A quest to overcome my fear of Street Photography and People

I love photography, I really do.  From nature, to landscape, to architecture, to everything in between.  But the type of photography that I truly love, is the one that I fear the most; Street Photography.  By definition, Street Photography is when you capture subjects in any candid situation in public places.  An example is this photo bellow that I took in Seattle:

In my opinion, there are multiple ways of looking at Street Photography.  A photographer can take photo on the street to capture a moment, to freeze it in time.  Take this photo bellow for example; I was walking in Las Vegas Strip one late afternoon, when I saw what it looks like Newlyweds, right in the middle of a street intersection, embraced on a kiss.  Of course, camera at hand I had to capture that moment.

Even though I love that kind of photography, my biggest passion inside of Street Photography is to capture peoples expressions.  It is said that in street photography, is not fully necessary to have a subject as your main focus of the photo.  As a photographer I can appreciate that style, but at the end of the day, that is not my style.  I like to be able to capture an expression, I like to be able to build a story around that subject’s expression.  And there my friends, is where my fear begins…

I, by nature am an extremely shy person.  Being shy and loving street photography is definitely not a good match.  Now don’t get me wrong, if I know a person, I can talk, I can goof around, laugh, cry, it doesn’t matter; but if I don’t know you… Oh man!  So how can I overcome this fear in order to achieve my passion for street photography?  I have no clue!  I have read books, watched videos, read blogs and even though they offer great tips to overcome that fear, well, it hasn’t helped me much.

I have though practice different approaches.  After about 20 minutes to convince myself to do it, I went to this group of people playing domino in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico and I asked them if I could take a picture, I told them they didn’t have to look at the camera or anything just to keep doing what they were doing.  This was the outcome:

So I guess, one way to start, even if it takes me a while is to ASK.  But then I start to wonder, how can I capture a moment, a true moment, if I’m asking to take a picture?  So, even though is a great way to gain confidence, this is just my first step on reaching my goal to overcome the fear of Street Photography.

A lot of Street Photographers will tell you that in order to overcome the fear and take great photos you need a small lens (one that does not intimidate people) and get close to the subject.  Well, that is NOT going to happen with me; at least, NOT YET.  I can agree that the photos more than likely will look better, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.  I walk around with my 24-70 (2.8) which is pretty big but allows me not to be THAT close to my subject.  I still get scared shitless every time I’m taking a candid picture of someone, and God forbid if that subject looks at me while I’m about to take their picture I feel like I’m going to drop the camera and start sweating like crazy.  Here are some Street Photos I took without asking:

 

The fear is still there, but one thing is for certain, I am getting the expressions, I am starting to build their stories.  So right now, my number one tool to overcome my fear of street photography and people will be to KEEP TRYING and to keep writing.  A combination of what I see with what I want.  I will take those photos and I will share the story that I build around them.

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12 comments

  1. London Street Photography · · Reply

    Forget reading. Forget what I or anyone suggests. Just conquer your feeling with practice. There are no rules, no right or wrong. Just capture the moment. Confidence will come. Get close!

    1. Thanks much for the words; I do believe it to be true, practice makes perfection and with each time, with each shot is that little extra boost in confidence.

  2. i do feel the same and missed a lot of good shots because i was scared to disturb people…..

    1. Exactly like that, disturb people or the fear of getting caught. But at the end of the day, what IF I don’t get caught? I believe in “Do First and Ask for Forgiveness Later” in this case, I just need to get the courage to make it happen.

  3. Mike Coombes · · Reply

    Like the guy says, just get out there and do it. If you want to try something new, learn to shoot from the hip, stick the zoom on ‘wide’ and get as close as you dare.

    1. I read about shooting from the hip, I may give that a try as well and see what happens. But I understand what you mean and its true, the first and biggest step is to “get out there and do it”. Thanks

      1. Mike Coombes · ·

        The other thing I’ve found that if somebody sees you taking a picture, smile and move on. I’ve never yet had anyone cause me a problem.

  4. I know just how you feel. There was a time when I was very much into photography. But my shyness and fear of what people would think kept me from continuing to grow. When my cousin was here for a visit and we were at universal I just went for it. I took random pictures of people and it was an amazing feeling. No one even noticed. Bad part is it was a cheap camera, got wet and I lost everything. But I’m going to try again real soon! Keep at it Danny, You are so good!

    1. Thanks Lisa. Definitely you should try it again soon, is so rewarding.

  5. What others above and you yourself have said, I completely agree with. The best way to develop confidence is to just get out and DO IT! The more you see that people do not chase you and beat you to a pulp, the more you’ll feel comfortable with it.

    I know that fear, but to me, a large factor in me overcoming that fear was to understand that my own attitude has a large effect on how others respond to me, so I could in effect determine if people were comfortable if they did spot me taking their photos. If you stalk around and feel that people will get mad at you, that will show in your body language, you’ll look suspicious and they will think that you MUST be up to something no good. But if you convince yourself that people will be OK with it, and that you are not in any way doing anything wrong, but rather seeing them as having value and a story to tell, that will also show in your approach and people will respond accordingly. It’s a real battle overcoming any feelings that people will not be happy, but if you act with confidence (even if you are shaking with fear inside) and smile, people will generally not respond negatively. I have had a 90% change in the closeness and quality of my photos since making that realisation.

    As I shoot digital, I find showing people the images I’m shooting is a nice way to keep a friendly tone, but that’s only if they look up and notice me shooting. If they seem nervous about me shooting, I often find talking about the light or particular elements that inspired me to shoot the image puts people at ease – it helps them see I’m a photographer, not some shady guy taking pictures of random people for darker purposes. And if there is a connection made, making them fully aware of my presence, I keep shooting, after a few minutes of being self-conscious they stop noticing my presence and then the natural, magical stuff can happen again.

    If this is what you love to do, you can’t let the fear stop you. Fight through it. Keep shooting and you will see your confidence grow exponentially with increased experience. You should always do what you love!

    1. Thanks much for the tips and encouragement. I’m currently heading back home from a business trip and I’m planning on taking this coming weekend to go out and take some photos around town. Its funny how it is, I sometimes tell people “you have to fight for what you love to do; practice makes perfection…” and now is me trying to apply those same tools on myself. I guess there are moments in life when you encounter those little stepping stones and you must apply those little advices you give others on yourself. Thanks again for the words and by the way, your blog is very impressive. Keep up the great work!

      1. Thanks. I look forward to seeing your progress, too!

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