Nervous of photographing people in the street

Too nervous for Street Photography?

Are you nervous of photographing people in the street? Frightened they may see you pointing a camera at them?

Just what’s the first thing to do if your subject spots you taking that candid shot?

It’s easier than you think

Here, Philip Dunn offers advice from his long experience covering Travel and Street Photography for The Sunday Times and other major newspapers and magazines.

Many photographers share this dread of being caught red-handed taking a candid picture; they feel embarrassed, exposed and vulnerable.

Positively the first thing to do is to press the shutter button again. Yes, your heard correctly – press the button again. Don’t panic, and don’t lower the camera yet. Many great photographs have resulted from the initial responses of people spotting the camera.

You’ll be surprised how many people break into a grin.

resonse to the camera - street photography
The chap didn’t see me photographing him groping about in the water, but when he grabbed a fish in his bare hands, he spotted the camera and showed off his catch with a great big smile on his face. It was the response to being photographed that produced the best picture


Then, if necessary, lower the camera and show your own great big smile. Walk towards your subject – still smiling and with your

hands raised. Show him, or her, your picture. Explain what you are doing. That might be:

  • Trying to learn the art of Street Photography
  • Taking pictures for a competition
  • You couldn’t resist photographing such a happy/interesting face
  • Trying to make a living by photographing interesting people
  • You were trying to add life to your picture of the general scene
responses to camera - photographing people in the street
Don’t be afraid the press the shutter button to capture the initial response to the camera. This little lad thought he’d spoil my picture – but he made it better. Keep the camera to your eye when photographing people in the street

Relax – be honest

Relax, tell the truth. You are not trying to hide anything. Don’t be in a hurry. If you are trying to sell your pictures, say so. If that is the case, this might be the time to get the subject to sign a model release form if you need one.

Remember, once you have explained, and they are content, you now have a ‘happy’ subject – and a great opportunity to take more pictures of them. Don’t waste it – take pictures.

Of course, there is always a risk that someone will demand that you leave them alone and clear off, Okay, smile and look for pictures elsewhere – there are plenty of subjects to go at. Don’t waste your time arguing, just go.

When you are photographing people in the street…

it is very, very rare that someone will get aggressive if your body language is friendly and at ease.

Although things were often different when I was a press photographer covering hard news events…  I’ve been given a broken nose by a dirty vicar convicted of interfering with choirboys – may the Lord forgive him, he pushed the camera into my face; I’ve had the coat ripped off my back and camera smashed by two thugs from the British Movement – no forgiveness there – and been called a ‘maggot of the carcass of the capitalist press’ by a very angry picket.

It was all part of a day’s work as a press photographer on a national daily newspaper.


There’s one coming up on Saturday 26th January 2018



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