The main problem people have when shooting street photos for the first time is fear. They’re afraid that someone will be mad that they took their picture. There are numerous ways to get over that fear — some of those methods may work for one person but not work for another, but I do know of three things anybody can do that will help them get over their fear. They’re simple and easily implemented for most, and I believe within weeks of practicing these three simple things, you’ll lose most if not all of your fear of taking pictures of strangers in the street.
Take Your Camera Everywhere
This one might seem to be a non sequitur, but it goes a long way to ease your fear. The more you carry your camera around, the more it feels like it’s part of you and the more at ease you’ll be using it. Also, the more people see you with it, the more they’ll accept that you’re just a guy or girl that is always carrying a camera, taking pictures. After a while, it will be natural for you to be hauling it and unusual for you to not have it. You’ll be relaxed carrying it and starting your day off taking pictures of strangers on the street when you’re at ease, will make for a better, more productive day of shooting than if you were tense and nervous.
Take Pictures of People’s Back
You need to get used to taking pictures of strangers. Start out by taking photos of the backs of people — of course when you do this there is little chance of them seeing you do it but of course, there is little chance that you’ll get a good picture too but the idea here is you’re working your way up to something more. After you’re comfortable taking images of the backs of people, start taking pictures of the sides of people. Stand in one spot and as people walk past, take a picture of them.
You’ll find it will initially be more comfortable to take photos of groups of people as they go by and it will be even more comfortable if you’re doing this while at a festival or carnival where large groups of people are milling around oblivious to all the other people around them. Now, there is a chance they’ll notice you. If they do and say something, you can feign that you were taking a picture of something else and they happened to walk into the frame at the exact moment you pressed the shutter.
Shooting pictures of people as they walk by will probably be the hardest stage for you and you may be doing it for a while but persist and you’ll find that soon, you’ll be able to take pictures of people straight on. Of course, the goal is to, day after day, little by little, move more in front of the subject until you’re taking a picture of them straight on.
Shoot With a Friend or Friends — The More the Merrier
It’s fundamental human nature to feel more secure in a group. Go out street shooting with one or a small group of photographers. I guarantee you’ll feel less apprehensive and you’ll be more inclined to raise the camera to your eye and take pictures. Again, you may have to do this type of group therapy for a while until your apprehensiveness of shooting alone subsides but it will, and when it does, your work will reflect that.