Deal 7: How to make money through your photography
A Guest post by Angie Muldowney.
I love the poignancy of street photography; the way it can portray the world in an ironic, tragic, educational or funny way – often all at the same time! I would love to have the confidence to point my lens directly at someone and shoot, even from a distance – more often than not though I just don’t have the ‘hutzpah’.
Whilst I may be cowardly in this respect, I am determined, so here are some ways I have found to make the whole process a little less daunting for me and less intimidating for my subjects. This isn’t a technical guide (there are already some great ones on this very site); rather, I am suggesting some sensitive and less confrontational ways of getting candid street shots.
If you go to a popular tourist attraction or public event then you will probably stick out if you DON’T have a camera – this is the perfect environment for candid people shots as no one is really taking any notice of exactly what (or who) you are taking photos of.
Sometimes you can see the perfect shot in your minds eye, in which case simply set up your camera with the focus in the right place and wait for somebody to walk into the frame. It doesn’t even matter too much if they notice you as they will instantly think they have ruined your photo and may even apologise to YOU.
This is a great way of getting people shots without anyone noticing and can often tell just as poignant a story as if it had been shot face-on.
If you can get above the people you want to photograph there’s a very good chance they’ll never spot you – not many people look upwards unless they really have to. The angle may not always be ideal as you are not likely to see any faces but it’s a good way for us cowardly types to practice.
If your biggest fear is being spotted and challenged when engaging in street photography then seek out people who are way too engrossed in a particular activity to care about nervous photographers.
Sat in a car you are often at the perfect height to get shots of peoples faces – plus having the locks on the doors and an accelerator gives you a bit more confidence! Be safe, you will need someone else to do the driving here (although I have been known to grab my camera whilst manoeuvring in slow-moving traffic).
My Canon 5D MkII camera when coupled with a big, meaty zoom lens weighs the same as a medium-sized cat and protrudes alarmingly – anyone having this pointed at them is going to feel, at best, a little unsettled. You will find you are less obvious or intimidating if you use a small point-and-shoot type camera, or even a camera-phone – you can have this ready to go in your pocket and whip it out at the last minute.
Eye-contact can be a powerful thing and pointing your camera at somebody’s face will only heighten the effect. If your gaze is directed downwards, the removal of eye-contact means taking candid photographs becomes much easier – cameras with a tiltable viewfinder are perfect for this. If your viewfinder screen doesn’t tilt then you could try one of these [ http://flipbac.com/angle-viewfinder-about.htm ] nifty stick-on mirrors; things will appear back-to-front but it means you can move the camera away from your face which is the important thing.
Alternatively, hold your camera at hip level, pop the auto-focus on and point and shoot – you can get great results this way but you will need a certain amount of luck, too.
If you have a little time to compose your shot, you can get an ‘accomplice’ to position themselves near your intended subject and get them to strike a pose – start out by pointing your camera at them, then deviate slightly to capture your intended subject.
Sometimes you have to forgo the candid nature of the shot and simply ask if you can take someones photo – try to quickly and truthfully explain why you want the photo too. Coward that I am though, the very thought of this strikes terror in me! I have though been able to ask buskers and street entertainers for a photo, they are usually always prepared to be a willing model for a small contribution to the hat.
However you take your photos, remember to smile – I have found that is generally all it takes to turn a potentially awkward situation into something much more pleasant.
Angie Muldowney is crazy about photography. Based on the south coast of England, when she’s not out with her camera she can be found writing, drinking coffee or generally procrastinating on the Internet. You can see more of her work at angiemuldowney.co.uk
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May 20, 2013 01:32 pm
I have used all of your excellent suggestions over the years. I might add another trick to the bag, though. This works well even with the largest honking SLR's. Use a very wide angle lens and point the camera--and your eyes decidedly elwhere from your subject. If you use a nice wide 24mm lens (on a film camera) you can take your time focusing and getting your exposure just right as your subject relaxes comfortably seeing that lens is pointed elsewhere. Of course it works best if you are in a situation where the comp calls for a lot of space on one side of the subject. I've gotten marvelous, no-hassle shots this way.
February 19, 2013 03:50 pm
Very funny and information! I'm no photographer but I do take street pictures when I go on trips, and I am a bit cowardly about asking for permission. This guide will come in handy.
September 7, 2012 05:52 pm
Great confidence builder,as I am just starting street photography.
January 17, 2012 10:30 am
Great article. I already use a lot of the tips in my street photography. But I wanna gear up! al though I think it is as with many things in life: just a matter of doing it and getting through the mental barriers. But that is also why thsese tips are so good, they get you going. I think a lot of us find up-face street photography too big a step to start with, but to start at a donfident and sade level opens up for the next level.
January 5, 2012 02:17 pm
I have been enjoying photographing people so much now that I set myself a challenge to go out every afternoon/evening after work and shoot strangers doing whatever they are doing. Most of the time I am being quite obvious and although at first I did mostly use a focal range between about 50-80mm so that I could get more involved with the subject, I have also been mixing it up a bit lately and using my 70-200mm so that I can get a lot more selective with my compositions in isolating them with what they are focused on.
I try to communicate with as many of the subjects as I can and often end up in conversations with them which really adds to the experience.
A couple of nights ago I was aproached by a young lady who asked if I remembered taking her photo about a year ago. I remembered her well (although did not remember her name) and the afternoon that I captured her photo, and when I got home that evening checked my folders and confirmed that it was from 29th December 2010.
That encounter had been very different, because she had aproached me that afternoon and said "you can take a photo of me if you want".
Quite often I have gotten into a conversation with someone while walking along a path and have been able to ask if I can photograph them bfore they stop and ask "where would you like me?"
One day I meet a couple of young ladies along a river walk and asked if I could take their photos and ended up with them pulling poses for more than 10 minutes while I clicked away with us all having a lot of fun
January 5, 2012 12:24 pm
I always always have these big plans to go out, be bold, and take photos of whatever I see, and... I always turn into a coward once I'm there. This is really helpful, I'm gonna be referring to this in the future!
November 8, 2011 07:19 pm
Mentioned and linked to in the latest Yard blog http://the-yard-collective.deviantart.com/journal/LAST-OPEN-WATER-SEA-LANE-BEFORE-OUR-DESTINATION-266948215
/Pelle, Skipper of the Yard Collective
October 26, 2011 04:37 am
I went up to a "photowalk" up in Denver on Sunday. Somebody shot a pic of this punkish-looking girl on east Colfax w/o her permission, and holy crap did she go off. After that she was shouting at every photographer she saw for two blocks. I honestly thought she was going to get violent, the way she was gesturing and screaming. It was crazy. Of course, I'm sure there being a large group of photographers didn't help the situation...
October 26, 2011 04:33 am
It's best to learn not to fear you subjects....
October 21, 2011 08:46 am
aw, I took so many pictures of policemen, other people's kids and just whoever i wanted to before someone told me I actually can't. Not that I would stop, I just don't feel so confident doing it. Thanks!
There are few of my tries: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62159493@N06/sets/72157627812410751/
October 19, 2011 09:50 pm
What an interesting thread .. and how good to see thoughtful and informative comments. A few years ago I asked for permission to take pictures at a Hells Angels funeral in London. I got it from the crematorium manager and an Angel on security. A film crew was there to get the action of thousands of Harleys and the spectacle, but apart from that it seemed that I was the only snapper around. I took many shots and generally no one seemed troubled.. I think the long pro lens gave me some credibility. But when the ceremony started (it was relayed outside the chapel which was private) the atmosphere changed. I felt a little like a trespasser at a very personal, emotional and private event. And it became clear that any 'consent' was irrelevant in the face of the intrusion.
I left, but not before taking one of the best images ever (for me ). Cowardly, maybe. Brave to have been there, certainly. Release forms, hardly. Andhave I ever published the image- it's more than my life's worth!
October 19, 2011 04:11 am
For street photography I use my back-up Nikon D200 with a wide-angle lens and a cord remote which I have in my pocket. I hang the camera around my neck, but is usually a bit too low for close shots. Just hold the camera casually and point it slightly upwards. Your other hand is in your pocket with the remote. Stop, and look around - don't look directly at your subject - you just look like any other tourist who's lost - shoot your picture - you can crop later if needed. I set my camera on AF continuous servo - this way 99% of my shots turn out sharp.
For special shots, street musicians, a pretty face, officials (police, etc) I will ask for permission and hand
them a business card with promise to send them their photos. Works all the time. I'm loosely affiliated with a local weekly newspaper which features a full-color ''smile-of-the-week'' photo. I carry a few copies of this paper with me, just in case I spot a pretty face for next week's issue - and usually get the shot.
October 17, 2011 11:39 pm
Just to take a picture is fine in most circumstances, especially in countries like Sweden (you can even stand on the street and photograph people in their houses). But when you want to make money from the photo, publish it, you have to have a models release.
October 17, 2011 11:29 pm
yes, "models release"...
October 15, 2011 12:34 am
To me the main thing is to be ready. Have all the settings set and be ready to take the shot. You should be able to take the shot in less then a second. i love to use the frame shot. You can even use a tripod and a cable release and stand away from your camera.
October 14, 2011 05:43 pm
I've not done a lot of street photography as I'm also a coward but when I have I've not been challenged and people have tended to apologise for getting in the way but in another situation I just said I was a photography student and the person seemed quite happy with that and made nothing of it. It was only a little white lie, after all I still have a lot to learn LOL!
October 14, 2011 05:32 pm
How do you delete a film image which is still my preferred imaging system?
October 14, 2011 05:22 pm
Street photography is interesting subject. And each photographer should know or get information on the country in which you intend to practice. Some area may be restricted, forbidden to take photos and not complying might get you in deep trouble.
However as street photographer in China I never had trouble taking pictures of people, especially if you smile and go close to them, chat a few words. Most people even want you take more, however they start posing ! Chinese people are little shy and like to show themselves on a good manner, so they will adjust their clothes, take the pose... hopefully you took the real shot before !
In street photography I see two main ways of doing :
- From really far by using a 300mm tele lense, then you can isolate some portraits with blury backgrounds. but this has a lkimitation as you are not part of the action, and it could be agressive to people as your 'big 300' is little like a gun pointed at their face !
- From really close by using a wide angle.. then you really are part of the action ! Talk to people, smile to them, get more involve ! It is never taken wrong to say to a nice girl that you find her beautiful and smile !
Best, be close to people will make your action feel warm and not intrusive.
Last thing, be patient and anticipate !
October 14, 2011 04:29 pm
Great tips- not just for "cowards!"
October 14, 2011 01:21 pm
I shoot with a wide lens - hang the camera around my neck and face the subject .... then - I use the Remote Shutter that's in my hand in my pocket .... you can crop at home....
Problem sloved - they even see the camera, but have no idea you just took their pic......
Sneaky, but - works.
October 14, 2011 11:22 am
Great article. I love this kind of photography. People are more interesting subject that anything else you can shoot but I too have to be careful. I want to add one tip that works when traveling. We were in Hanoi last year where I had the best street photo experience ever. I was on a cycloped tour (three wheeled vehicles, people powered by ta guy behind the passenger. As the passenger, I sat back and shot pics as I was pushed around Hanoi's downtown. Got some amazing shots all over SE Asia using an 18-200 zoom and sitting in slow, people-powered transportation be it the cylcoped or a small boat in a Bangkok canal or in a marketplace where everyone is so busy they never see you shooting. See what I mean here: http://gallery.mac.com/jimbellomo#100638&bgcolor=black&view=grid
October 14, 2011 10:47 am
This article very helpful but was wondering if you want to sell the image how do you get around needing a model release particular when having great street shots from a different culture? Ta
October 14, 2011 10:26 am
I did some of these techniques this weekend in NY city. In times square there were throngs of people walking right at me. So I just pointed my camera at them as if I were photographing something else in Times square. People were too busy to notice. It was fun taking pictures of random people. I shot a couple of cabbie's while they were stopped at a light and werent looking right at me.
October 14, 2011 09:22 am
Great article. Any article where the reader says " Yes ! I do that too ! " is off to a good start. One of the real problems today is shooting where there may be kids in frame. My approach to parents is made well in advance otherwise they start to titivate the kid, become a director, and the kid starts to act out. But permission has not got a strict time limit on it and five minuted later all is back to relaxed normality. I start off with a great big smile, and a line like " Hi - do you mind if I take a few shots and your children wind up in them ? I'm not a dirty old man, just a learner photographer with a new toy . If you like to give me an email address I will send you any that turn out well " . Almost always works and you make some new friends too. Wearing some sort of camera club logo on your hat, T-shirt, or bag also helps. Got this one that way a few weeks ago at a market type of situation .
October 14, 2011 07:39 am
A tip that I have found seems to work for me is to have a couple of drinks from the courage keg. I'm terribly shy but when have taken fun street shots or entertainment shots after I have visited a local pub. I've also bartered with musicians who play the small scenes and will get a some good music for an exchange of a business card and some photos that I will send them later.
October 14, 2011 06:15 am
dont forget one thing that is somewhat important also ....try to use a shutter speed of 1/500 ...it will keep your shot crisp ....and it also gives it a journalistic feel...the laws in Quebec Canada are different than the rest of the country so beware of what you shoot or should i say who you shoot ...you could get in trouble ...lucky for me i never had a problem when i lived there till 2 months ago ...im living in the USA now so laws are very different here .
October 14, 2011 05:49 am
Backs of Heads - bad advice for a street photographer. A person interested in his face first. Those who photographs the backs of people are too shy to street photography. It speaks to their weak skills and unprofessional. IMHO
October 14, 2011 05:45 am
As an avid "coward when it comes to street photography" I love your tips! I will definitely be using them the next time I am out and about with my camera!
October 14, 2011 05:21 am
Thank you. Indeed, a very good article. Great focus (no pun) on the capture stage.
October 14, 2011 04:13 am
I like the tone and approach of this idea of doing street photography. My sense is that I've subconsciously taken this attitude of the coward intuitively. I think these same ideas apply to many many kids of photography: nature, architecture, macro, events, etc. I like to think of it as tapping into my own inner voyeur.
October 13, 2011 06:48 pm
Recently a guy was taking a snap of his own kid eating an ice-cream in a shopping mall/centre in Scotland was asked to delete the pictures and leave the area!
The UK police have started to issue common sense guidelines stating the bloody obvious, "If someone turns up with a huge SLR kit they are unlikely to be doing anything suspicious. It's the ones with little pocket cameras, behaving in an odd fashion, taking very covert pictures we need to keep an eye on.". It's still a pretty crappy attitude but at least you might get left alone a bit more to take shots. So watch yourself if you're trying to sneak pictures with a small camera as you may be more of a target then if you have a big SLR kit.
The other thing to watch is private and public land. Lots of land is privately owned, shopping malls/centres are often private land and they have a right to insist on no pictures being taken. This is more driven by greed to sell snaps from the gift-shop than concerns over security though!
Just be careful or you may end up being escorted from the area of your chosen shoot or worse, being asked to come down to the "cop-shop" for a chat!
October 12, 2011 10:18 pm
Another Option is to do a Panaoramic sweep and crop the bit you want. No one really notices or cares if they get caught in one.
October 12, 2011 09:50 pm
October 12, 2011 09:47 pm
There was an article on the BBC website yesterday saying that a major Shopping Centre chain (Shopping Mall to you colonials) had withdrawn all photography restrictions from their chain (including most major centres such as Lakeside etc) after getting in trouble for getting heavy with a man photographing his own child eating an ice cream.
October 12, 2011 12:26 pm
Great Suggestions. I Street Shoot for my own pleasure and try to blend in. One point I learned from a very successful Photog in NY. (JM), Was to use a 70-300 and shoot cross the Street. Set myself up with a good background and wait and be patient. I would never try to do the Bruce Gilden Thing and run up to peoples faces. Of course we all know he has someone covering his back and he's a pretty big dude. I enjoy my hobby and I don't want to get people upset, However with busness card in hand if I find the right subject I will ask for permission.
October 12, 2011 10:58 am
If you understand photojournalism to mean candid street photography, then no, does not really exist, you'd get loads of such photo series published in German magazines but covering other countries, but you are not likely to get many on a local German town... And if you do, it would be of people showing you their homes or something, i.e. they have been asked and are playing along. So you have German photo journalists reporting from abroad... For events, the exceptions I explained above apply and are implemented differently by different newspapers, and the law does include something you could roughly translate as consent through cooperation, i.e. if I am photographing a carnaval parade and some people actually pose in front of my camera and smile into it, or wave at it or something, i.e. interact with the camera in some way that does not appear to be disappoving, then they'd have difficulty in court. But if they did not interact with your camera and could argue that they did not notice they were being photographed and thus had no means of intervening, then you have a problem.
The whole thing is terribly two-faced... for instance, a while ago a TV station brought a series about photographers travelling to remote islands (where the population knows very little about cameras and therefore are not as wary as the people in 'civilized' areas...). This included tiny ones that are really secluded from the world and where the people still live very traditionally. All photographers were accompanied by a film team. So in one town, the people did not want their photos taken, due to superstitions surrounding it. The film team happily filmed all this, including people going into their houses and shutting the doors to avoid being photographed. Later the photographer convinced some women of the town to have their picture taken, the whole convincing process was shown as well. But this did not include all the people we saw hiding earlier. I have worked on film productions for this same TV station, and they are immensely strict where rights clearance of stuff produced in Germany is concerned, especially concerning images that are used as props etc. If this was a German town, they would never ever have broadcast it, as the people trying to get out of the frame and closing their doors would have been enough to indicate non-consent. So instead they send off a bunch of photographers to a remote island where the people can't read and thus would have no idea what a model release is, and do not have any media and thus would not see that their image is used elsewhere even though they said no.
There was also a huge fuss in Germany when Google Street View started, many people greatly objected to their houses being visible on it (although they have little qualms about their own "virtual" travels to other countries on StreetView...). And because the Google Street View cameras are at a level higher than the eye level of an ordinary pedestrian or car driver, it does not fall under the "panoramic freedom", so lots of houses had to be pixeled to beyond recognition.
October 12, 2011 04:39 am
So how the hell would a photojournalist do his/her job in Germany? Does that job just not exist over there? That is insanely strict.
October 12, 2011 04:33 am
Just after I got a telephoto lens last month I took quite a few pictures of people in the street. I was fairly sure that it's legal to do that in public spaces. Well, that was until I read an article explaining the law here in Germany regarding street photography. Here in Germany people actually have legal control over their picture. It is illegal to take pictures of people without consent even if you don't intend to publish the pictures. You also have to have their consent *before* taking the picture. This means that candid street photography is quite literally illegal in Germany and you can get into real trouble if people actually know the legal situation. Therefore, if you're abroad taking pictures and someone even just voices a concern without asking you to delete the picture, try to stay on the safe side and ask whether you are allowed to keep the picture. Also, be careful when you take pictures of government officials. In some countries it is illegal to portray government officials in compromising positions or situations. In these countries you will end up in jail for taking a picture of a police officer picking his nose. So if I'm abroad I never take pictures of police officers just to stay on the safe side.
Taking pictures of children is another story entirely. In Germany people are very conscious of this and they will make you delete the picture if you don't have a good answer to the question "Why did you take that picture?" And no "Your kid is cute" is *not* a good answer. They will immediately think towards "wrong kind of cute". Better ask permission before taking the picture, because technically they can get you in all sorts of trouble if they want to.
If you want to follow the very good tips in this article, make sure you stay within the legal boundaries of the country where you're shooting.
October 12, 2011 01:21 am
If you want to be a successful street photographer than you need to get over your cowardly-ness. Really awesome street photographers use short lenses and get up close to the subject. Long lenses are a cop-out. Also, photos of the backs of people's heads (like this one) is not all that interesting.
October 12, 2011 12:41 am
I think the fundamental thing in street photography is telling a story. If you look at the images in this article, I don't really think they tell good stories (sorry, my opinion). Maybe my standard for street photography are high, I don't know. Furthermore, the author doesn't breach the topic of capturing the "decisive moment" (i.e. http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilta/6199986394/) which is so important. A person walking past graffiti doesn't necessarily capture a decisive moment if it doesn't tell a story.
If you want to learn about real street photography, check out the Magnum people or In-Public (Matt Stuart is amazing - http://www.in-public.com/MattStuart).
The reason why people get annoyed with street photographers is that it's often executed poorly and the results the same. We all have a vested interest for everyone to get better at this craft because it makes us less intimidating and menacing. Use a wide angle and don't act creepy! Smile, engage in conversation, show the people your images! Don't just fire off indiscriminately -- it ruins it for everyone. Take a street photography course (Eric Kim offers a great two day course that is still affordable - http://erickimphotography.com/blog/workshops/) and keep on improving!
October 11, 2011 09:56 pm
Check my collection :)
October 11, 2011 01:57 pm
@Gnslngr45: Wow, you have never photographed anyone that you did not know? That's to your loss, I would say. Although I doubt very much it is literally true.
October 11, 2011 01:56 pm
I may be cowardly in this respect, I am determined
Me, too, Angie! This is the best description I have read of myself. LOLS! Thank you for this post.
October 11, 2011 01:54 pm
@Jon: They don't own the light, but they may get a say as to what can be done with the captured image of the light off their face, depending on the laws of the country.
October 11, 2011 01:45 pm
I took a couple of great shots of a kid boarding on the water in a bay on the coast of Oregon. This was done at some distance from our porch at our condo.
October 11, 2011 12:41 pm
Thanks for the various links re. US and UK law. Be careful in Germany though, and afaik also in some other European countries - any publication requires a model release, no matter if it is commercial or not, if you are selling the photo or selling a product by means of the photo etc. etc. If a person is recognizable, it requires a release. There are some exceptions, like public figures, which are (roughly translated) "persons relevant to history/current affairs", i.e. politicians, pop stars, athletes etc. This includes the entertainers at concerts etc. even if they are not very famous. Basically anything where you get money/fame/influence from being "in public" and in the eye of the media also means the media (and anyone else with a camera) can have a go at you. But just being a private person and being out in public does not make you a public figure. And just being in the audience at said concert does not give someone else the right to publish your picture. But here another exception comes in - it is OK to document an event and its audience, so the audience shots have to be crowd shots without "highlighting" a specific person or few persons. There is no clear law on how many people this "highlighting" includes, most magazines have their own rules on that, many do not accept spectator shots with less than say 3 persons in it, others say 5 and above, etc... And the people in it have to be doing something that documents the essence of the event, i.e. three shouting soccer fans would be OK at a soccer match, but five guys smoking a joint together on the stands at the same game would not be OK as they are not a typical example of what the event was about. So they could sue although they were quite a group, but the shouting fans that are a smaller group would not be able to...It all depends on whether the photo is telling something about the event in general (fans were rejoicing) or about the person itself (likes to smoke joints). Another exception is if the person in the picture is fully exchangeable, i.e. not the focus of the picture and could in essence be exchanged with any other person who attended that event, then it is OK. For instance, in Photo 10 above, the slightly out-of-focus spectators in the back might still be recognizable, but are not the main focus of the picture and it could have been any other people, so they would not have a chance in court, Photo 7 would probably depend on the judge (I would say it is fine, if it had been taken 2 seconds later it might have had different people but a similar atmosphere to it), but Photo 5 would be a no-go and several of the others too.
This also applies to film and television productions, bystanders that are fully exchangeable need not be asked permission to broadcast them, but if someone does something silly/out of the ordinary and you zoom in on that and include it in your broadcast, they can sue if you did not get their permission.
All this means that street photography in its original form is basically impossible in Germany. Or at least publishing it (if the people concerned did not notice you taking the shot, they won't sue you for having it on your hard drive to show to your friends and family offline). But theoretically you are legally required to ask them BEFORE you even take a shot - luckily most Germans also don't know that bit and it would suffice to ask them afterwards if you can use it. But I am also the cowardly type and have only once gone up to the people concerned, it was a mom with two kids playing with soap bubbles, and I only asked if they'd give me their email so I can send them the pics, which they loved, but that way at least I do have the contact info if in future I want to use the pictures and could ask them then...
All of the above is basically aimed at allowing people to move freely outside, meaning that your personal, private life is not only private inside your four walls, but also outside. Yes, there are lots of security cameras, but even those are in many cases on a loop recording for 24 hours that gets deleted after that time if no crime in the area has been reported/filmed and the police have requested the tapes.
But the German law is even more restrictive than just the people thing. Buildings/statues/decorative fountains etc. can be a problem too. You can shoot anything in what is called "panorama freedom", meaning the way it would look for any passer-by, i.e. from the level of a pedestrian, car, etc., and only from public spaces. This also applies to statues etc. If you take a shot from the staircase window of the building across the street, you need both the permission of the person who owns the property in your photo (cause you are showing it from a perspective not normally accessible to the general public), and from the person whose property you are on when you take the photo! And when on street level, you are actually not even allowed to use a zoom lens...
(PS: I don't agree with all of the above, I've just been reading into the topic a lot lately...)
October 11, 2011 11:35 am
Interesting, i love street photography but there is a small problem here in Quebec Canada where you can get procecuted for posting a street photog without the person/subject's permission.
October 11, 2011 08:19 am
No one owns the light reflected off their faces.
October 11, 2011 07:04 am
I love your point. I tried the "shoot from the hip" this summer and got some really interesting tips. I'm becoming more brave with my street photography. Next time, I'm going to shoot with my 300mm so that I can get better shots (I've been using my favorite 50mm).
Thanks for this fantastic article. I'll be sharing it with my followers.
October 11, 2011 05:25 am
Take pictures of places with people in them, not pictures of people in places. I prefer this as mountains usually don't yell at you and they have no standing to sue.
I don't understand people getting upset when their pictures are taken in public-you are not taking their picture, you are imaging the light.
I don't get the kid thing, either. There are, probably, about a million cell phone cameras and surveillance systems. On an average trip to the ATM, your kids are probably photographed 100x. But, me talking a picture with a DSLR is some how evil? Sorry, if you don't want your kids photographed, don't take them where they have no expectation of privacy.
Oh, and if you think parents don't post images indiscriminate photos of their children with personally identifiable information attached, check out mommy blogs. A couple hundred potty training images posted on a blog in which the mother has real problems with too much sharing shows you how much some parents are afraid of releasing images of their children.
NEVER give your images away. This dilutes the value of your images to zero. They will end up on FaceBook; they will get tweeted to half the known world. Users will automatically assume, since you gave them the image, no strings attached, that it their's to do with as they please. Eventually you may see the smiling face image you took on the front page of some oppressive hate group you don't support or in an ad for a department store-neither of which you were compensated for. Good luck trying to enforce you copyright when you gave away an image without conditions and it is shared over Internet a couple million times.
October 11, 2011 03:25 am
Always drop something into the buskers hat in exchange for a photo. a must.
October 11, 2011 01:40 am
Good to know the laws. I have never photographed anyone that I did not know. I think the advice about having a business card is very important. I have been wanting to practice sports shooting by attending local Saturday morning soccer, but am hesitant due to respect of the children's parents. When I get some business cards (even though I don't do this professionally), I'll test it out. My kids are almost old enough to start soccer themselves and I'll be confident shooting them. I just want some practice beforehand.
October 11, 2011 12:48 am
Hello, just a quick not to add to the thread. Not sure of the laws out here in Japan, but i guess they are the same as most modern countries. How ever I was in a park a few weeks back and saw a beautiful Doberman Pincher. So i snapped a few shots. the owner cam running over and in a rather rude way (as rude as the japanese language allows) told me to delete the shot. i of course quickly did so. However my nature as it is I do not like being shouted at, i said words to this effect and a shouting match ensued. A park guard came over to find out why we were shouting. the dog owner quickly left, i explained to the guard what had happened, he was very angry with the dog owner.
Turns out in Japan, all dogs, especially "dangerous" dogs, like Pinchers, need to be on a lead at all times. He quickly cased the owner down and put him straight.
The moral of the story is; try not to take pictures of people doing things they might not what recorded for a digital eternity, especially if they are breaking the law. A friend had a much more dangerous experience taking pictures in Tokyo's famous red light district, it involved gangsters, broken cameras and roughed up collars.
Candid shots can be great, but a flattering shot will be a much easy shot to get permission for.
October 10, 2011 09:57 pm
Didnt know you could do that. thanks for the advice
October 10, 2011 09:34 pm
In the UK you only need a model release if you intend to use the photos for commercial gain. That doesn't include posting them in blogs etc. Street photography will always be a little controversial but this doesn't mean it's wrong. All photographers have their own preferences on which sort of genre they prefer and that diversity is good. I really don't know why anyone with a severe distaste for street photography would even read this article let alone take the time to comment on it.
October 10, 2011 05:59 pm
Oh, here's a link.
October 10, 2011 05:58 pm
To those who asked about model release forms:
In Australia, (and I believe in the UK and the US) you have the legal right to photograph anyone in a public space, or in a private space that can be seen from a public space. The law states that there is no assumption of privacy once you are out in public. Parts of the EU have much stricter laws, so be cautious if you live in continental Europe.
As far as model releases go, you only need a model release if you plan to use the photo to sell something other than the photo - that is, if you are going to use someone's image to endorse a particular product. Photos taken in public however can feature as many (or few) recognisable faces as you want for any other purpose. You can display them, enter them in competitions, even sell the photo itself. You just can't use the photo to sell anything else. The same goes for property releases, and in fact, property releases are even less necessary most of the time, since, as far as I understand, they primarily only apply to trademarked things. So if you're taking photographs on the street, of people or buildings, you have a right to be there, and you have a right to take any photograph you want. If you are touched, or your gear is damaged, then that person is actually guilty of a crime.
Having said all of that, the law doesn't touch on the ethics of street photography. I personally enjoy shooting candid street shots (I have just bought a Canon G12 which is great for its unobtrusiveness and DSLR-like controls) but I am conscious that there can sometimes be something a little 'sneaky' about it. But if you live in Australia, and your conscience is clear, shoot away: you have every right to do so.
October 10, 2011 05:08 pm
I went into the city during the weekend to meet up with a friend and while walking the last few blocks, started a few short conversations with people as I walked along or at the lights waiting to cross the roads and usually after some sort of compliment or similar asked if I may take a photo of them. Most obliged and gave me the moment I needed to get an image or two and I even directed a couple of them to stop for a moment here or there so that I could capture them next to something interesting.
I spoke to quite a few before I took an image of them, while others I just took an image and then thanked them or made some idle comment to them about the ice-cream or drink they were consuming or their outfit and had a very positive 30-40 minutes and some lovely images of a cross spectrum of the people out on the street.
I look forward to trying that again sometime soon.
October 10, 2011 04:58 pm
Another trick that is useful is to go wide angle rather than telephoto. You can frame up your subject off to the side and it looks to them as though you are pointing at something else.
Thanks for the tips!!
October 10, 2011 04:36 pm
I certainly don't agree with Point #9.
When you are taking pictures of individuals as opposed to the crowd. ASK for the permission. Some of my friends got in serious trouble at the beach a few months back. They taking the photo of a family enjoying their vacation. The family caught one of my friends taking the photos and there was a brawl. The resort managers threatened to call the Police unless the images were deleted.
ALWAYS remember the place you are in. In conservative countries like in the middle-east or south-asia, avoid taking photos of women or young girls. You might get away with it, but you surely can put other photographers at risk.
October 10, 2011 03:27 pm
Interesting..... and some good tips., street photography is one of those interesting art forms that seeks to capture the art in everyday life. To anyone who protests about model releases and photography.... My understanding is in most western countries, there is no expectation of privacy in a public place, and a model release is not needed for someone to take your photograph. And for anyone who really thinks about it, if you use public transit, walk down a city street, use an atm and then walk through a mall, you have been photographed, and videoed 50-100 times during that time, without your permission for any number of un named purposes , apparently this is ok... but one individual with a camera looking to create art frightens you.
Street photography, is also one of those art forms that forms part of the history of popular culture and society, and anyone practicing this art form today is following in the foot steps of people like Henri Cartier-Bresson
October 10, 2011 02:41 pm
I think some people might be getting a little too sensitive. When a TV news crew films scenes on the street for a news cast, or a newspaper/magazine photographer shoots such scenes for print, do you think they get signed releases from every person that appears in the video/photo? Hell, if that were required, there would be no paparazzi (though that would probably be a good thing), as snapping people out on the street is all they do, and I don't think those they shoot give their approval. We're not talking about pointing our cameras into someone's living room here... The reality is, when you're in public, you're public domain. Now, if someone you captured asks you to not publish their photo, I would hope that most photographers would respect that wish (I would), but really, it's not required.
October 10, 2011 01:48 pm
While I think that you do have a lot of good ideas I do hope that you have the permission of everyone in your photos. I'm not sure how I would feel if I had my photo taken without my permission and posted on a site which is visited by countless number of people. Still I learned something good from this post, such as framing the shot before someone walks in. And for those worrying about the legal aspects, I mean how many people would sue a passing by photographer that just happened to take their photo? At most they would ask you to delete their photo (maybe not so kindly).
October 10, 2011 10:59 am
I also have business cards with me at all times. When I do street photography I approach the person, hand them the card, and say something to the effect, "Hi, I'm Jim. I'm a photographer here in Connecticut and you have a really great (or interesting) look. Could I take a few minutes of your time and take a few photos of you. If you'll give me you're e-mail, I'll send you copies, probably tonight." 90% of the time people respond positively. Even when they say "No," they do it as graciously as I asked them. Regardless of the outcome, I always thank them for their time. I DO NOT take photographs of children without first getting permission from their parent(s).
October 10, 2011 10:54 am
I found this article very insightful. It may seem as if we're being sneaky, but when photographing images of street photography yo HAVE to be incognito otherwise your perfect shot could be ruined.
For those of you concerned with need consent, read this article for US clarification http://naymarie.com/photography/2011/07/12/tidbit-tuesday-photographing-people-in-public-without-consent-is-allowed-if :)
October 10, 2011 10:53 am
LOL, I used to do some of the tricks 3 & 4 to shoot my wife and my baby, as my wife always disagree me to bring camera while travelling.. A great article that teaches me a lot more tricks..
October 10, 2011 09:55 am
Interesting advice, I tend to be a bit cowardly (aka unobtrusive) and tend to focus on moments on the street rather than individuals.
October 10, 2011 07:54 am
You can find a good downloadable pdf of UK photographers rights here.
Sorry, I'm not sure how to make it clickable.
October 10, 2011 07:15 am
While it may well be a growing trend, I really don't like this type of photography or the way you approached this article, almost everything you do seems to have a sneaky side to it, like some cheap unpaid paparazzi trying to get the ultimate intrusive shot.
You seem to treat this like a game and forget that people have a right not to have their image taken (or used without consent), and I really hope you thought to get a model clearance for all of the identifiable people you have shown here, in order to promote yourself on this very public website.
October 10, 2011 07:13 am
I have similar concerns to Todd... any pointers to info, particularly for the UK, very welcome!
October 10, 2011 07:12 am
Great read. I am also guilty of applying some of these techniques, especially setting up your shots and using a stooge(thanks to my wife). Here in NYC it's particularly difficult because people are very wary.
October 10, 2011 07:02 am
I may have fallen in love with the girl from #8.
October 10, 2011 06:20 am
And you could also try using a lens like this:
October 10, 2011 05:35 am
Love this article, and there are some very good tips. One thing I've found very useful is to always carry a business card that shows you're a photographer. Sometimes you'll be challenged by a less-than-happy subject, and being able to produce a card will go some way to proving that you're a photographer, not a perv. I have 2 sets: one has all my details excluding my phone number - handy if you don't want people phoning you up at all hours asking when their photos will be ready!
October 10, 2011 04:34 am
I'm not sure about the laws in the UK, but in Canada and, I believe, the US you only need a release if the photo will be used for some commercial or promotional purpose. The law in general says that if the photo is taken in a place where a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy (street, park, stadium, beach, etc.) there is no requirement to have the subject's permission. Even in a shopping mall people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but you generally need permission from the owners or management to shoot on private property.
October 10, 2011 03:54 am
From the way I understand it, you only need a model release form if your photography is going to be used commercially like advertising what the subject has in their hand. (Art photography doesn't count as commercial use.)
There's a legal precedent from New York state. A photographer took a picture of a homeless man, it showed in a gallery and sold for a large sum. An enterprising lawyer found the homeless man and sued the photographer. The judge sided with the photographer saying something to the effect; "Art is not commercial use just because it makes money; we can't expect artists to not make any money on their work."
Of course your mileage may vary, and you want to have a good lawyer by your side in cases like this.
As far as photographing people in a public place, you have every right to take pictures of anything everyone can see. Here's a nice cheat sheet on photographer's rights;
October 10, 2011 02:33 am
Hi, thanks for the tips.
some of them are applicable for mobilephone photography :)
October 10, 2011 01:51 am
Good article Angie,
This is a very challenging subject from many viewpoints and your advise is appreciated. I find lots of articles that cover either the technical or (like this article) the "social" aspect of street photography and the various viewpoints are very helpful. However I have not seen any articles that talk about how to deal with the legal end of this type of shooting. I am an amateur photographer and it is my understanding that we need to have release forms signed when ever we take a picture where someones face is recognizable. I would really appreciate an article or two that cover how to go about this. For starters I have yet to figure out how to properly word a release form so it would be legal. I have read a few articles that seemed to outline very vague steps for doing that that involved researching the laws of every state in the country to make sure it would be legal no matter where you were shooting. (I personally find that a bit overwhelming) Also just approaching someone after taking their picture on the street seems like a daunting if not intimidating task in and of itself. How do you approach them? If you take a wide angle crowd shot with lots of faces how can you possible get everyone's signatures? If I have understood the rules correctly then these seem like some pretty big obstacles for a newbie photographer to face. Maybe I just don't understand or perhaps I am the only one who feels like this but I am yet to try street photography because of these very concerns.
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