When you’re out on the street with your camera, many people are looking at you wondering what you are photographing.  Here’s are just a few of my tips to help you reduce your nerves so you don’t freeze so you can create beautiful street shots. 

Good street photography can look deceptively easy and if you’ve been on one of my street photography workshops you will have practiced these tips. 

Fear stops many would-be street photographers, but with the right approach, overcoming your nervousness is possible.

I’ve been leading street photography workshops across New Zealand & Australia and photographing on the streets for years and I’m sharing my techniques to work past your street photography fears allowing you to enjoy taking great street images without feeling paralysed by anxiety. 

Before you leave home 

Beginner street photographers are often afraid of being stopped, questioned, and potentially berated by their subjectsComing up with a plan before you leave home as you’ll be most comfortable knowing exactly what you’ll do if someone engages you after you take their photo.

Firstly if someone does notices you – smile!  Being confident will make the subject more comfortable. If you look sneaky or sheepish, they will read it as guilt and be much more inquisitive.

Secondly, if someone asks you why you took their photograph, tell them the truth. I always say that I am a street photographer capturing images for my latest project.  I add a bit of flattery and say that I thought they looked fabulous. Offer to email the images you’ve captured of them – I always have business cards to hand out so they can make contact with me.

Also, if the person asks to delete the photo, be professional and delete them.  

Choosing the right subject

it’s important to see that some people just don’t wish to be photographed – and by avoiding these people, you dramatically decrease your chances of discomfort. Plus I very rarely photograph children without parental consent. I never photograph people if they look angry, stressed, or scary or photograph people who make me feel uncomfortable. 

Go to a busy place

This is one of my favourite street photography approaches, especially when leading street photography workshops is to head to busy street corners, your local farmers market, or festivals. Go at times when things are happening. Follow the action as if you’re part of a huge crowd as it will be a lot easier to blend in, and most people won’t notice you at all as they’ll be too busy dealing with everything else that’s going on. You’ll be able to capture some photos without the fear of being challenged.

Pick a spot, standing with your camera, and letting things happen around you. Make sure the area you choose has plenty of activity, and if you like, you can frame up your photo in advance. That way, when the right person walks through, you can grab the perfect image.

You do not always have to walk around in search of a photograph!

By staying in the same location, you’ll be quick to notice moments as they occur, plus people will be entering your space instead of you entering theirs. You’ll feel far more relaxed, and your photos will turn out significantly better.

Try street portraits 

When you first hit the streets for the day, why not conquer your fear of strangers all at once by capturing a few street portraits? Stop someone, tell them they look great and that you’re doing a project on people in the area, and ask if you can take a few quick photographs. 

Once you get someone who agrees, don’t just capture a couple of quick photographs, mumble a thank you, and disappear. Instead, interact with them! Make conversation as you take photos, and capture them from a handful of angles. 

Doing this will make both you and the subject happier, and it’ll help remove the creepy feeling that you might get when doing street photography – don’t forget to hand out your business card.

Keep the camera up 

Street photography is a little different and this is a tip which removes the visual queue that you’ve captured someones image – the visual queue is you bringing the camera down away from your eye.  

My tip is when you’re trying to photograph without people without them noticing, keep the camera to your eye as the subject passes by. They’ll think you’re just photographing the background and that they’re simply walking through your scene.

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more about street photography – come join Lesley’s workshops in Auckland and Sydney, for more details click here.

About Lesley Whyte

Lesley is a member of Australian Association of Street Photographers Incorporated and Australasia’s only woman street photography mentor offering a variety of street photography workshops in New Zealand and Australia; beginners, abstract, advanced and Henri Cartier-Bresson methodolgy.