Why Do We Feel Nervous Shooting Street Photography?

Dear friend,

Why do we feel nervous shooting street photography?

CONQUER YOUR FEARS AND MEET NEW PEERS at ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE


Street photography isn’t evil

First of all, consider that you’re not doing anything wrong shooting street photography. You’re just making photos — you’re not hurting anybody.

But still, I know for myself, I still feel that adrenaline rush when I’m shooting street photography (before, during, afterwards).

You see a scene that interests you, but there is always a bit of that hesitation. The fear that you might be upsetting the person, or perhaps the fear that the person is going to react negatively towards you– and either might become physical with you, might start yelling at you, or perhaps even threaten to call the cops on you.

Another fear: that you’re doing something ethically wrong, and you’re somehow being a bad/”evil” person by photographing that person without their permission.

But if we think about it rationally, you’re not doing anything wrong in street photography. But how can we overcome this physiological fear, or this feeling of nervousness when it comes to street photography?


1. Exposure therapy

The first step: realizing that the fear of shooting street photography is a physiological fear (a feeling of cortisol/stress hormones manifested in our nerves, our muscles, and our bodies)– the more we shoot street photography, the less fearful/nervous we feel shooting street photography.

In other words,

The more you shoot street photography, the less nervous you will feel.

This means we must continue to expose ourselves to the fear in street photography, rather than shirking away from it.

Practical exercises:

  1. Practice getting closer to your subjects, gradually, when shooting street photography.
  2. Try the ’10 no’ challenge in street photography: keep asking for permission to photograph a stranger, until you get 10 people to reject you. The more you get accustomed to getting rejected, the less nervous you will be in street photography.
  3. Get close to your subjects, and avoid making eye contact, and pretending like you’re shooting something behind your subject. I find it useful to shoot street photography with an LCD screen when practicing this technique.

2. Think of yourself like a lost/dumb tourist

Shoot street photography like you’re a lost/dumb tourist. We forgive Koreans/Japanese people with selfie sticks; because they’re tourists– they don’t “know any better”.

Think of yourself like a tourist when shooting street photography, even when you’re shooting in your own home city. This will give yourself permission and the mindset that you are allowed to break the ‘social rules’.

Because the truth is, street photography does go against certain social rules. Generally in most western countries, to photograph someone without their permission is considered “immoral”. It certainly isn’t against the law, but nowadays people think that they have a “right” to their privacy in a public space. But realize: it is within your legal right to photograph people in public spaces.


3. Nonconformist attitude

Realize that if you’re a street photographer, you’re defying social rules. You must take on a ‘nonconformist’ attitude if you want to succeed as a street photographer. This means disregard what others think of you, ignore the nay-sayers, and spurn pleasing others.

Realize that you are spun from a different cloth, that you are “weird” and different– and revel in your differentness!


4. The difficulty/challenge of street photography is what makes it fun!

Realize that the process of feeling less nervous in street photography is a process. For myself, I am certainly less nervous/more confident shooting street photography today than I was 10 years ago, but the fear will always stay with you– and to be honest, the fear/adrenaline rush from street photography is what makes it fun/challenging! It is my theory that things which we fear gives us the most excitement/joy/interest.

For example, when you’re playing video games, you get that adrenaline rush from the uncertainty– you might die in the game, thus you work harder to not die, to kill the bosses, etc.

In street photography, it is the challenge of getting closer is what makes it fun. I know a lot of people enjoy street photography because it is difficult and challenging. Photographing landscapes and flowers can get a bit boring, because there isn’t enough challenge.

Thus, realize: street photography is fun because it is challenging. Therefore, be grateful and appreciate that street photography is so hard!

Conclusion

Realize that ultimately, you always want to feel a little bit nervous shooting street photography. Because the feeling of nervousness is the sign that the scene might make a good photograph!

For example, when I see a scene and I feel a bit nervous, it is my body telling me:

Eric, the reason you are feeling nervous is because you want to shoot the scene!

So in other words, re-interpret your feeling of nervousness as excitement/enthusiasm to shoot the scene!

BE BOLD,
ERIC

CONQUER YOUR FEARS AND MEET NEW PEERS at ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE


Articles how to conquer/overcome your fears in street photography:


STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 101

If you’re new to street photography, start here:


Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Street Photography

Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Mastering Street Photography
Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Street Photography

Become the best street photographer possible by picking up a copy of Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Street Photography. This book is full of all my distilled knowledge and wisdom on street photography over the last 10 years, crafted specifically to empower you in street photography.

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Start here:

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Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

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