5 Ways How to Deal with Pissed Off People (after taking their photo)

Turn that Frown Upside Down!
"Turn that Frown Upside Down!" – Los Angeles. Click to read more.

A question that I often get from my readers regarding street photography is how I deal with people who are either disgruntled or pissed off after I take their photo. Fortunately enough, I rarely get approached by people after I take their photo. This is due to the fact that I often avoid eye contact with my subjects, and carry myself if I was taking a photo of someone else.

However I still have encountered people who get pissed off after I take their photo. Therefore I came up with some things that I have done which helped me deal with these people. Read more to see tips that you can do when encountering upset or belligerent people.

1. Pretend that you’re a photography student

Jack Laxer
"Jack Laxer" – 3d Photographer in LA

For some reason, students always get off the hook for doing everything. If you take a portrait of a random person and they are upset, simply explain that you are a photography student and that you have to do an assignment of shooting portraits of people in the streets. Most people when they hear this will reply something like, “Oh– okay just wondering.” Students seem harmless.

Feel guilty of lying to people? Well, this is technically a half-lie, as we are all photography students (as we are constantly learning photography everyday).

2. Give them your business card

Moo Phototo Business Cards. Photo Credit

If you haven’t made any business cards for your photography yet, I suggest you do it now. I highly recommend Moo Business cards, as you are able to print your own photos on the back of your cards. If you take a photo of a person and they are upset, offer to email them the photo. Interestingly enough, people like having photos of themselves (think about the great feeling of being tagged on Facebook). This gesture shows that you mean no harm, and that you are a legitimate photographer (not some random creep).

3. Delete their photo

Lost in Thought
"Lost in Thought" – Santa Monica

Whenever I am out for an entire day shooting, I typically only get 1-3 “keepers.” Therefore if just one person approaches me and asks me to delete their photo, I usually do. There is a small probability that the photo I just took of that person is going to be a special image.

However, if it is a really good photo, I often refuse–which brings me to my next point.

4. Know your rights

I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!

United States:

If you are in America, below are your rights: (you can print out the list here).

1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it.

i.e. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.

2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it.

i.e. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.

3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.

4. Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

i.e. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.

5. Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:

* accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities
* children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
* bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities
* residential, commercial, and industrial buildings

6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.

7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.

8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.

9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.

10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

These are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.


If you are British, print out this list. You can also see your rights below:

Other Countries:

Read the comments on the bottom of this blog post I did a while back, where many people from other countries contributed their knowledge.

5. Smile

Cute as a Button
"Cute as a Button" – Sunset Blvd.

I know that I have said this before, but I can’t say it enough times. There is nothing as powerful as the effect of a smile. Even smiling at somebody frowning or pissed off will make them ease up a bit. How can you be suspicious of somebody who is smiling at you? Make sure you smile when doing any of the above points (or your own technique). And don’t make it a fake smile either, because people can spot fake smiles a million miles away.

So have you ever encountered some people who were pissed off after you took their photo? How did you react or deal with them? Share your tips and insights below!