Street Photographer vs “Guy With a Camera”

One of my favorite Street shots because one person sees me and the other does not.

One of my favorite Street shots because one person sees me and the other does not.

Ok so today I want to talk a little bit about Street Photography.

What is Street Photography? Street photography is a genre of photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. ‘Street’ simply refers to a place where human activity can be seen, a place to observe and capture social interaction. The subject can even be absent of any people and can be that of object or environment where an object projects a human character or an environment is decidedly human.

SO what has prompted me to write about this is the fact that I saw a video of renowned photographer Zack Arias where he goes to New York to shoot street. In my opinion the video was shot well but Zack misses the mark a little on his method. He talks about being rather stealth like or paparazzi like so as to not let people know you are taking their photo. Now this only goes one of two ways. Either you look like a photographer or you look like a creep (guy with camera). There really is no middle. I have found that I would rather look like a photographer. Zack is running around with one of these new little mirror-less cameras because it looks less intrusive and they do. But in my experience I have found the DSLR to be what is going to take away the creep factor. Also as much as Zack talks about being stealth like, with no offense Mr. Arias you tend to have a look that screams “hey look at me.” I know his look fits in with the artsy scene and the music scene of Atlanta where Zack resides but please… stealth like you are not.

Do I look like a photographer?

Do I look like a photographer?

As a matter of fact I will go to the point of making myself more obvious as a photographer. On a trip to DC a few years back I was told that I looked like a journalist, hey laugh if you want to but I shot some of the most awesome street photography I have ever taken that day. Now of course in DC everybody is taking pictures. But are they taking pictures of other people? Not too much. Yes I did have a pleasant (and I do mean pleasant) run in with the Secret Service police that are all around the White House. There was a medium size protest going on that day about “Freeing Syria” and at one point as I was leaving the area of the back of the White House a very nice and good looking policeman asked me about the camera and how we were doing? So out of the thousands of people there that day he just wants to shoot the breeze with me… I don’t think so. But because I was with a group, I looked like a photographer, had a business card with real website, email & phone numbers and membership cards to real photo associations. Now if I was alone the creep factor would be higher. And to short circuit the whole questions thing one of the females in our group asked if she could pose with the handsome policeman and he was willing. So the group method is great for Street.

Secret Service Polieman

But seriously I have found even when I’m alone that it is better to look like you’re a photographer taking photos rather than being the “guy with a camera.” Sure you want candid photos without the people knowing that you’re taking a photo, after all that is what Street is all about. I do not profess to be an expert, but I know what works and what doesn’t and “creepy” doesn’t work. I talked earlier this year in a blog post about how I will ask a stranger if I can take a photograph of them and my main method of achieving this is to “look like a photographer.” I get pretty amazing results with that about 90% of the time. Now with that said I’m not going up to a girl in a bikini and saying “hey babe can I take your photo?” Street is a lot of fun but I feel it doesn’t need to be stealthy.

DC Protester

Street Hockey behind the White House.

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