When you are spotted taking a candid shot

I had taken several photographs of this Kashmiri woman before she spotted the camera. So what was the first thing I did when she looked at me? Photograph by Philip Dunn

First reactions

So what should be your very first and instinctive response when your subject sees you? It’s a question that sooner or later every street photographer will face. Should you lower your camera and smile nicely? Perhaps pretend to be photographing something or someone else? Or would it be best to just turn around and walk away?

Just press the button

NO! none of the above. Your instinct as a photographer should be to simply press the button again – and again if necessary. Then, maybe, lower your camera and smile sweetly.

It is so often the response of your subject to the realisation that he or she is being photographed that can make a wonderful photograph. It could be shock, bewilderment, delight or laughter. Whatever the reaction the chances are it might make a great picture.

Let’s face it, if your subject is going to grumble at you for taking their picture, you might as well get grumbled at for a good one that a mediocre one. So don’t be nervous, keep that camera aimed for just a few more seconds and pres that button!

grumpy old man with beret eyes the camera in Portugal
A grumpy local casts a beady eye at the camera in Portugal. The strength of this hastily-caught picture lies in that eye after he has spotted the camera. Photograph by Philip Dunn

Don’t be nervous

So relax, take your time, don’t be in too much of a hurry to lower your camera as soon as you are spotted. It is very rare indeed that someone will get angry or aggressive. Just lower your camera after you have taken the pictures you need and smile heartily. Go over to the person an talk to them. Show them your picture. Tell them why you took it, and offer to email them a copy if they would like one.

You have just made a new friend in a 1/250th sec! And who knows? It could lead to a whole new set of pictures.

Find out more about Philip Dunn’s online photography tuition

Leave a Reply