taking street photography photos w/ 35mm lens makes subjects mad

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by denada, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. denada

    denada No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    i was reading about street photography this weekend and gave it a try today with my olympus xa. i ask strangers to take their photos often, and it makes me nervous, so i figured this would be a great exercise to make that easier. definitely was. the idea of asking someone for their photo now seems like a relief. it's what i did to rebuild my confidence anytime someone yelled at me. which happened quite a bit. this was downtown cincinnati, where i spend most of my waking life.

    walking right up to people and then suddenly taking their photo real close. switched my focus between 2.8 and 4 ft with fll. probably 25 subjects, counting couples and groups as one. half were confused and/or annoyed yet not confrontational. three swore at me and demanded i deleted the photo -- i can't, told them i won't use it and won't -- and one of them swatted at mostly my camera and tried to call the police but his phone ran out of batteries as soon as it connected. i stood my ground when people got confrontational, and i said thanks and kept walking if people just seemed annoyed or confused. the rest of the people, slightly less than half, were genuinely pleasant about it even if a bit confused. sometimes even responding positively to my thanks.

    thought i was going to have way better ratio. all the street photographers with blogs say they get the cops called like once a year. i (almost) did on my first day. i'm really good at smiling and being nice. sitting here thinking about it, taking a photo suddenly in someone's face is an attack. that's pretty much why i did it. to get that surprised look. and it worked. even though it was overcast, i bet i got one or two good shots and a few ok. if my first attempt at zone focusing worked, which i did not read about beyond the manual's dof chat. would have been better with a flash. i started with portra 800, and ended with provia 100 and the flash once my confidence was up. only got like six shots with the provia and flash before i was done. one i think is going to be awesome. will share when i get back from the lab.

    i don't really mind the confrontation and confusion all that much. it's kinda a rush. it did get exhausting quick. today i included some scary looking people because i was trying to challenge myself, which led to two of the three confrontations. so i can cut those down 66 percent by not poking mean looking dogs. the bigger problem is i want my subjects to be ok with their inclusion. and i want to not be a jerk.

    in addition to throwing myself out of my comfort zone, the 35mm lens was to include the subjects in the process. people photography is respecting and connecting with your subjects while exploiting. just the latter feels bad. i smiled, i was confident, i feel i was quick but friendly. people just do not want a camera suddenly in their face. if they see it before you take the shot, the start walking away or smile or make other unwanted movements and faces. i need to figure out my strategy and interpersonal skills or leave this look to other photographers.

    so curious about other peoples experiences? any tips?

    thanks!


     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  2. rexbobcat

    rexbobcat Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I don't do what would be considered "street photography" often. But every time I do I encounter a hostile situation.

    I was going somewhere this week and took a quick candid photo of a woman with my phone from across the street and almost got assaulted.

    Maybe it's different in other countries, but in the U.S. the public has become so skeptical of having their photo taken that I just don't think it's worth it. The photos that I get aren't good enough to deal with people's neuroses.
     
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  3. jcdeboever

    jcdeboever TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I don't have any issues but I'm a pretty big guy so maybe that has something to do with it. I smile a lot. Wear a black shirt so the camera kinda blends in. I often have the lens set at 8-10 feet. Sometimes I point the camera away from subject, then move it last second. If I do have it pointed at them, sometimes I pause (still looking in viewfinder) after the shot then they don't think I took a pic of them. I had a guy get weird with me once but I was polite and smiled, talked to him with respect, and he could see I was just having fun. Maybe reactions by the photographer escalate things unnecessarily at times. I try to interact with people, blend in, smile, say high a lot, say encouraging things to people.
     
  4. Fred von den Berg

    Fred von den Berg No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    When I do street photography, I prefer a certain degree of detachment and in any case that the "subjects" should remain oblivious to the process. Otherwise the whole business becomes strained and unnatural. I also like to use a wide angle lens, so keeping things discreet is the key.
     
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  5. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Then don't get into their faces without permission. Doing so means they're not okay with the inclusion and yes, you're being a jerk. And the other question you might want to ask yourself is, what kind of street photography do you want to do? The ambush-and-run technique has already been done to death. Aren't you really just copying Garry Winogrand or Bruce Gilden? Other than your personal adrenaline rush, what is the point of the photos? If you're good at smiling and being nice and you want people to feel good about being in the photograph, why not try a completely different approach and interact with the subjects in a less-confrontational way? Then try to get your adrenaline rush without violating people's personal space.

    I'm the same way. I do less street photography than I used to, but when I do, my purpose is to observe, not to disturb or interact with a scene. I don't want to influence the image or the story, but just to capture it as it would unfold even if I weren't there.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017
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  6. waday

    waday Do one thing every day that scares you Supporting Member

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    How are you going about it? I'm in the US and have had minimal problems in several cities..

    I like street photography a lot. I could be better. But, like limr and Fred, I do it in a way to not disturb or interact with the scene. I don't linger at all with my camera, nor do I interact. If I have my camera out for more than 1 or 2 seconds, I'm doing something wrong. I try to blend in and be a part of the street/scenery so as to not stick out. Settings are made beforehand, so all I need to do is aim and press a button.
     
  7. webestang64

    webestang64 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    All my street photography is like this.....

    [​IMG]

    No need to interact with anybody......LOL
     
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  8. denada

    denada No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    i appreciate all the replies so far!

    some of it must have been my mentality. i was out to prove to myself that i could. this likely made me less sensitive than if i wasn't attempting a just do it attitude. also probably made my movements more calculated and intimidating.

    it does seem occasional hostility is part of the game no matter what. people are indeed very wary about having their photo taken.

    i am emulating other photographers. my background is too post-modern to feel guilty about that. the point of the photos was to get interesting people in good looking photographs. it was one day of trying out a look i saw and like, not my manifesto.

    so the surprise photo is upsetting to many and to be avoided unless i selfishly need that look in the photo. while i've taken photos of people without their knowledge and have no ethical issue with doing so, it's not particularly what i'm after. another only if the situation demands it.

    i'm going to experiment with hybrids. asking people to take their photo but trying to find the unstrained moment between poses. or shooting as i ask. or i don't know.

    of course interested in hearing more about other's techniques. especially if it involves making the subject aware before or as the photo is taken.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
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  9. waday

    waday Do one thing every day that scares you Supporting Member

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    Two people that come to mind with respect to street and street portraiture are: @The_Traveler and @Philmar

    Both are phenomenal photographers. I've tagged them here, but you may have to reach out to them individually. I'm not sure how much Lew (The_Traveler) frequents the site anymore?
     
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  10. zombiesniper

    zombiesniper The camera takes the Pic. I just point the way. Supporting Member

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    I've seen a few Street photographers doing their thing but I can't say I've ever seen one 2.5' away from someone with out asking permission. That's in my WTF are you doing zone. Personally I couldn't care what your doing but if you're going to engage me that close. You should expect a non pleasant reaction. If you approach, ask for and get permission thats different but 2.5' is half an arms length. Not cool in my books.
     
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  11. rexbobcat

    rexbobcat Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I am in a part of San Diego that has a high concentration of homeless and vagabonds. And the only people who generally walk around are the homeless unless you're downtown (San Diego is a very car-centric city), in which case the density of people on the streets is so low that you still stick out with a camera.

    It's hard to put the subject at ease by being friendly when the subject has an inherent distrust of you.

    It just not a city that's very conducive to casual street photography. Yes it's possible, but I've had more luck taking photos along the beach than I have in town.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  12. denada

    denada No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    i bet most of my shots were about 4 feet from camera to face. still close, no doubt. i started with the camera set at 2.8ft for a few shots but switched to 4ft after checking myself with a parking meter. the first shots set to 2.8 are likely are not in great focus. maybe they were all further out. it was my first attempt at zone focusing.

    i leaned in for the shot to get different angles, but all started from me walking down the sidewalk the opposite direction. it's downtown and the personal bubble is not big. no one complained about personal space. 100 percent of the conflict was "did you just take my picture? wtf! i didn't say you could do that!" not that distance and body language doesn't play into it, but i am confident the offense was taking a photo and not invading their personal space. it's downtown where people are wary of getting mugged, so i was definitely not making sudden movements into anyone's bubble.

    not defending my strategy, as it is not the photography experience i'm after, but don't want to confuse the issue.

    anyway i tried two from the hip shots after work today. with fill flash, which i do not not fully know the functioning off. i used the formula, but if it does not convince the camera to use a quicker shutter speed they're blurred. point of mentioning the flash is they realized they'd been photographed. neither said anything, and both were people i was unsure about. which is a space and body language thing. even though i was about 4 feet from these people, i didn't suddenly stop or point anything at them that they could see. by the time they realized what happened i was far enough away they'd of had to chase (which is one of those lines most recognize as crazy). they know what's happening as it's happening if you stop and frame the shot. experimenting. hip shooting isn't really a viable method for me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017

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