This is something anyone photographing people in the streets will have to live with… the looks of your subjects!
As much as you try to be inconspicuous and not draw any attention to your doings, sometimes people notice – which makes for great images, but which is also quite unnerving. At least for me as I am notoriously shy.
Now of course there’s different tiers of attention you get when working the streets. You have the basic eye contact, nothing more to it. Those people are basically OK with being photographed or they weren’t even really aware… just something caught their attention.
Then there’s the more engaged eye contact. They KNOW you made a photo of them and they don’t really know what to do about it. They are surprised, nothing more. A polite smile normally makes it.
Next you have those who are startled, even seem a bit distressed… but you know they won’t go further… Out comes my most wining smile, a quick wave of the hand and a polite ‘Thank you’. I’ll not linger but walk calmly on. Done!
Then it becomes much more difficult. There’s people who disapprove… honestly not many I have to say. In that case you probably have some ‘splaining to do. A business card can come in handy, just as some sample pictures… NEVER refuse to delete the pictures, you digital people! As for us film shooters we have to rely on our persuasion that we will not use the picture. Talk, explain, smile, be at your most charming and if you have to, be utterly apologetic. Tell them how interesting they look and what made you photograph them. Some understand, some don’t. Anyways, defuse the situation and leave them with a good feeling. Do not run away, talk to them!
The last category I luckily still have not encountered. The really furious kind…. To avoid them you always have to assess the situation and THINK! Try to think like them before shooting, look at them and decide if you really need the shot. Consider the situation, the location, the implications and you will mostly not be confronted to such a reaction… I hope!
If you do…. well shucks, too bad. I really don’t know what I’ll do when the moment comes. A quick decision will be needed, ranging from standing your ground, running away to walking away pretending not to notice. Hey, even play the tourist unable to understand….
What are your thoughts on this? Above all on the last., worst situation? Please comment!
Always keep in mind the advice from Matt Stuart, great Street Photographer (take a look at his wonderful book ‘All that Life can afford’):
What advice would you give to someone starting in street photography? Buy a good pair of comfortable shoes, have a camera around your neck at all times, keep your elbows in, be patient, optimistic and don’t forget to smile.
As always, thanks for stopping by!