How to Overcome Fear in Street Photography

What is fear in street photography, and how can we conquer and overcome it?

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1. What is fear in street photography?

Woman with orange hair. Lisbon, 2018
Woman with orange hair. Lisbon, 2018

Well, there are several components to visualizing failure in street photography:

First of all, there is fear of physical attacks or retribution from your subject. Truth: It almost never happens.

Secondly, there is the fear of getting the cops called on you. Truth: You have the legal right to shoot photographs of strangers in public spaces without their permission.

Third, there is the fear of upsetting your subject (fear of being a morally bad person). Truth: You’re not doing anything morally bad by photographing someone else without their permission.

Triangle advertisement composition. Lisbon, 2018
Triangle advertisement composition. Lisbon, 2018

Fourth, there is fear manifested as hesitation, in which we hesitate to hit the shutter. Truth: This is the hardest thing to overcome, which requires much practice.

Fifth, there is the fear of rejection. This happens when we shoot street portraits and ask for permission to photograph someone, and might get a “no”. Truth: Most people will say “yes”.

Woman leaning out of window. Lisbon, 2018
Woman leaning out of window. Lisbon, 2018

1. Overcoming the fear of physical attacks

Pink woman faced downwards. Lisbon, 2018
Pink woman faced downwards. Lisbon, 2018

The best way to overcome the fear of physical attacks or confrontation is to let it happen.

Street photography is like driving a car. Sooner or later, you’re gonna get into an accident/piss somebody off.

I know that a lot of people are all bark, no bite.

Man and shadow on face. Lisbon, 2018
Man and shadow on face. Lisbon, 2018

Therefore, allow yourself to first get mentally abused, and cursed out. I’ve been called all sort of mean names, and also been told “fuck you” in more languages than I can count.

Realize that most people never immediately get physical. Rather, they will start yelling at you before doing anything.

Suit and trees. Lisbon, 2018
Suit and trees. Lisbon, 2018

Also realize that if your subject does get physically aggressive towards you, and puts a hand on you, YOU can call the cops and sue them and put THEM in jail. Remember it is within your legal right to photograph strangers in a public space.

Assignment 1: Put on muscle

Tustin, 2013

I do find that the more I work out, and the more muscle I put on, the more confidence I feel in myself.

Not just the self confidence and physical confidence in the muscles, but the psychological strength which comes from when you workout a lot.

Cindy flexing muscles.

So hit up the gym, deadlifts, squats, bench, or yoga and bodyweight exercises at home. Or go to a park and just do chinups and squats.


2. Overcoming the fear of rejection

Role model advertisement. Lisbon, 2018
Role model advertisement. Lisbon, 2018

My suggestion: try to get rejected on purpose. If we lived a life where we intentionally tried to get rejected, and intentionally tried to fail, imagine how much more self confident we would be, and how little we would fear failure.

Assignment 2: “10 no challenge”

From STREET NOTES: Try the “10 no” challenge of approaching a bunch of strangers and intentionally trying to get rejected. This will encourage you to take more risks, and to become less afraid of getting rejected.


3. Overcoming hesitation

The best thing in street photography is to get into a zen zone, and not hesitating before hitting the shutter.

Practical tips:

  • Shoot with your camera in P (program mode), or in other words — “set it and forget it!’ with your camera settings. Use center point autofocus, and iso 1600. The less you think about your technical settings, the only resistance you have: hitting the shutter button.
  • Listen to music while shooting: This will also help you get into the zone, and become less self aware. Try out jazz music, electronic music, hip hop, or any jams that helps you dance.
  • Use the LCD screen. I find less hesitation with the LCD screen, because you don’t need to bring the camera all the way up to your eye. This will create less friction in your street photography.

Conclusion

Woman with pendant. Lisbon, 2018
Woman with pendant. Lisbon, 2018

Conquering and overcoming your fears in street photography will help you in all aspects of your life. Not just shooting photos, but living more bravely, with more self confidence, and with more joy and excitement.

Lastly, the most important tip:

Smile.

The best tool in life is a genuine smile. A smile is free, costs you nothing, will make you look friendlier, and will also decrease your chances of scuffle.

My mom having fun by the water in Lisbon, 2018
My mom having fun by the water in Lisbon, 2018

Have fun, shoot with a grateful heart, and remember — it is your duty as a street photographer to capture beauty in everyday life.

BE STRONG,
ERIC


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