Street photography - people paradox

Joined
Apr 20, 2010
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Norway
I have somewhat a paradox when it comes to street photography(people).
Today while me and the gentlemen/ladies from our local cameraclub had a themed competition, I stumbled over a newspaper kiosk. Is the kind where you have a small window out to the street, and the sides are littered with posters, etc. In the window a woman rested her head on her hands; daydreaming.

I thought that might be an excellent photography, alas I couldn't take it as she would have seen me right away. While I was photographing a street musician, a guy walks over to the booth and starts a friendly conversation with the woman. I see this as an excellent opportunity to photograph them both(I had already envisioned the final result), but as I raise my camera, she jolted away from the window as if I had slapped her. I couldn't do anything but to smile and walk away.

This episode made me feel bad afterwards, but here's where my paradox occur:

If I ask somebody for permission to take a photo(and they say yes), it will ruin the mood completely. The subject will pose and be completely aware on how she acts, making it seem unnatural. But if I don't ask for permission, I might offend people or experience another episode like this.

So what should I do, or rather, what do you do?

As a sidenote, I find that photographing around children is taboo because of the media. But I find that men seems to care little if you photograph them, whereas women is cautious when you do so(if they notice you). Might be because I am a male and therefore a potential pervert :frown:

Just for fun, here's the street musician:

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I ask then just hang out. Eventually they get bored of posing and then you shoot. Another thing that works is to get out of the area and use a longer lens.
 
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I think you touched on a very vaild point. As men, if we take pictures of women/children people always seem to assume that your a predator. If a women does it, they tend not to care. Maybe its because I have a uni-bomber beard and dark sunglasses lol.....
 
Joined
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Paris, France
So what should I do, or rather, what do you do?

I never ask, never, and will never change my way of doing since I'm not doing anything wrong. I find it important to stand up and preserve this freedom we have.

As a sidenote, I find that photographing around children is taboo because of the media.

I thought that was mostly a US thing, it's weird to hear that about Norway as well. In any case I have no issues whatsoever taking a photo of a child, man or woman. They're all the same to me and it's not like I hide myself while doing so. Here's an example taken at 24mm of a little girl playing during the summer in water sprinklers :

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I must have stood their for at least 10/15minutes and never has a parent come up to me to tell me anything. It's just photography, people need to lighten up. :wink:
 
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I understand your concern for wanting to ask, but honestly, you have no need to. You have every right to take their picture, they are in a public place, they should have no expectation of privacy.

Still....easier said than done. I love street photography, but struggle with the same things you do.
 
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"Another thing that works is to get out of the area and use a longer lens"

A reason the 105VR was my favorite walkaround lens. GH
 
Joined
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Norway
@Michelle:
That works only ig its one person. If there's more, they will stop what they were occupied with and pose. When they get tired of that, they will most likely forget what they did earlier

@Micah:
I don't like the term predator, as it implies that you actively hunts down your prey. If you've seen the movie "M", you will know what I'm talking about. I'm not defending such actions that some people do, I merely states that they might not have much to say in the matter(mental sickness). But I agree on the rest, albeit I mostly have an eccentric look :biggrin:

@Julien:
Can't see the picture; it's just a small box.

I know I'm not doing anything wrong, but still it isn't pleasant when people react that way. About the issue of photographing children, it's not that parents tend to care much. But you will receive some ugly looks if you take photos of children you have no associations with. And that I do blame the media for, as they often highlights how many pictures of children a pedophile had on his computer when he got busted(nude pictures, but still). It's not that common in Norway that things like this happens, but parents tend to be cautious anyway.

I also know that it's not illegal to take photographs in public. But I tend to put myself in their shoes. What if an complete stranger; one that you've never seen before, suddenly starts to take pictures of you? I don't mind that people takes pictures of me, as I'm very little photogenic to start with, but also a photographer myself :smile:

But I think some of the problem lies in me. I try to take their picture when their unaware of me, because I love the natural expression that gives. But I don't think that it matters if I had stood in the middle of the street and photographed them when they were fully aware of me; I think I would recieve the same suspicious looks.

@Murphy:

I know I have. But I don't think they know that I have :smile:

EDIT: Oh and I use the 70-300mm, which is a rather intimidating lens. That's why, and for speed, sharpness, etc, I try to get a hold of a used 135mm f2.8. Since it's quite smaller I probably will be able to "blend in" better
 
Joined
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Weird that I can't link from my own site. I was talking about the first photo in this series.

I don't seem to notice the dirty looks if I get some. Even then, where's the harm? Since I take photos of perfect strangers I totally accept stranger taking photos of me.

When you say that you can put yourself in their shoes when a complete stranger starts to take pictures of you, what would be your reaction? You could simply head over to the photographer and ask him why he took said photo. Simple as that.

Regarding the blending in, I think you're much more likely to blend in with a wide angle (less than 50) than with a long lens. I find street photos taken with a telephoto lens creepy, more stalkerish, as if you had to hide because you were afraid that what you were doing was wrong. That's just my point of view of course. :wink:
 
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
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So what should I do, or rather, what do you do?

Simple. I don't do "people" street photography.

To me, it's largely a matter of common courtesy. If someone does not want their picture taken, then I try to respect that, even though I am "not doing anything wrong". And since trying to sort out who does and doesn't want their picture taken is a royal pain, I just don't bother with it.

There are plenty of other pictures in the world, just waiting to be taken.
 
Joined
Apr 20, 2010
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Norway
@Julien
My reaction would be to continue walking, because I don't care :biggrin:

I don't mind the dirty looks either, I merely comment on how people react to photographing them. And I completely agree with the telephoto lens, albeit of different reasons. As I said earlier, I like the natural expression of people. If I was to use a wideangle, I would have to be pretty near to achieve the same cutout that I visualize in my head. Then I feel I get too close and "violate their personal space". And then they will be aware of you and start posing or avoid you.

But I think you're talking about the feel of a photo, right? How a wideangle translates that you're standing in the action, whereas a tele isolates the viewer from the subject?
If that's the case I find that telelenses give me a reflective look, as if the viewer stands outside of the setting and just observes and reflects over what he/she sees. Think of it as a movie, a wideangle will give you a action movie, whereas a tele will give you a "intellectual" one. Both have thir pros and cons to be sure.

And bare in mind that Norway isn't the most crowded of places :biggrin:. Even in Oslo, our capital(ugly city IMO) you will never really feel crowded, unless its our National day. So you can't just blend in with the crowd either.
 
Joined
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Arizona
If I photograph peoples faces, I usually take the picture first, then approach them, identify myself, and ask their permission if I may publish a picture of them. The only acception to this is say NASCAR drivers at a NASCAR race. They are expected to be photographed.
 
Joined
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You are shooting people in public and it is not predictable what their reactions are going to be. The only choice is yours. You either get tougher skin and deal with the reactions or stop street photography.
 
Joined
Nov 20, 2007
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Rotterdam Holland
People who have met me know I'm not a small guy.Almost 7 feet tall and even when I'm in a excellent mood I look like i can have your head for lunch.In short..People who don't see me coming are most likely blind.
When you see my work on the forum,you notice i like to shoot people and most of them are children. I like to shoot my prey in the wild,so most are done with my 70-200mm.I always keep a close eye to their reaction. a dirty face is enough to give them a hand signal that say :" Okay..no picture".But most the time i only see a smile the moment they notice they have been shot. Of course sometimes a parent or the one who is responsible for the kid come to me and ask what my intentions are.Perhaps that it is that i work with people for a living why i never had any problems with that.Once or twice a Mother who specifically told me not to shoot her child and delete what i shot.I make no problem of that.My pictures of Scouts are easy.I'm disguised as one.Most Scouts even see me and know who i am. " Hello Mona"!!!! I'm so used to that name I sometimes forget my real name is Rob.
One real negative experience so far.A day a the beach with only my underwater point and shoot at hand.At a give moment i was stopped by a patrol car of the Lifeguard who told me they had a call from a concerned Mother who told i was looking at her children to much.Not aware of that i showed them what i shot.Only underwater shots, and we had a chit chat talk about how good the camera would be for the Lifeguards when on the patrol boat.While on the boulevard busy with putting back my shoes on a Police car stops and i have the whole scene over again.Only this time the Police officers are a lot less friendly.Had to show my ID and I'm being told that they catch several pervs per week????.Well... I don't look like.
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So i think they're looking for someone else.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
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Miami, Florida, USA.
Street photography is an art, perhaps it is also a science. The street photographer has a good eye to see what is unfolding in front of him or her and has to be fast to capture that "decisive moment." Winogrand was once asked if he ever stopped taking pictures and he answered "If I am not taking a picture nothing is happening."
In general, most street photography is made with wide angle lenses. That only means you are close to your subject although a tele could be very effective to photograph from a distance. Posing could be effective with some subjects.
You do not have to ask permission to photograph in the streets but you should if you are in private property. Photographing children, especially near a school or in public parks is a no-no here where I live but interesting enough, if you are photographing your son or in my case my grandchildren, then having other children around is fine.
When noticed, always approach the subject with a smile. If a conversation is started just wait for the right time to photograph and if asked about it just say it is a hobby and even offer to give a copy away to the person photographed.
As I said, your best shots will happen when you see what is unfolding in front of you and you are fast. No time for settings, just go AUTO. Although apertures in the medium range of the lens are preferred, great shots are also obtained when the lens is set wide open, depending on subject.
Street photography could be very rewarding. Just open your eye to what is happening around you and be fast.

William Rodriguez
Miami, Florida.
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2010
Messages
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Location
Canada
For me there are two approaches

1. waist level candid walk by shooting

This gentleman had been in a fight, I stopped to ask if he was ok and snapped at the same time, he was unaware I had taken a photo.

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Another walk by, this gentleman has a crooked neck so it appears he saw the photo being taken but did not.
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2. getting permission

This gentleman was curious about my camera's, we chatted for a few minutes when he said it was ok to take his photo without me asking, I later gave him a couple of 4x6 prints for his time.

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when taking photo's of people in public it can be hit and miss on the reactions, put yourself on the other side of the camera, some will say it's a right to take a "people" photo in public some will say it's a privilage. I would certainly question why someone was taking mine if I saw them.

Jim
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2010
Messages
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Location
Canada
Let me rephrase that... Depending on the situation I would ask. I have been photographed many times in sport which I competed in, this one is obvious. I have been photographed in nature while in my canoe, Is this going to be in a magazine, online, or just a personal collection? If I was on the street and noticed someone photographing me I would ask them why and what there intent was, not in an agressive way, but I feel it's my right to know why. If I sense someone does not want their photo taken I will refrain, being sensitive to the subject is important. In some culture's taking a photo of a person is tabu.

I get approached all the time walking the streets, what am i shooting? why? am I taking people photo's? I was even asked if I was an undercover Narcotics officer. All valid questions.
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2009
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Michael
Weird that I can't link from my own site. I was talking about the first photo in this series............

Julien, that happens to me when I forget to "copy picture location" and instead just use the URL of the webpage the photo is on. Seems to work just fine with the former and fails to post anything with the latter.

Really interesting street shots, BTW. Likewise outstanding pictures from Libya.

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