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Street and/or candid photography etiquette?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by majordude, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. majordude

    majordude Mu-43 Regular

    108
    Dec 28, 2012
    Do you just snap away or do you ask if it's okay to take someone's photo first?

    I want to avoid a situation like the photographers who went to that wedding in the Godfather. :rolleyes:
     
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  2. Dalton

    Dalton Mu-43 Veteran

    329
    Jan 24, 2010
    Portland, Oregon USA
    Dan Ferrall
    Well...depends...

    What do you think the polite thing to do is? Much depends on how far away your subject is. With the wide range of personality types that people have, reactions to having a camera pointed at them in close proximity will yield a wide range of possible responses.

    Be responsible, kind, polite, and ask permission if you are close enough to the subject such that they will notice that you are taking pictures. If the person or persons say yes, great! If they express concern or say no, thank them politely and move on.

    Good manners are always welcome.:smile:

    Dan
     
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  3. Adubo

    Adubo SithLord

    Nov 4, 2010
    Globetrotter
    Andrew
    It all depends on your preference. Do you like them candid (like i do, and most people i think) let the stage unfold on its own and e the guy capturing the "moments" or do you want it staged (consciously staring at you, creating a background story of its own) if you ask for a photograph, IMO, most of the time they'll be too conscious and couldnt act normally and go about their business.

    Just be nice. Smile, express a positive vibe. People tend to feel what your intentions are. If they catch you taking photos of them, smile and approach them, show them the photos and from there, you can ask and take photos of what you feel that's appropriate.

    Sent from my iPhone using Mu-43 App
     
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  4. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Essex
    John
    I think Andrew put it really well. The big problem with asking first is that you get a portrait rather than a slice of street life. I agree you should try to speak to the subject if they notice or react to you taking the picture - you can always let them see you delete the picture if they're not happy.
     
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  5. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    <iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/In5sR-tUhCM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
     
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  6. Dalton

    Dalton Mu-43 Veteran

    329
    Jan 24, 2010
    Portland, Oregon USA
    Dan Ferrall
    Perhaps just being a decent, caring human being?

    <rant/on>
    By the time the wrong type of person isn't "happy", you may be in for more than a nice conversation about whether or not you are willing to delete the images you may have already captured.

    Over time I have noticed that today's world is moving more and more to a mindset of "what can I get away with?" and leaving behind the idea that maybe people should be treated with dignity and respect.

    Street photography can be fun and yield interesting image captures. I "wish" in my "Pollyanna world" that people wanting street images could still be respectful to those people who happen to be out and about in a public domain. A lot of what read when this question about etiquette comes up (as it often does), is how far can the photographer push the boundaries and limits within the law, instead of "what is the polite thing to do with my freedom to capture images in a public space?"

    The idea of not asking a person permission to take pictures of them to avoid missing the spontaneity of "candid" images surrenders the decency of offering the subject an option of maintaining a "hoped for" set of reasonable boundaries even in a public space.

    If you want to push the absurdity of trying to define a grey scale of reasonable acceptability for taking a picture of someone in a public setting, how close would you think is reasonable that you could get to a person before the subject would feel a "personal" invasion of their "space?" Would 20 feet away be O.K.? How about 15 feet...10 feet? Why not just a couple of feet away? Perhaps you don't care how they feel? After all, "legally" it's a public setting. If it's legal, go for it. If they don't want to be exposed to the possibility of being the subject of your camera lens, they should just hunker down inside their home and forget about going down to the park for a casual lunch with family, friends, or just a solitary time in the park.

    But then again...that's my "Pollyanna world" and many people simply don't care about how some people may feel about having their picture captured in a public setting.
    <rant/off>
    Dan
     
  7. LisaO

    LisaO Mu-43 Top Veteran

    798
    Mar 18, 2010
    New York Metro Area
    Lisa
    The Godfather scene was more like paparazzi then street photography. Some of the best street photographers do an in your face style. I sometimes do candids, I sometime ask people if I can take a portrait of them, it's two different styles. Sometimes people say something but usually not.
     
  8. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    I think if you do it well, you never have to ask for permission.. I would prefer to not interrupt the scene and subjects myself. Just my personal style.

    Sometimes you do make eye-contact with the subjects and then it comes as a case-by-case basis. I typically am honest with my camera and go with a questioning smile. If they seem non-receptive, I am happy to apologize, shrug my shoulders, and move on. Or shoot away if they're happy. Most times I've been noticed, people are amused that I find them that interesting.
     
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  9. spinyman

    spinyman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    603
    Nov 19, 2010
    San Diego
    I think Kai's video covered it quite well.Except, for me, I prefer to use my 14 or even my 9-18 to get really close.Taking pics from across the street with a long lens seems like stalking to me.Then again, I don't want to be like Eric Kim and stick my camera in anyones face either.I never ask permission because it ruins the shot.I don't mind if someone notices me taking their picture if it is at the last split second and it doesn't ruin the moment.If you are discreet and stay out of peoples way then no harm done.People won't object.I generally keep moving and don't want to start a conversation with strangers.My E-m5 is equiped with the wonderful tilting screen which I almost always use on the street.It allows me to be very discreet, not even needing to look up at my subject yet I can frame perfectly from my belly.Turn off the evf so your lcd stays on.I don't shoot the homeless or embarrassing situations.I try not to shoot peoples backs unless there is some interesting body language or environment.You are not doing anything wrong and your attitude should reflect that.I'm less concerned about locking focus than I am about capturing some emotion or story in the frame.I usually zone focus although the 14 focuses fast and that is my preferred lens.
    These are just MY personal observations and don't reflect, at all, how I think it should be done for everyone.I am new to this game and as I do it more,I gain confidence on the street and my pictures are improving.In fact, that is my main advice.Shoot a lot, and I don't mean spray and pray.Just get out there.In fact,I hope this thread draws out some of our experts here who really know what they are doing to shed light on their technique as I am just a beginner.I am talking to you,Gary, and you Ray.And anyone with knowledge to share on this topic.Thanks in advance.
     
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  10. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    This question comes up so many times on the internet. And mostly because most people think street photography is wrong. You should read this:

    2point8 » Ways of Working

    The first article has the following content:

    And the fifth article addresses the very question the OP has:

    http://2point8.whileseated.org/2005/09/20/ways-of-working-4-honesty/

    I have to agree. A lot of good street photographers just want to capture life as it happens without meaning any disrespect to their subjects. It's not wrong to do it. And I encourage you to watch in-sight. It teaches you a lot more and takes away the mystery of why people pursue street photograph. Especially, what Richard Bram has to say. Here's a link to its announcement:

    iN-PUBLiC | The home of street photography
     
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  11. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Essex
    John
    So you've just dismissed the validity of an entire genre of photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson's concept of the decisive moment was obviously wrong, he should have asked all his subjects first and got them to pose. What do you do if taking a crowded street scene, do you shout for everyone to stop then ask around fifty people if anyone minds being included in the photograph?

    OK, so street photography is out. What about war photography? Some of the most compelling images from the 20th Century were taken in war zones, showing atrocities, pain, suffering and grief. Some of those pictures changed the public's support for war, but perhaps they should not have been taken as there was no opportunity to ask the subject's permission first. Same with famine and other natural disasters.

    So some people don't like having their picture taken. Well tough, because photography cannot be dis-invented. I don't like aircraft from the local airport flying over my house or noisey, polluting cars from driving by. I don't like people playing loud music with their car windows open as they cruise slowly down the high street. I don't like walking along the street behind someone who is smoking (nasty, disgusting habit) or have to pick my way through the pavement pizzas deposited by the drunks on their way home the night before. I don't like spammers emailing me or cold callers on my phone just as I sit down to tea. I don't like ......... many, many other things but I have to put up with them, and yet I shouldn't take pictures in a public place without asking permission first because somebody may be a little sensitive and feel offended. :dash2:
     
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  12. spinyman

    spinyman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    603
    Nov 19, 2010
    San Diego
    Correct attitude here.The less obtrusive the better.I don't think it's about stealing someones personal space at all.We are not talking about papparazi style here.The times when I have been scared off with a look are less than 5.On the rare occasion when I'm noticed,My smile allows my subject to feel nonthreatened.Once in a blue moon will someone ask what I am doing and my answer is" I'm taking a picture of someone interesting".Truthfull and disarming.
     
  13. Chuck Pike

    Chuck Pike Mu-43 Veteran

    333
    Apr 3, 2010
    Charlotte, NC.
    I take two types of street photography.

    I take real street, that is, candid shots of what is going on in my town as well as posed shots. It is almost documentary, as it is often people working. If they look at me, I smile and I tell them I like to take pictures of people working. I have never had anyone ask me to stop, and I have been doing this a long time. The other type is street portraiture, where I ask if I can take the picture. If when I walk through town, I see an interesting face, I might just ask if I can take their picture. Yes these are posed, but I have two sets of galleries set this way, Charlotte Smiles, and Ren Fest Smiles, in both color and Black & White. I also take photos where they don't know I took them, these I shoot from the hip.

    I worked for a weekly years ago, and one of the photographers that worked for the daily shared with me this idea. When you see someone doing something interesting, ask if you can take a picture of what they are doing. They are often pleased that you found them interesting. I only shoot with my 20mm or 14mm lens, I often stand at the corner of the two main street in our uptown area, and have my flip out screen so I can compose what I want to take a picture of, but I don't always watch the screen while I take the picture. It works like this. I am standing at the corner, I have my camera set to closes subject to focus the lens. I have the camera aimed at where I want the subject to be, and then I wait for the light to change and for the subject to walk into this area. They often come out. I will use parking meters, recycle bins and what ever else I can to rest my camera on to help keep it steady. I never shoot at an ISO of under 400. Hope this helps, and yes when you first get started it takes effort. I took a class on spot news once and the head of the photo department of the daily asked why I only shot backs of people? I still do some of the time, but only if it is a part of the picture/action.

    Images for books, magazines and calendars | photosbypike
     
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  14. Dalton

    Dalton Mu-43 Veteran

    329
    Jan 24, 2010
    Portland, Oregon USA
    Dan Ferrall
    That's my point...

    I guess I should have thrown in my "Pollyanna world" several more times to be sure that people would understand that is what I would hope the world to be, not what it is.

    It is a difference in the way you and I view the world and our personalities and that is life. I have no feelings of animosity toward you for what you believe is reasonable, fair, or otherwise. I respect your right to that opinion. I hope you will respect my right to my opinion without feelings of malice or ill will.

    Dan
     
  15. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Essex
    John
    Oh, absolutely Dan, I'm sure we all wish the world was different than it is. Mind you, I can think of some things I would like to change in preference to the relatively minor issues concerning photography! However, I fully respect your opinion even though it is different from my own and there is certainly no malice or ill will on my part. :smile:
     
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  16. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    What would you do if someone told you that you couldn't drive at the speed limit, that you had to drive 10 mph under it? Would you stop driving at the speed limit because someone objected to you doing so? No. Then why should you not photograph people in public without their permission if it is legal to do so?

    Some people don't like the idea of street photography and will never like it, but unless they happen to be a majority in your country and get a law passed prohibiting it, those people have no right to stop you photographing anything provided you stay within the law, just as you can and should be able to drive at whatever speed you like provided you stay within the law.

    Does that mean you should drive at the speed limit all of the time, or photograph anything and everything that you can photograph legally? No. Sometimes restraint is sensible. Driving right at the speed limit on a wet and slippery road is dangerous and it's sensible to slow down. Sometimes you may feel you shouldn't photograph something that you could photograph legally, because it's something you feel should be private or because it would be a photograph that makes a mockery of a person or is degrading in some way. Those feelings should be respected. Be considerate to the people and incidents you photograph.

    The answer to your question isn't just a legal one though the legal question sets some boundaries. Within those boundaries you need to make your own decisions and those decisions define who you are as a person and as a street photographer. Try to be the person and the photographer you hope to be. I think that's the best advice anyone can give you.
     
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  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I'm another who doesn't want the subjects to know their photo is being taken - I'm trying to be an observer of the scene/moment, not a participant in it. I usually get very very close and shoot from the hip, often not looking at the subject while I'm shooting. People occasionally notice but rarely. I've been confronted twice and asked to erase the photos, which I happily did. There are places where taking photos without permission isn't permitted, but I've never been aware of shooting in such a place. My feeling is generally that if you or I are in a public place, anyone else there is free to look at us for as long as they want - we're looking at others and they can look at us. Photography is just another way of looking at someone. I don't have any moral qualms about it at all. I'm mostly concerned with the craft and trying to be receptive to developing moments to make photos of.

    If someone feels its wrong, they shouldn't do it.

    -Ray
     
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  18. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    There's also the matter of cultural differences, particularly if one is traveling. In Guatemala most people, particularly older people, do not like to be photographed. Asking for permission is the polite thing to do - many are willing, even if it is a grudging willingness. Some ask for payment, which is another topic entirely. (I have given small amounts of money on a case by case basis - most of the people are desperately poor.)
     
  19. majordude

    majordude Mu-43 Regular

    108
    Dec 28, 2012
    Well, maybe I should say that I live in Los Angeles and if you LOOK at someone the wrong way your sister dies, let alone photographing them :p
     
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  20. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    777
    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    And yet, I have seen some pretty amazing street photographs from LA :smile:. Some of these were clicked at LA by a friend of mine when he was attending a workshop by John Free:

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