There is Nothing Wrong With Taking Photos of People

Society tells us it is rude to take a photo of someone without their permission. Why?

Richard Avedon Portrait of Ezra Pound

Are you your photos, or are your photos you?

Photos are NOT us. Photos are just an interpretation of us.

The problem: we are such an image-centric society, that somehow we think that we are our photos.

In reality, photos lie. They don’t show who we really are.

For example, if you photograph a person with a fisheye lens at a very close distance, it will distort their face. Obviously their face doesn’t look like that in real life.

Nyc, 2015

But then again, if you shoot a selfie from a super high angle, that isn’t what you really look like.

Therefore, your photos are not you.

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The problem is that if we see “unflattering” photos of ourselves, we think that our real selves are uglier.

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Therefore, a lot of people don’t like to be photographed…because they are afraid that they will look ugly in a photo.

NYC, 2016

Not only that, but a lot of people are just uncomfortable with how they look. They are self-conscious of their looks.

The question you must ask yourself is,

Do I like to be photographed?

If you don’t like to be photographed, ask yourself,

Why not?

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If you don’t like to be photographed, you will make the wrong assumption that everyone else doesn’t like to be photographed.

The fallacy: we assume everyone else’s preferences are the same as our own.

In reality, there are some people who hate being photographed, and other egotistical person (like me) who like to be photographed.

Generally I find that folks who are fashionable like to be photographed and noticed. Or else, why would they invest so much energy on their clothing and how they look?

Therefore, don’t be afraid to photograph “fashionable” folks.

Second proposition: don’t be afraid to photograph “ordinary” people.

Why? If you choose someone to photograph, you are telling them:

You are unique. You are special. That is why I wanted to photograph you.

As a photographer, you are a SUBJECT SELECTOR. You decide who to photograph, and who not to photograph.

Therefore if you want to photograph a stranger, tell them why you want to photograph them.

NYC, 2016

You can tell them:

  • I love your look
  • I love your style
  • It looks like you have one hell of a life story
  • You look like a strong person.

To photograph someone is to COMPLIMENT them. And treat it such.

Compliment people before, during or after you photograph them. Be a sociable, gregarious photographer.

The more you compliment your subjects and tell them why you want to photograph them, or why you photographed them— your subjects will feel better about themselves. And you will feel better about yourself.

NYC, 2016

Conclusion: Tips to feel more confident on the streets

Tell yourself,

There is nothing wrong with taking photos of people. I am complimenting and empowering them.

Other tips:

  • Offer to email them a copy of their photo. They have a new Facebook profile picture. Everyone is happy.
  • Offer to photograph them with their own iPhone.
  • After you make a portrait of someone, have them look through your LCD screen, and have them choose their favorite photo.
  • Ask them, “Do you mind if I make your portrait?” instead of, “Do you mind if I take your photo?” Making a portrait sounds more artistic, and friendly.
  • When in doubt, SMILE :)




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