3 Tips How NOT to Look Like a “Creep” when Shooting in the Streets

1x1.trans 3 Tips How NOT to Look Like a “Creep” when Shooting in the Streets

Don't look like this guy.

One of the questions that I often get from aspiring street photographers is, “How do I not look like a ‘creep’ when shooting in public?” I believe that this is one of the main factors which bars many photographers from getting their feet wet with street photography. In many societies, taking photos of strangers on the street is definitely not the “norm,” and can be interpreted as offensive to many. However although a photographer may feel like a “creep” when shooting in public, he most likely isn’t.

Street photographers try to capture the beauty in everyday-life, and attempt to journal their life through their lens. The term “creep” implies that the person is shooting strangers for some ill or mischievous reason.

In order not to look like a “creep” in the streets, you must first change your mindset that you are not a creep. In thinking that you are being “creepy” by shooting random strangers in the street, your body language will show it as well. Your movement in the streets will be erratic, your eyes will be shifty, and you will make other people feel uncomfortable. It is sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy in this way, therefore it is important for you to shift your frame of mind.

If you constantly tell yourself, “I am a street photographer there to capture the beauty in the mundane and I mean nobody ill will,” thoughts of being a creeper will disappear over time. Granted that every street photographer will have a difficult time doing so, the more you do it, the less awkward it will be.

In order to help you get over that feeling of being a “creep in the streets,” I will give you three quick tips on how not to look like a creeper when shooting street photography.

1. The smaller camera/lens you use, the better.

1x1.trans 3 Tips How NOT to Look Like a “Creep” when Shooting in the Streets

An image of me being "spotted" on the Seoul Metro when shooting from the hip. I acted casually and pretended I didn't take her photo, which caused the woman to look away shortly after.

There is nothing that screams “creep!” more than a photographer who takes photos of strangers in public with a Canon 1Ds Mark IV with a 70-200 f/2.8L lens pointed straight at them. Not only are people intimidated by such “professional” looking photographers, but they tend to be fearful as well. If I was a parent and I saw a guy like that pointing his beast of a camera straight at my kids, I wouldn’t feel comfortable—would you?

Therefore the remedy to this problem is to use the smallest camera/lens possible. Personally I use a Canon 5D with a 24mm f/2.8 or 35mm f/2 with my logos taped up with black gaffers tape to not look conspicuous. Some may even argue that my kit is much too large (which I agree to an extent) and that either point and shoots, micro 4/3rds, or rangefinders are much better. In-fact, I have been thinking about “downgrading” my camera in getting a smaller and more discrete one, such as the Canon S95, or the Fujifilm FinePix x100 that is projected to come out sometime next year. Oh yeah, and I have been taking a bunch of photos with my old Film Contax IIIa rangefinder as well.

The smaller your camera, the less you will be seen, and the less intimidating you will appear. When I am walking around with my point and shoot in public, people simply assume that I am a tourist or a regular-joe, and don’t notice me at all. However even with my “stealth-mode” 5D, I still do get a good amount of attention from others. Oh yeah, and don’t forget trying shooting from the hip as well.

2. The closer you are (with a wide-angle lens), the better.

1x1.trans 3 Tips How NOT to Look Like a “Creep” when Shooting in the Streets

Note how shooting this close with a wide-angle lens makes you feel as a part of the scene. Not only that, but they didn't notice me at all. I couldn't have gotten the same effect with a zoom lens. Another shot from the hip.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but shooting close to your subjects is a much better way to appear to be less “creepy” than shooting from far away (with a zoom lens). The reason why shooting close is less intimidating is because when you have a wide-angle lens (preferably prime), you can get people in your shot without having the camera pointed directly at them. This means if I am shooting with my 24mm, I can literally take photos of people’s faces from around two feet away, while having my camera pointed at something else. This way, people will not notice me as much.

When you shoot with a telephoto lens from a far distance, there are greater chances that you will look like a “creep” by others. This is because if you get caught when shooting others from a distance and having a lens pointed right at them, it will feel uncomfortable for many. Although I do not completely discount the merits of shooting street photography with a zoom lens (Tom Kaszuba and Thomas Leuthard take amazing candid street portraits), you should try shooting with a wide-angle lens first. Once you become a seasoned street photographer will not be phased by the reaction of others, then perhaps you should start experimenting with a zoom lens.

3. The more casual you look, the better.

1x1.trans 3 Tips How NOT to Look Like a “Creep” when Shooting in the Streets

When in London, I saw this guy smoking a cigarette in front of this store. I casually walked up, crouched, and took a shot. The guy didn't notice me, or merely disregarded me.

Ditch the huge camera backpack and opt in for a low-key messenger bag.

Oh yeah, and you most likely won’t want to walk around with a bright-orange jacket either. When you are in the streets, imagine you are in the jungle. You want to camouflage with your environment—so dress accordingly. Try your best to dress like how “everyone else is dressed.” For example if I am taking photos in Hollywood at night, I would don my leather jacket and skinny jeans to fit in with the crowd, instead of opting for shorts and a photographer-vest.

Be cognizant of your surroundings, and blend in. Be a chameleon  of the streets, and get shooting.

Notes:

Gaffers tape:

I have had some questions regarding how to properly “tape up your logos.” Simply I use black gaffers tape, cut out a piece I need with a pair of scissors, and cover up any logos. Currently I have my “Canon” logo on top of my 5D covered, as well as the silver “5D” logo on the side. I even have some friends who tape up the logos on their lenses, but I feel that is a bit over-kill.

1x1.trans 3 Tips How NOT to Look Like a “Creep” when Shooting in the Streets

As you can see in my portrait with my camera, it has the Canon and 5D Logo Taped up with Black Gaffers tape.

You can pick up some gaffers tape here on Amazon. It is a bit expensive for a roll of “tape”, but I have noticed that I can use gaffers tape on practically anything. Imagine a more useful duct tape (without the sticky residue).

Messenger Bag:

1x1.trans 3 Tips How NOT to Look Like a “Creep” when Shooting in the Streets

My favorite bag when on the streets

I really like the Timbuk 2 Commute 2.0 bag, as it is casual yet carries all of my stuff really well. I got mine in potrero (an olive-color) which looks a lot more casual than a black one (looks like a laptop bag). It is a bit pricy, but it is a great investment, as it has a life-long warrantee. I was a bit hesitant to get it at first, but after getting it, I don’t regret it at all. Oh yeah and make sure you get this grippy shoulderpad with it if you decide to get it. It is a bit frustrating that it costs extra to get something that should have came with it, but it is a great add-on. Imho the bag is useless without it. (edit: my bag is a “Medium”, which is the perfect size)

If you want to spend less money, you can always get this one that has great reviews on Amazon (and is white cheap).

So my last question for you guys is how do you NOT look like a “creep” when shooting in public? I would love to hear all of your responses :)

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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/nealbingham Neal Bingham

    I heard this quote which made me laugh: “Creepiness is directly proportional to focal length” :)

    Another tip I would add is Shoot and Scoot – loitering can lead to suspicion, so take your shot quickly and move on.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Thanks for the laugh Neal! :D

    • http://www.taphousephotography.com Jonathan Taphouse

      HAHA!!

  • http://www.lightcapturestudio.net patrick

    getting out and actually shooting is the best way to start. I couln’t even pull the camera to my eye on my first few outtings. It takes a bit to build the confidence. Overtime, you will find whatever rhythm and style suits you best.

    It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it confidently. I’m sure it would be fun to try to shoot 8×10 LF street sometime. different approach, but same mindset would be involved.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Great tips Pat!

  • http://tinyurl.com/divyasomfotos Divyasom

    I just say to myself that “I am not shooting people in the streets, I am shooting the various emotions that they are exhibiting” and then I wear a smile and go shooting. When in streets feel like you are on a human safari :-) not with a telephoto, but with a wide angle lens.

    Thanks Eric for another beautifully written article.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      I like your bit on the “human safari” ;)

  • http://pointshootpopular.blogspot.com Samiah

    i love your “in the jungle” analogy.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Oh fashos :D

  • http://www.noise-to-signal.com/ David Adam Edelstein

    I’m going to disagree a bit with Neal, at least in terminology, although I think we mean the same thing — although I agree that hanging around in one place will sometimes cause suspicion, I don’t think “scooting” is the right mental model. Shoot and saunter, maybe? You don’t want to give the impression that you’re running away. As Eric suggested, you want to constantly convey that what you’re doing is completely normal and OK.

    The other part of that is that in a very dense street, with a lot of movement, most people aren’t around long enough to notice that you’re loitering. There are also places where loitering is perfectly normal. I’ll park myself at a downtown bus stop for 20 minutes and just stroll back and forth, working.

    One of my favorite techniques for avoiding looking like a creep is misdirection. Humans are very good at understanding where another human is looking; they’re not so good with camera lenses, especially wide angle ones. So I’ll often look at a window, or a building detail, while I’m waiting for something to come together; then when I have the camera to my face, I can compose freely. When I take the camera away from my face, I’m “still” looking at the building detail. It sounds clumsy but after a lot of practice it’s pretty natural.

    Also: beware the obsession with camoflaging your camera. I am so deep into the obsession that I have a drawerful of black t-shirts, because my camera is less noticeable against them. Look on my obsession, ye mighty, and despair :-)

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Perhaps you should start wearing neon green shirts in public David. Thanks for the great thoughts!

    • http://www.gnownad.com Dan

      Haha, I used to do a bit of close up magic, and after a while of shooting on the street, I picked up a few misdirection techniques just like yours! It also helps you to anticipate things happening- by pointing your camera at a wall and motioning for people to just carry on walking past, looking away while you release the shutter! I would fully recommend looking at a window or wall right by a human subject- it’s often the only way I’ve been able to do some of my street stuff after a day of travelling with my large 24-70 and no smaller lens to change to!

      I’ve never felt any need to go camo with my Nikon though, my camera is always au naturel!

  • http://www.noise-to-signal.com/ David Adam Edelstein

    I knew there was something else I wanted to mention. Wrist straps are your friend. A typically camera strap is big, colorful, and is kind of like waving a flag around saying HEY LOOKIT ME. Especially if it lists the model of your camera on it.

    I myself favor the inexpensive, strong ones you can get here: http://www.gordyscamerastraps.com/. (I have no financial connection to Gordy; just a fan of a great tool).

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Sweet David! I’ll look into those straps :)

  • http://jab.shutterchance.com/ jabber

    Hey Eric,

    What’s your stance on lens hoods?

    I’ve also been wondering what your default settings are when you’re just roaming for spontaneous shots; e.g., are you at f/8 and in Aperture mode?

    Cheers

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Hi Jabber,

      I love lens hoods. They are a cheap insurance for your lens (in-case you drop your camera).

      Also when I am shooting in public, it varies depending on the weather. If it is bright and sunny outside, I always use f/16, ISO 400, and 320ths of a second. If the weather is mixed or I am just lazy, I use ISO 400 or 800 and just shoot in “P” mode ;)

  • Nick

    The easiest way for people to either take no notice or to not care that I’ve found is to use a Diana f+ camera. Either people don’t notice or they disregard you as a threat when you point a cheap piece of plastic towards them. The clicking of the film advance nob gets some smiles too. :)

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      I need to get one :)

  • http://www.suetofu.com Sue

    I’ve always wondered, how do you get clear, in-focus pictures when you shoot from the hip (like the 2nd photo in your entry ^up there)? Most of the time my subjects are out of focus, as the camera AF’ed on the background instead.

  • http://www.jorgeq.com Jorge Quinteros

    All absolutely great tips, specifically the part where you mention about how the size of your camera can determine whether people can perceive you as a creep or not. For street photographs, I personally enjoy shooting with the Canon Powershot G11 because of the swivel screen which makes it not as obvious that you’re taking photographs.

  • Cynthia

    I have a trick for when you “get caught”.
    It’s kind of dumb, but have saved me so many times, hehe… Well, you point the camera to the people and, if they see you, put down the camera a little bit, look to anywhere over their heads or to their backs and then point the camera again. Pretend you’re not interested about them at all (blasè face?). Look at them JUST through the lens! They’ll think you’re shooting something else – maybe will even search what is so interesting for you, hehe.

    After take the picture you want, give shoulders and move away like nothing have ever happend… ;)

  • http://www.ericmalette.ca Eric wook

    I usually put on my Wookie costume with a boltcaster slung over one shoulder, so as to not appear as if I may remove limbs from my subject. Most people get a kick out of me, particularly when I’m using a 70-200 at close proximity. They mostly just pay attention to y mad Kashyyk jabbering and scuttle out of the way if they notice me. Here’s a comp of some shooting I did whilst looking the Wookie part: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alendrathril/3317775069/sizes/o/in/photostream/

    _E

  • http://www.StyleQuotient.ca Melo

    I couldn’t disagree more with most of this post. I am a seasoned professional Street Style photographer. I got my start 10 years ago as a location scout for feature films. The approach to street photography today is the same as my approach back then in the film world.

    1. Ask permission.
    2. Approach at the right moment, with a professional business card in hand; politely with a friendly ‘hello’.
    3. Take a moment to get to know them, make conversation, build rapport and trust. If you do this, and make them comfortable, the better your photos will be. Believe me, it only takes a minute or two.
    4. Dress well and be presentable. That means fresh breath, and preferably clean clothes.
    5. Be respectful of their personal space and time.

    For me, my full frame DSLR is a conversation starter, regardless of the lens I have on it. You could point a camera phone at a stranger and still be creepy. Size means nothing unless you’re 10feet away with a 300mm cannon.

    I’ve shot more than 1000 people on the street in the past year and with the exception of a few rude “No’s” from people… I haven’t had a single ‘creepy’ moment.

    Instead I’ve met and chatted with hundreds of great people and shot hundreds of great portraits of people from all walks of life, young and old, shy and outgoing.

    – See for yourself… http://www.StyleQuotient.ca

    Happy shooting.

    - Melo

    • http://thetenssf.tumblr.com TheTens

      Your shots aren’t what he’s talking about at all though. You are doing portraits/fashion and he’s shooting candids. You can’t get candids if you are going up to ask questions/talk to the person.
      I’ve done both and mostly everyone says yes when I have asked for a portrait.

      • http://twitter.com/StyleQuotient Melo

        I have to disagree again. You can get candids when asking permission. After I approach someone in a cool moment (smoking, waiting for the bus, whatever) I ask them to go back to what they were doing and forget I’m there. I fiddle with my camera for a bit to disarm them then shoot quickly. Often the first image is the keeper.

        Can you tell if this was ‘candid’ or not: http://www.stylequotient.ca/2009/07/16/no-0029/

        It’s opinion, but I find most of this fly by shooting or ‘from the hip’ style shots rarely compose a good photo.

        YES, you can capture unique moments candidly, but try asking, and you’ll shoot in a more comfortable fashion.

        Cheers,

        Paul

  • Random editor

    “White cheap” on the last line.

  • Miguel

    I shoot in the streets with a 5DmkII and 70-200 f/2.8. I am able to do so by bringing my wife and daughter along, and pointing the camera mostly at them. For those times that I shoot something else, people are already used to me being in the area and think I’m just a proud daddy or husband taking snapshots of my family.

    The beauty of having a long lens, at least for me, is being able to capture emotions from afar. The people nearby do notice me and might veer away, but they aren’t the ones I’m taking photographs of anyway. The subjects I pick are usually too far to even notice me. :)

    I always make it a point to smile and nod at the people who notice me. I guess that makes them a bit more comfortable with me around.

    http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs625.snc4/58586_1586135702494_1508821787_31480623_7819451_n.jpg

    And yes, I truly am a proud daddy:
    http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs715.snc4/63526_1586134022452_1508821787_31480610_5711923_n.jpg

  • http://pixeldepthpro.com Joshtacular

    Very good read. I actually am lacking a lot of street photography in my portfolio yet it is my favorite to look at. I’ll keep working on it!

  • http://www.citysnaps.net/blog/ Brad

    I take the opposite approach…

    Shooting a lot of street photography and street portraits and I’ve found that camera size makes no difference. It’s about the attitude you project and your behavior. When on the street I act like belong there and shoot with confidence. A friend of mine said he likes shooting with a big camera because it lets people know he’s on duty. I like that…

    Sneaking around, doing hip shots, being clever looking away while shooting, etc invites suspicion which many times causes trouble. And usually results in weak photos. Blending in by shooting in plain site works best. Have never had a problem. If someone asks what I’m doing I just say “Documenting my city.” I just use a 5DII (no tape) and a 35mm f/2. People respect being direct.

  • Cro

    I live near San Francisco. There are TONS of tourists. I say look like a tourist, dress like one and take TONS of pics and be conspicuous. Around town no one looks twice at someone taking random shots, there’s just too many tourists to even pay attention to. I’ve gotten some great shots looking like I was taking pics of architecture or just random street shots. I have a Canon 30D, nothing taped up, an 18-55mm lens and my rig blends right in to the tourist crowd. In fact sometimes tourists will come up beside me and take shots of the street after they see me taking them, their lenses dwarf mine. I get lens envy sometimes.
    All that aside, I’ve never had issues. I’m sure shooting somewhere else with less tourists is different. Location dictates behavior I’d say.. blend in. I usually am up front about what I do in every situation however. Saying you’re a photography student goes a long way too (especially if police ask), and in a sense we all are so that’s the truth as well.

  • http://michaeldepaula.com Michael

    I’m still unclear on how using gaffers tape helps you remain inconspicuous. The camera doesn’t change shape or size because you cover the brand and model names.

    I do think it makes the camera look nice in some settings (kudos to the commenter for pointing out the conspicuous Canon straps which have more of an eye-catching effect), but generally, hiding the name would only attract the curious pro/am who wants to confirm what s/he, in fact, thinks it is you’re using.

    One last thing: I find my 7-D with a 10-22mm keeps me far enough away to not spoil the moment while still getting me close enough, thanks to the crop-sensor. ;)

  • http://www.paulfreeney.com Paul Freeney

    Thanks for a great article and some good advice too. May I add a technique that has helped me? When you have found the perfect static subject (see link below) and need to stand right in front of them to get your shot, you will need something else to do to show your are not taking pictures, allegedly. I pretend I am waiting for a friend, I stand with the camera around my neck, resting on my chest, my right hand is holding the camera steady with a finger on the shutter. Now the clever bit, I position my left arm over it, wristwatch exposed. This gives me the opportunity to look down at my watch (camera) to gauge where exactly it is pointing, then looking up again if the subject is doing what I want I will shoot followed by looking left and right to see where my imagined friend is. This gives me the opportunity to look again at my watch (camera) again and the process can be repeated ad infinitum. As long as you make it ‘obvious’ that you are waiting on somebody you can stay there as long as you want ‘blending in. I hope this is helpful to your readers.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebfotos/3364248902/in/set-72157608097561991/

  • http://www.alltageinesfotoproduzenten.de/ R. Kneschke

    Sorry, but taking pictures of people (and especially publishing them without them knowing) does not just feel right, but also violates their right of privacy.

    • E.A.B.

      >>>Sorry, but taking pictures of people (and especially publishing them without them knowing) does not just feel right, but also violates their right of privacy.<<<

      You may feel bad about it. You may even prefer not to do it yourself but if this were law, and it's not, it would be very bad for society and would have deprived the world of many of history's most iconic images. Photographers have a right, and a responsibility to shoot what they see. In the US, the law is that public spaces and people in those spaces do not have a 'reasonable expectation of privacy'. (read this as a starting point: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm )

      When photographers can't and don't shoot people out in public spaces and surveillance cameras do, you have the makings of a police state that would shock even Orwell.

      The only time to 'hip shoot' or 'shoot n' scoot' is if you have reason to fear for your safety. The more you shoot, the more different people and things you shoot, the more you will blend into the background. People creep out if they think you're there to shoot *them*. If you're visibly there to shoot the place and the people in it, people seem to intuitively get it. If they express concern, showing them the range of images you're shooting almost always completely re-assures them. A smile and how you physically carry yourself can be a non-verbal 'asking for permission'.

      Usually, your safety is under the greatest threat from rent-a-cops not real cops or average people.

      Have a small portfolio with you, a business card and a professional attitude. Trying to look cool with blacked out logos, a messenger bag and stealthy behavior just perpetuates the problem. Whether pro or amateur, you're there to do a job. Do it.

      That said, logo camera straps 'photo bags' and the like don't do you any favors. (they also tend to be bad straps and bad bags). Just bring only the gear you need, be unobtrusive in your behavior, affable when asked what your doing and firm and professional in guarding your right and responsibility to do it. In other words, the best way not to look like a creep is not to be a creep.

      • writerman242

        Good response. Today i was shooting cars, sort of practising blurred backgrounds you know the thing. One car actually turned back to ask me why i was taking pictures of his car. Tough guy, big arms tatoos the works! I just told him i was playing with my new lens (truth) and trying to get blurry backgrounds like you see in race car photos. He was very impressed and almost thanked me for taking HIS crappy old car LOL

  • JG

    Wireless remote. No hands on camera.
    Except when presetting zoom.
    e.g., http://tinyurl.com/2dszdcr
    (a few are not candids)
    The beauty of digital is being
    able to quick check & adjust.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/exi87/ Jaap Barnhoorn

    - “In other words, the best way not to look like a creep is not to be a creep.”
    I completely agree with this.
    It doesn’t really matter what gear you use and just act normal and relaxed.
    Those “spy-ish techniques and tricks” are so wrong in my opinion.
    I always wonder what you would say when caught photographing that way. You really have to have a good excuse ready to talk yourself out of that one.

    Just shoot and you’ll notice when people don’t like it when you’re pointing a camera at them. If they notice you, smile and move on (with their photo already taken anyway ;) ).
    I do like to shoot from the hip sometimes as those photo’s are pretty special in their own way; angle, the technique behind it etc.

    • writerman242

      exactly I shoot with a d300s, battery grip and a HOODED 24-70 and people just seem to know what I’m up to. Smiling and acting “normal” is best I think. Worked so far. People often stop to chat and I’m in a not so big city that the streets are so crowded you can hide. I’m not a creep and people just seem to dig that. Mind you I do shoot creeps from time to time haha

  • Damon

    I studied with the great street photographer Garry Winogrand and observed him working the streets of Austin in the 1970′s. He would wade into a crowd of people walking toward him, snapping away with his Leica loaded with Tri-X. Most never knew they had been photographed. He never looked through the viewfinder, instead holding the camera in front of his mouth, or neck or chest. He knew his camera and film so well, that he set the focus and exposure manually. He was bold, fearless, and never smiled or talked while working and never asked for permission. He did not want his presence to affect or modify the reality before him. He observed the ever changing patterns of people and captured slices of time for us to enjoy.
    I agree with him that by asking permission and allowing your subjects to pose, you are taking fake pictures. Yes it’s safer, but not as interesting as the unguarded moment.

    • http://twitter.com/foolmesoftly frrrrrank

      That’s cool you hung with him.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/exi87/ Jaap Barnhoorn

    Knowing your gear is indeed a must with this kind of photography.
    Not having to second guess if your camera is set up well gives you more confidence and allows you to take your shot quickly which is key in capturing the moment (without disturbing the scene and being noticed).

  • http://www.caparkinson.com Christian Parkinson

    I’m a TV Cameraman and am always trying to get natural shots in the streets all over the world. I have a “full-size” DVCAM Camera with a big zoom lens. I find it’s best to hide in the open – i.e hang around with the camera on show, let people see what you are doing and be honest if people ask you. As i now live and work in Africa and cover my share of conflicts etc sometimes the atmosphere can be bad – in that case I shoot a lot from the floor and act like I’m fixing my camera or fiddling with something else. people think that if the camera is not on your shoulder then you are not filming. . . i also do the old trick of finding a shot I like, locking it off and then pretending to talk to someone else. . . Hope that helps.

    • writerman242

      Hope you won’t think this is BS but i admire what people like you do. Recording the sgories we all need to hear and see. Hope you stay safe.

      • http://www.caparkinson.com Christian Parkinson

        Hi mate, thanks for that. Much appreciated.

  • http://stylepeterson.com StylePeterson

    I have to agree with E.A.B. You can’t be stealthy or covert in your approach to street photography. That will not put people at ease. They will know you are being sneaky about something, and will give you that “deer in the headlights” look when you point a camera at them.

    Shoot confidently, and be relaxed. Don’t hide your camera. Have a calm, confident demeanor and shoot without hesitation or fear. Here in New York City its also important to be dressed in a way that puts others at ease. I wear pressed khaki’s, a starched white shirt, and a panama hat when I shoot. Its a bit fashionable, but that’s what puts people at ease in NYC. They assume you shoot for some magazine and will behave very naturally around you. I don’t hide my camera and I shoot like I own the street. I get very natural facial expressions in my photos as a result.

    I wrote and article on how to do street photography in New York City that some here may enjoy reading: http://bit.ly/bLhnOy

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/exi87/ Jaap Barnhoorn

      Nice article StylePeterson and I agree with your points.
      Here in Holland people aren’t afraid of cameras either (or so it seems) and your points are very applicable here as well.

    • Dnguyen

      This is the best advice.

  • http://www.jonsachs.com Jonathan Sachs

    I appreciate not only the intelligent discussion but also the respectful way people disagree here. I am also not comfortable taking photos of people without them knowing, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. I agree that going up to people and asking feels better, but it also ruins the original candid moment. There is no easy answer here.

  • Pingback: Getting past that Creepy Old Guy feeling

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/flip_fantasia Aristarkhos

    Thanks for the tips. The most difficult is to stop making myself feel like a creep. hehehe. automatically become shifty and fidgety. anyway I dont think the Nikon P5100 is meant for street photography. terribly slow focus.

  • http://www.andrew-miller.co.uk Andrew Miller

    A great article but I would say this as a warning to all that cammo and black tape….

    In the UK the Police still regularly stop pro and semi pro photographers for taking images in places that are considered a terrorist targets. (Actually, anything is consider a target by most Police as they just don’t trust photographers at all).

    Hiding your kit like this will just make them even more suspicious of what you are doing and lead to even more long discussions about the powers they have, the rights you have etc.

    Take your images by all means; but be careful of what, who and where you do it!

    Andrew

    p.s. Taking photos on any railway station or tube (metro) in the UK is not allowed unless you have permission by the way…

    • writerman242

      yes i agree. There are so many interesting and safer options for streeet photography. there is no need to be even near places you think “might’ raise suspician. I suspect some people go ut of their way to prove the point that they should be allowed to be whereever the hell they want to be in a free world. I think they are right to a point. Tricky area isn’t it?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=540245975 Ed Walker

      I shoot in London Bridge Station and many many tube stations and I’ve never had a problem.

      • Hannah Sophie

        My classmate once took a picture of a sign inside the tube station and the person working there came down and told us that usually they would have to delete the image or even confiscate the whole roll of film, but they were kind and let us off. :)

  • http://www.fstop57.com Alex

    This is a tricky area of photography for many to get started in, but at the same time very rewarding so it is worth taking the ‘risks’ to get started. My tip for those noew to candid street shooting would be to start, if possible, in touristy areas where many people are carrying cameras. This means you don’t stand out as the photographer and can practice your skills while gaining confidence.

    Alex

  • http://www.richardheathphotography.com Rick

    Erik, I am not sure I truly understand the value of tapping up the camera logo. Does it really make the camera less visible?

    Rick H.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Hey Rick,

      I would say that the difference of taping up your logos is the difference between people perceiving you to be a professional camera, and with you having a “generic” amateur camera. I can’t say 100% the efficacy of this, but it works for me :)

      • http://www.noise-to-signal.com/ David Adam Edelstein

        I would say that it’s not so much that it makes the camera by itself less visible, but that it’s part of the whole package of being visually as “neutral” as possible. Bright white logos (or red dots) pop into the foreground of people’s vision.

      • writerman242

        so Eric being “amateur” in appearance is better yu think? Not being funny. It’s a serous queistion although it sounds sarcastic doen’t it hahaha. Just wondering your views

        • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

          Being an “amateur” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means doing something for the love of it–a beautiful thing.

  • Chosunking

    I usually use my (now dead) Sigma 80-400mm lens on may Canon 350d with a lot of success.
    Over the summer I have taken hundreds of photos of the beach/boardwalk etc and only rarely do I get hassled.
    Mostly people are just curious as to the rather large and heavy lens and ask if I am a new photographer.
    Usually the conversation is pleasant. Oddly enough, because this is summer resort city MANY people take
    photos and or videos but I note that I am the only one people come up to, no doubt because of the Sigma.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Thanks for the feedback Chosunking! :)

  • http://www.dovholt.com Jimmy D

    Act natural and work fast. But don´t hit and run, always be prepared to stay and explain yourself if anyone you shoot seems unconfortable. We don´t want to worry people, right?

    Oh – I also carry some businesscards with me which clearly states that I´m a street photographer. Since I started carried them no one have ever questioned what I do. They may still think I´m a geek, but I can handle that ;)

    http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4133/5071124734_abd4a820a9.jpg

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Business cards are def a great idea! :D

    • writerman242

      I NEVER hit and run. I make a POINT of just being really casual and walk off slowly or even stand in the same spot chedcking hte camera or whatever. This really does lessen people’s suspicion ive found

  • Sarah D

    I am mainly reading all your posts because I am going to be traveling to Colombia in December and I want some tips on how to be incognito. This was all very helpful, but while we are on the subject of bags I’d like to introduce the Cloak camera bag, which hides your camera and lets you shoot with it on. I’m sure it will be a pain in the butt to adjust settings and such but I won’t get mugged and no one can see the camera!

    http://www.cloakbags.com/

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Hmmm–that is a fascinating looking bag. However for street photography, it seems a little like you are trying to be “sneaky”–so I would avoid using it. However might be a great alternative to traveling!

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  • Andre Dumas

    Hi Eric,

    I have a big dslr (Nikon D70) but use it only for buildings and landscapes (city or country) photography. For street and people I use the pocket Canon S90 (it does RAW). I use it “shooting from the hip” but also holding the camera way down at the end of my hand, not the best for framing correctly but I get more good shots that way and I straighten and fix the image with Lr3.
    Now I need a camera the size of the S90 but one that focuses instantly (?)

    André

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Hey Andre,

      The S90 is amazing (so I’ve heard). Makes me want to get one–but got to start saving up some more money!

      As for an instantly focusing camera– you should check out the Ricoh GRiii (I have heard great things about it–but it’s a bit pricy).

      • André Dumas

        Hi Eric,
        Completely forgot about the Ricoh, I had one years ago. So I looked it up and you are right it is an interesting camera and I just saw an interesting comparison of the Canon S90 and the Ricoh GRiii on Amazon.com by someone who had a S90 and bought the GRiii. What a coincidence! It says that the Ricoh can be programmed to lock-in a preset distance/focus (?) not sure how that works, do you?

        • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

          Hey Andre,

          You can set the Ricoh to certain prefocused distances–and I hear it works really well!

  • Jessie

    I skimmed through most of the comments but I don’t think anyone has mentioned this tip….

    I’m a huge fan of turning off all sounds on my camera. Having your camera beep while you adjust settings will definitely attract attention. At the same time, no one has ever come up to me and asked what I was doing or why I took their picture. I find that most people either don’t notice or of they do, don’t seem to mind having their picture taken.

    Thanks for the great tips everyone! :)

    • writerman242

      Tanks for the reminder Jessie I”ve been meaning to turn off the beeping! Mind you I am kind of comforted by hearing it you know what i mean? Still i think it’s a good idea to have it off at leas on my street photog days (which lately is just about every day)

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/exi87 Jaap Barnhoorn

      Good point Jessie. I always use the “Quiet Mode” on my D5000 and outdoors in the city it’s practically silent. Not having those “professional” sounds coming from your camera really helps! :)

  • http://www.bobsoltys.com Bob Soltys

    One small camera and wide angle lens; know your equipment; be confident not apprehensive; have your camera prefocused and with proper exposure set.

    In larger cities like Paris and LA it is easier to blend in … during four week-plus trips to Paris over the last four years, only two people asked why I photographed them. Told them I was working on a project about Paris.

    Having a business card with your website and one of your defining images adds legitimacy to your presence … especially when you’re on foot and aren’t carrying a small book of your work – like a photographer here says she keeps in her bag when photographing old buildings.

    And as Gunter Osterloh of the Leica Akademie told us at the last English language course on the M6TTL, Gut licht!

  • http://www.urbanbonvivant.com Akame

    I usually ask first, and tell them that I’m a photography student. Which is actually true. Honestly though, it’s hard for me to look threatening, I’m a petite woman, and I have braces so people think I’m a kid most of the time.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/altcomix/sets/72157605947580408/ Andy Frazer

    I feel that any suggestion I make here, makes me sound even creepier :-).

    But here’s my best suggestion.

    Shoot in late afternoon with the sun to your back. The people you’ll be photographing will not only be lit up in beautiful, golden afternoon light, but they’ll also be looking in the sun. And you (and especially your camera) will be hidden in shadow.

  • Jeff

    I live in New York City. There’s already enough oddballs and crazies here, how creepy am compared to a grown man wearing naught but a cowboy hat, boots, and tighty whities? Also, there are a lot of tourists in Manhattan.

  • http://aamerkhan.tumblr.com Aamer Khan

    i totally agree that the closer you are the less of a creep you seem. in fact, ppl think you are shooting something behind them

  • http://www.benwilhelmi.com ben wilhelmi

    vintage cameras do wonder, like a Rolleiflex or Leica II for instance. People are puzzled, nostalgic, smile and are usually more friendly. Not to mention the personal feat to step in Doisneau or HCB’s shoes!

    also, anticipate your composure and wait for your coming subject to fit in and you’ve got a natural expression.

    people can spot you and then check on your eyes directions, so watch behind or beside them while bringing a wide lens to your eye. That’s one tip I really use a lot here in Africa where people are extremely touchy about their picture taken, whether for profit or religious beliefs ( stolen soul etc).

    when I was young I indeed fell briefly for a big lens but soon I came back to 50mm max, but mostly wide lenses indeed are best.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevincorredor/sets/ kevin corredor

    la verdad agradezco por estos artículos están muy interesantes y didáctico, pues estoy comenzando en el mundo de la fotografía y donde vivo a veces no resulta muy seguro o conveniente cargar todo el tiempo la cámara por cuestiones de seguridad, pero ya llevo un buen rato leyendo todos los artículos y completamente decidido ahora salir con cámara en mano mañana, gracias por los pequeños, pero grandes consejos

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Donohoe/100000308877053 Paul Donohoe

    Hey Eric thanks for this article. I am not sure I agree with the “smaller the better” camera thing. Surely it could be argued that someone with a little camera is possible more likely to be a creep..say people who use their phone cameras for example. On the same point, I do a lot of my work with my nikon d300s with battery grip and my 70-200 lens (AKA as my baby!) and i have had the OPPOSITE reaction. People relax because they think I am a professional (which I am in a manner of speaking anyway). On the point of photographing kids with the long lens, I have had on the whole good reactions. One lot of parents asked me if I could send them copies after i photographed their two kids without asking. Another father THANKED me for photographing his little girl and i hadn’t asked first. I suppoe it does depend a lot on where you are doing SP, maybe I just get lucky…so far!!!! thanks for the great stuff you put on here Eric

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W4QM3AVGJ54OMG23NXTBJZGBKQ Greg

    I carry a close-to-worn out green el cheapo Quantaray bag I bought at Ritz. It carries a D7000, 24 & 5omm and a Canon G11 plus cards, batts, glasses, lens cleaner-tissue etc. About the size of a loaf of Wonder bread. Winogrand used to carry his Leicas in a beat up old Polaroid case. Inconspicuous rules!

  • http://twitter.com/awursterphotos andrew wurster

    Nice set of tips. Thanks

  • http://izzypeng.tumblr.com/ Yiwei Peng

    These tips really help.
    I should also try to mute the sound of shutter!

  • Cameron Ehmig

    I use a messenger bag for my camera bag (specifically the Lowepro Exchange Messenger). It looks more like I am going to school, or something of the sort. My camera is small, but I don’t think that is the solution. You could bring a Nikon F4 and still not be completely obvious. It is up to the photographer how they “hide” their camera gear. Luckily for me, I am a younger photographer, so the people do not assume me to be a creep, or using the photos for ill reasons, and think of me more as a photography student. Also, I recommend finding a crowd (small or large) and blending in. This way, you can still get your shots, but less suspiciously. I agree with using a wide angle lens, because that way you’re not stalking the person with your gobs of glass in front of your eye. I also say that you should be minimalistic. Bring a 35mm and a 50mm, or even just a 50. Do not bring every possible lens you have, because people will look at you quite odd, and be intimidated. Also, drop the photographer vest and the flash, and even that creepy baseball hat. You are blending in. This is not a photo shoot. It is your world, and you want to capture it the way you see it: without people looking at you and laughing, or worse, looking scared.

  • Oak Park Dave

    For parades and other big, public events there is a totally different approach that works pretty well. Take the pro schtick to the max. Cargo pants/shorts. Photog vest. Big camera with big lens. Some folks do a lanyard with a “Whatever Name You Want” Press/Media card printed in 80 pt type. I draw the line at the backwards baseball cap because I look ridiculous in one, but some guys can pull it off. When you look like a pro you’ll get asked who “you’re with” a lot, but it does seems to relax people. So let’s say it’s St. Patty’s day and your little ones have shamrocks painted on their cheeks. They look absolutely adorable at the parade. Who would you rather have take their picture? Some random dude with a point and shoot or a “member” of the press? Just sayin’ . . .

    I was out of town shooting with my big camera and big lens recently and was approached by a guy who asked me if I was interested in a party photog gig. Couldn’t take it because I wasn’t local, but I doubt that he would have even thought of asking me had I been shooting with the s95 at the time.

  • FotoStefan

    Why do you tape up your logos?

    • Matteo Pini

      mavaacagare

  • bobinsc

    Try attending social events… political rallies, biker rallies, parades, festivals. Most people are letting down their guard and cameras are not unexpected… on occasion break out the medium format or large format camera as a prop. The most interesting people will flock to you like moths to a flame.

  • Frank Canon

    Creepy guys always taking photos of girls in the street. Get a life loser!

  • Chegge

    I use Iphone a lot for street photography,just because its the greatest disguise there is :)
    I can fire off the camera using my earphones so people think Im raising the volume of the iphone.
    I can get really close like this witthout being noticed :).
    One example..
    http://instagram.com/p/Mqo6CSvQOX/

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  • Shannon

    Good suggestions, I’m definitely trying to get more confident with street photography. But I am at a disadvantage in that I always catch people looking at me. I have no idea why, I’m average looking in every way and dress like everyone else, the only reason I can think of is that not many 18 year-olds work in the city. So by the time I see someone that would make a good subject they’re already looking at me and I feel I can’t just take a picture of them right there. I will keep at it though. Maybe I’m just paranoid lol.

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  • http://www.muslinbackdrops.com Imr

    Wonderful. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • David

    This whole post and general attitude prevalent in ‘street photography’ is a bit creepy really. It’s ok to take photos of people you don’t know as long as they either don’t notice you? A bit like a flasher saying nothing wrong with getting your junk out in a park just as long as nobody sees you doing it. It’s still a weird thing to be doing.

    I’m not talking about general street/tourist photography where people unavoidably are in shot, specifically the street ‘portrait’ photography where somebody is going about minding their own business and deliberately being made the clearly identifiable subject of a photo without their prior knowledge, or being informed after.

    I would guess most people don’t want unsolicited photos of them appearing on the internet without their knowledge, just a hunch. The reason sometimes it looks like people have noticed but don’t do anything is generally people will do anything to avoid a confrontation. The same as if somebody inadvertently blows cigarette smoke in someone elses face when walking down the street, most of the time it’s not going to cause a confrontation but still…

    The only way to do this without being creepy, if you must take a photo of them ‘without them noticing’ or without being made aware prior, is to then immediately go and show the person afterwards the photo and offer to email a nice copy to them to keep/print. With every person you are taking a photo of. That way you are being responsible and it gives them the chance to refuse you using it. It could actually be a positive thing for everybody involved then and you as the photographer are ethically covered 100%.

    If you aren’t prepared to do that, think it is a hassle, or haven’t got the balls to approach people, then maybe you should find a less stalkerish branch of photography. I’ve observed a few so called street photographers at work, snatching photos of people or hiding behind trees taking pictures of people talking and so on, then sneaking off. It is pretty obvious they are getting a thrill from the furtive/spying aspects of the hobby. It is bordering on being a peeping tom.

    For what it’s worth I find Street Photography has it’s merits for documenting life etc and understand that you usually aren’t doing “anything illegal” but maybe think about whether you are abusing that freedom and the trust of the public you are photographing.

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