Black headless man with beer. Kyoto, 2017
Black headless man with beer. Kyoto, 2017

To promote the new version of STREET NOTES KINDLE EDITION, let me give you some practical tips on how to conquer fear in street photography.

1. Linger

The first tip: if you see someone you want to photograph, DON’T just take 1 picture and run away. Rather, stop, click, and LINGER around– and when you sense that your subject thinks you’re taking a photo of them, keep clicking.

For example, I saw this man outside a restaurant in Kyoto. This is how I shot it:

  1. I first took a photo as I was approaching him.
  2. I took a few photos.
  3. I lingered around, and started to change my composition and kept clicking.
  4. I shot some photos with flash and without flash.
  5. I kept clicking, until he noticed me, and walked off.

Lesson: Don’t just take 1 photo and run away. Rather, take the first photo as a gut-reaction. Then hold your ground, and keep clicking. Then your subject will learn to ignore you.

2. Using a flash at night

Part 2 of the linger technique– this time using a flash at night.

I saw this man, and I saw the sign on the right side. I wanted to make a juxtaposition (contrasting the two elements) — of the old man, and the sign of the family.

Anyways, I shot it on RICOH GR II in ‘P’ (PROGRAM) mode, with the integrated pop-up flash. Here is the first image:

BEFORE I took the photo, he noticed me, and looked up. Therefore, I was a bit slow in photographing him.

Anyways, after I took the photo, I shot a few more with flash — him still looking at me. Then, I kept clicking, and LINGERING about. He then turned away from me– simply ignored me, and continued on his business.

Lesson: Pretend like you’re a tourist at night, using a flash. Hold your ground. If you keep shooting pictures with a flash, and pretend like you’re shooting something else, people will ignore you, and ‘carry on’ doing what they were doing before you started to photograph them.

3. Hold your camera up really high, and shoot looking down

This is a good technique– because people won’t assume you’re photographing them. They think you’re just photographing the ground around them.

This technique works well if you shoot with a phone, or a camera with an LCD screen.

4. Shoot from behind

Generally, street pictures from the back are boring– unless you are finding some interesting graphical elements.

Lesson: If you’re afraid of shooting street photography, start off shooting from the back, and start to move towards shooting more from the side, then eventually, head-on.

5. Pretend to be shooting buildings behind people

Black headless man with beer. Kyoto, 2017
Black headless man with beer. Kyoto, 2017

This technique works well if you’re shooting with a wide-angle lens in street photography (let’s say a 28mm lens).

For the picture above, I was crossing the street, and I got very close to him, held the camera at a low angle, and photographed with a flash– and afterwards pretended like I shot something BEHIND him — like the buildings.

The good thing shooting with a flash, especially during the day — it actually makes you seem LESS suspicious. Why? Because only tourists shoot with flash during the day.

Lesson: Avoid eye contact, or pretend to be shooting things behind people in street photography to avoid confrontation.

6. Shoot in bright light (sunset, or golden hour)

When the light is bright during sunset or golden hour– shoot head-on. People will be so blinded by the light, they won’t notice you.

7. Crouch down very low

Another practical technique; shoot from a very low-angle, looking up. Why? You look very small, and less threatening in street photography– and people also assume you’re photographing something behind them.

8. Don’t think about composition when you’re shooting street photography

Street photography can be pretty fucking scary. Often, when I feel too nervous or think too much when shooting street photography– especially about composition, I just end up shooting less. Why? I hesitate too much.

The more you think about composition while shooting street photography, the more you will hesitate.

Therefore, when you’re out shooting– and if you feel fear or hesitation in street photography, my suggestion:

DISREGARD COMPOSITION WHEN YOU’RE SHOOTING STREET PHOTOGRAPHY.

Honestly, at the end of the day– capturing emotion, soul, and ‘edginess’ and dynamism in life is more interesting than nice compositions in street photography. Try to focus on making nice compositions when shooting static objects, or buildings. In street photography, just follow your gut.

Which means, when you see a good moment, don’t think — JUST SHOOT IT!

9. Shoot large groups of people

The nice thing about taking street photos of strangers in big groups– all of them will assume you are shooting someone else.

Technique 1: Pretend like you’re shooting someone else in the group

This is good, because people only get upset in street photography when they think you’re shooting them.

However, if you photograph a group– it DEPERSONALIZES the act of photographing. Therefore, they simply assume you photographed someone else in the group.

So try this out– shoot head-on of groups.

Technique 2: Shoot large groups, close-up, while moving

Also another off-shoot; shoot head-on groups of people, while walking. Make sure to keep your ISO high (when I shoot color, I use ISO 800, for black and white, I use ISO 1600) to have a fast shutter speed– to avoid motion blur.

For example, here is a series of photographs I shot of a group of men in Uji, Kyoto, with a 28mm lens on the RICOH GR II:

10. Shoot in shopping areas

Another good tip; I often feel less nervous of self-conscious when shooting street photography in crowded shopping areas.

The tip: shoot TOWARDS the storefronts. This will mean people will assume you’re photographing the mannequins or the store-fronts. Not them.

Not only that, the benefit of shooting in crowded shopping areas– there are more people, and often more tourists. So once again, people will assume you are a tourist.

The good thing about being a tourist– nobody can yell at you or get angry at you for taking a picture. Why? Because that is what tourists do — take pictures!

I once had an incident when someone yelled at me for taking his picture. He then asked me, ‘WHY DID YOU TAKE MY PICTURE?’ I then responded, ‘I’m a tourist just taking pictures.’ He then realized the valid logic of my statement– still huffed and puffed, but then went away.

Lesson: If someone yells at you for shooting their picture, the best response is to say: “Sorry, people ignore me. I’m just a tourist taking pictures.”

11. Remind yourself: “I’m not doing anything wrong.”

The biggest stumbling block we have in our street photography is having the GUILT that somehow we are doing something ‘wrong.’

No, there is nothing morally or ethically wrong in street photography. So if you can retrain your brain to remind yourself,

I’m not doing anything bad in street photography — I’m making art. I’m recording human interactions and human life– for posterity, for the future generations of humanity. I’m a humanist historian, with a camera as my research tool. I’m doing a GOOD thing.

And the question you also gotta ask yourself:

Do I like having my own picture taken?

If you don’t like having your picture taken, you’re going to assume everyone else doesn’t like having their picture taken — which is false. I like to have my picture taken, and that is why I don’t feel bad or guilty taking the pictures of others.

Honor thy selfie by ANNETTE KIM
Honor thy selfie by ANNETTE KIM

Lesson: If you feel self-conscious of others taking your picture, you’re going to feel guilty photographing others. To conquer this feeling of guilt in your street photography, start to feel more comfortable in your own skin — by letting others photograph you. Start by making self-portraits of yourself, or perhaps just journaling and asking yourself, ‘Why do I not like being photographed?’ Explore yourself, and know yourself– before shooting others.

Cindy picture of ERIC sleeping in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017
Cindy picture of ERIC sleeping in Ryokan. Uji, Kyoto 2017

What are some of your tips in terms of conquering your fears in street photography? Share them in ERIC KIM FORUM.

BE STRONG,
ERIC


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