How to React to (and Defuse) Confrontations in Street Photography
by Eric Kim on October 31, 2011
(In the video above, I share a story of a recent confrontation I had in Toronto (that got physical) and how I defused the situation.)
Edit: In the video I previously mentioned an issue regarding street photography in Vancouver. I actually meant to say Quebec. Read all about the canadian street photography laws here.
Confrontations rarely occur in street photography. As long as you smile and say “thank you” after taking photos of people, 95% of people smile and say “thank you” back or just ignore you.
However 5% of the time, people typically will react in a negative manner. It is usually one of these below (I will add rough estimates in my experience):
Ask what you are doing: 90%
Ask you to delete the photo 9.95%
Lunge at you: .05% (This has happened only once to me by an old man in Paris. This rarely (if ever) happens).
When people confront you and ask you what you are doing, be prepared to make the right answer and react calmly and speak truthfully about what you are doing. Here are some steps I suggest:
Explain what you are doing (don’t hide anything)
Offer to show them the LCD of the photo
Speak calmly and relaxed
Offer to email the person the photo
Decide whether you want to delete the photo or not
If you don’t wish to delete the photo, offer to wait for the cops to come
The worst that will honestly happen to you in terms of confrontations is people either yelling at you or cursing at you. Physical confrontation rarely if ever happens. I have never heard of a story of someone getting punched for taking a photo. If this were to happen, you can always sue that person (and probably could get a ton of money).
Keep in mind that I rarely get confronted when shooting (5%) and I shoot really close and use a flash. If you don’t shoot as close as I do and don’t use a flash (majority of people) negative reactions will happen even far less. Watch the video above to get a more detailed guide on how to react to people who get confrontational in street photography.
The photo (I mentioned in the video) that I took:
Do you have any stories of people confronting you when you are out shooting? If so, share your stories below and tell us how you diffused the situation.