When I started street photography, my biggest barrier was myself. Specifically— my barrier was my fear of shooting street photography. It was all in my head.
I hated that I was fearful in street photography. I’d seen so many great photo opportunities, but I let hesitation and fear get the best of me. When I wanted to click, I didn’t— because I feared others judging me as being weird, I feared my subject would feel offended, and I feared that I might get physically or verbally assaulted by my subject.
Over the years I’ve been able to build my confidence, and in many ways, conquer my fears in street photography.
One strategy I’ve found that works incredibly well is to channel your fear into bravery— rather than simply eliminating your fears in street photography.
Convert fear into excitement
Nowadays it is rare that I ever see a person or a scene that excites me. But whenever I do see a scene or a person that excites me, I feel fear. I feel my heart beating faster, I feel sweat start to prickle the back of my neck, and I feel hesitation.
However now whenever I feel fear, I try to channel that emotion into excitement and bravery. Rather than thinking to myself, “I am so afraid to take this photograph” I think to myself, “Wow my heart rate is up. This must mean that my body is excited to take this photograph.”
When you relabel your fear as “excitement” — then you will re-interpret your beating heart for fun and excitement. Just like you ride a roller coaster, you feel a huge rush of adrenaline. When I shoot street photography and have fun, I also feel a huge rush of adrenaline.
Strangely enough, I think this is why I love drinking coffee and shooting street photography. Coffee gives me caffeine, which causes me to be more excited, and more “pumped up.” Therefore when I do feel “fear” when I’m out shooting— I’m not sure whether that is “fear” or just because I am overly-caffeinated. Regardless, I know a lot of other street photographers who love coffee or tea; so perhaps caffeine is a drug we can use to help us convert our fears into bravery in street photography.
Fear is our friend
No matter how experienced you become in street photography, you will always feel a bit of fear. Even some of the best standup comedians feel nervous before going on stage. Even some of the most brave military leaders feel nervous before engaging in an attack. Even some of the most skilled sports players feel nervous before they play.
Rather than seeing fear as the enemy, we should see fear as our friend. Fear is our guide. When we do what we are afraid of; it is one of the best ways to grow.
Some of my favorite street photographs were also the scariest to shoot. And that is what makes street photography so exciting— the adrenaline rush we get from it, and also from the fact that it is hard. Extremely hard. I think 90% of street photography is just having the courage to click the shutter. Even some of the most skilled landscape, fashion, or commercial photographers can’t shoot street photography— because they don’t have the guts for it.
It isn’t just street photography
The more confidence and courage you build in your street photography, the more you will see it trickle into other parts of your life. You feel be more confident and fearless at work, when approaching someone at a bar, or for pursuing a new entrepreneur endeavor.
Imagine fear as a feral dog. Fear (when untamed) is dangerous and fierce. But when we tame a feral dog, and make it a loyal companion, now it is our protector and friend.
So friend, have a stout heart, and know that you will always have some fear when it comes to street photography. It all comes down in terms of how you view the fear, and how you turn it into a positive.