I recently put out a post about shooting street photography, which included several tips and tricks for beginners to get stuck into the art of capturing spontaneous, real moments. Lots of you seemed to enjoy that post, and several people expressed an interest in getting started but feeling anxious about having to shoot on the street with people noticing you. Worry no more, I’ve got you – this is what we’re going to be discussing today.
Now, who would be a good person to turn to for advice on such a subject? A highly socially anxious individual who has a bit of experience with taking photos on the street, I’d assume. Hmm… can you think of anyone? Yeah, that’s right, you’ve come to the right place. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll definitely have come across content centred around anxiety – even if you weren’t looking for it. I’ve talked before a lot about how standing out in any way at all has given me crippling irrational fear in the past.
So how do you take that person and get them to stand still in the middle of the pavement and snap portraits of strangers? Not easily, is the short answer. With a lot of passion and persistence is a slightly longer answer. But the completely honest answer is that I’m not totally sure yet – it is something I’m still a long way from figuring out. I’m sorry if that’s disappointing, but behind this screen is a real person who still sometimes struggles with anxiety; unfortunately that doesn’t magically dissipate when I see the potential for a perfect shot in the street.
But I have found some ways around it. Not necessarily methods to overcome the anxiety of shooting street photography, but hacks which mean you can avoid the worst of the anxiety-inducing situations and not have to compromise on image quality.
At any major event, or even most small ones, there will be other photographers so you won’t be alone. Also, people attending the event are probably expecting photographs to be taken. Knowing that you’re one of many people snapping away and that the crowd is generally open to being captured on camera can really release the apprehension you might be feeling before you get started.
The most recent photo journal posted on my blog was a collection taken at Brighton Pride 2018. This is a great example of this hack. Everyone in the parade was smiling and people posed for the camera – definitely one of the easier places to have your camera out.
Visit busy cities
I understand this might not be possible for some people, but lots of us live in or near a big city. And with plenty of people around, it is much easier to blend into the crowd and take photos whilst remaining unnoticed. Another great thing about cities in general is the significant number of tourists wielding their own cameras. Much like attending an event, it’s easy to become one of many people snapping away in a big city.
Sit on a bench
…or sit anywhere. On what is unimportant, staying still and becoming part of the street furniture is the key thing here. If you remain in one place long enough, as long as it’s not a place where you clearly stand out, you’ll pretty quickly sink into the scenery. Once you’ve been there a little while, reach for your camera and take whatever you can from that angle.
Shoot from a moving vehicle
This takes sitting still one step further – you’re still personally remaining static but you’ve got the added advantage that the scenery changes around you. Of course this isn’t great if you’re in a fast-moving car, but it is possible to get some decent photos cruising around a city centre sitting in the passenger seat. This summer I was lucky enough to go to Amsterdam, and on one day of the trip we decided to go on a canal boat tour of the city. This offered up plenty of non-anxiety-inducing photo opportunities!
Yes I know I just told you to stay still, but hey I never said I wasn’t contradictory. We’re switching it up completely for this one; instead of sitting still somewhere, try to keep on moving. Yes, a lot of your photos will come out blurry. But if you’re shooting on a day with good lighting, your camera should be able to handle it and you will end up with some good shots. People hardly have time to register you passing by if you’re walking in opposite directions and it allows you to feel in control of how much you stand out – if you feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to point the lens down and continue walking like any other person on the street.
This is one I’ve only recently discovered. But I think I was underestimating the power of a good reflection previously. Mirrors aren’t the only thing we’re talking about here – windows, puddles, anything reflective is worth a shot – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got some good street photography shots from the back of a spoon. Taking photos of reflections is a great technique I want to explore more in the future, because passersby don’t even think you’re trying to take photos of people – they just think you’re a little weird snapping away at the ground. And for me that’s a lot less anxiety-provoking.
In the past, and still frequently in the present, I have missed out on many incredible photographic opportunities due to anxiety – it can feel like a physical force keeping your hands limp by your sides whilst the beautiful framing/lighting/colours wait to be captured for a moment and then disappear, only to be seen in your mind. That’s a difficult feeling to deal with as an aspiring photographer, and can be really off-putting. This is why I’ve felt determined to find ways around this anxiety; and I honestly feel like these simple hacks can allow other anxious people to get out there and start snapping photos on the street too.
Let me know if you have any other simple hacks, I’d love street photography to become as accessible as possible for everyone ❤
If you want to keep updated with my street photography (plus a couple of dance shots), you can check me out over on Instagram @alysjournals 🙂
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