagination and how comfortable you are.
A variation is to have a contest to see who can get the most no’s or rejections when you ask strangers for their picture. The first person to reach 10, for example, wins. The exact number is not significant, but you should feel like you must have worked on it. Wear your releases with pride. It means that you are trying to overcome your fear! This is also another opportunity to practice your icebreaker skills.
6. Imagine that you are on a mission for a magazine
It’s a little different making a game out of it. Before going out to take street photos, it may help to imagine yourself as a photojournalist or documentary photographer on assignment for a publisher. Why is this helpful in overcoming your fear of street photography?
It will help you focus and give yourself a purpose. Knowing that you have to get certain shots is a constructive challenge. It will also help you realize several surprising benefits of street photography.
7. Use candid photography
That’s not to say candid photography is any easier than walking up to someone and asking for their photo. But taking candid street photos when you’re just starting out will definitely help if you’re afraid or anxious about photographing strangers.
Focus on framing your subjects creatively against interesting backgrounds. Even from a distance, intentional and creative imagery will usually make you stand out from the crowd. Develop your candid photography, then switch to street portrait practice when you’re ready.
8. Ask your partner for help
Practicing street photography with a partner will help you considerably when you are just starting out. It will help you build your self-confidence and you will learn more tips and tricks from another’s point of view.
Plus, there are a lot of things a partner can do to help take photos of strangers you don’t want to disturb. Imagine you want to photograph the gentleman like in the photo above because he has an interesting look. You can also try pretending to take a photo of your partner instead. This method works well in crowded areas and tourist sites.
9. Use silent shutter / mute camera sounds
Silent shutter mode is a standard feature on most mirrorless cameras. Take this opportunity not to draw attention to the fact that you are taking pictures. Also, turning off camera sounds and all indicator lights will turn your camera into a perfect street photography shooter.
It is practice makes perfect. In fact, the best teacher will be yourself. Aside from studying street photography and learning the ropes, going out and doing it is without a doubt the most important thing.
If you practice some of the methods mentioned here and learn from other avid street photographers, you will develop the most critical trait of any photographer: field experience.
Some additional tips to overcome your fear of photographing strangers
Besides everything we’ve listed above, here are a few more tips to help you along your trip:
- Don’t hide when photographing people, and don’t go out of your way to be invisible. You are not doing anything wrong. Always be confident and transparent about what you are doing.
- Do not listen to music with your headphones. It can be dangerous in a crowded place or on busy streets. Why would you want to âescapeâ connecting with the world you are photographing, anyway?
- Learn the laws of your state or country. Make sure it is legal to photograph people in public areas. Street photography is generally acceptable in many parts of the world, but check this information to avoid problems.
Street photography is worth learning
Overcoming your fear of photographing on the street is well worth your time and effort. Your skills will improve along with the quality of your images. And as an added bonus, you’ll find out how truly unique and accessible this genre is.
A tripod for street photography might seem counterintuitive, but it can work if you want it to.
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