Bad Street Photography – Why Shoving Your Camera In A Strangers Face Is Dumb

I’m all about getting close to your subjects, I believe Street Photography is best taken when you’re in the mix of it all.  What I don’t get is the practice of shoving your camera in a strangers face…  I mean, really in their face.  I recently watched a video all about “how to overcome your Street Photography fear” (there are a lot of them) where the photographer would stand in the middle of a crosswalk and wait for people to cross so he could step right in front of them and take their portrait.  Unsurprisingly, none of the images were posted in the video so you could see the crappy results.

If your strategy for Street Photography involves trying to dry hump your subjects across the sidewalk/road then you may want to reconsider.  This technique approach is harmful to Street Photographery for a couple of reasons.  First, it makes potential Street Photographers think they need to get stupid close to their subject and dissuades them from practicing the art because they feel they will never be comfortable enough.  Second, it makes subjects uneasy for the rest of the Street Photographers who actually take great photographs that don’t invade a subjects personal space.

Tips For Getting Close

I’d encourage you to get closer to your subjects, you can get really close if you’d like.  It’s important to know when it’s time to ask permission and when it’s alright to steal a candid shot.  A general rule of thumb I follow is if I’m breaking their path of movement I’ll ask permission.  If you follow this advice there is a 99% chance you’ll never have a confrontation with a stranger on the street.

Always smile when you are approaching an interesting subject, if they smile back and acknowledge your camera you can begin to approach them while slowly lifting your camera as opposed to jerking it up to your eye like a spaz.  If you are taking a candid shot, or semi candid shot, you can/need to be much faster with the camera to capture the “decisive moment”.

Feel each situation out, if you start from further away and your subject notices you but doesn’t seem to mind you can begin to move closer while smiling and acknowledging them.  Say hello and compliment them, tell them you’re photographing them because you love their look.

Getting uncomfortably close to subjects doesn’t make you a great Street Photographer, it just means you don’t mind making other people extremely uncomfortable.

Do you agree or disagree?  Tell me why in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your point of view and see your results.


  • Becky says:

    I agree with your philosophy and I absolutely LOVE the gentleman in the uniform taking a picture – GREAT catch on your part!

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