Tuesdays’ Tales from the Shoot – Photographing in Public

OK So today’s tale is not from something I just did on the weekend, but a far more complex issue that I have, and I guess I am not alone; shooting in public. Is there a To Do and a NOT Do To List, is there street photography etiquette? Do you ask permission if someone gets in your photo or is it OK to shoot random people? Sometimes I shoot them from a distance or from behind, so they do not now I am taking a pic of them…….or is that just creepy? I mean sometimes it make a great shot. I have asked a few street performers and /or vendors if it was OK if I take their picture, but should I offer them a copy? Hand them a business card? What does everyone else do?

Penguins by Day-0577
sneaky shots from behind

If I am on my own I often feel like a bull in a china shop………….I stand out way too much and I am convinced everyone is watching me (although I doubt it, one fat old lady with a camera is not that interesting! 🙂 ), but put me with a group of Photographers or a TOG (did you know the plural for a group of photographers is apparently now referred to as a TOG?) I am fine, if they can shoot away at random images/ people so can I. In fact it’s great fun, I am no longer the lone wolf, but part of a pack (or Tog). Still what about people?

A few week’s ago I was at a Vintage Car Rally (sorry still working on the images from that one!) and it also had a Rock -a-Billy competition; music and dance, costumes etc. It was fabulous, I didn’t really have too many problems shooting the cars, but when it came to individual people, I went back to, at a distance or from behind “Don”t mind me I am just shooting that stray cloud or piece of truly exciting rubbish bin happening just behind you – I am not really shooting you!” I am a shy person anyway, my first instinct is to blab my mouth off, usually about absolute rubbish, so I don’t appear mute, stand offish or stuck up; probably just makes me sound dumb! It’s a flight or fight instinct I think?……….when people get to actually know me, I am not that dumb, most people actually say I am quite funny! Although I probably still talk a fair bit of rubbish to be honest 🙂 !


When it comes to Portraits, for some reason it seems different, for starters the model KNOWS that they are there to get their photo taken, so far I have only worked with kids and a few adults (that I have previously met). Kids I find are easy (possibly as I am just a big kid myself). I must admit when I did photos at a 21st Birthday Party a little while ago, it was extremely awkward, asking people I did and didn’t know, to pose for photos, when they were busy having a good time.  I felt I was imposing on their conversations, jokes, etc. But I battled on anyway. Maybe pushing past my own comfort zone is a good thing?

So I guess the main questions are;

  • Should you and DO you ask permission before taking a persons photograph, especially if it is of them and possibly up close?
  • Do you offer them a copy? Or at least a business card and explain it is for a blog post or something
  • Do you say nothing and shoot anything you want, let’s face it they may never see it? And if it’s out on public display it’s yours for the taking?
  • Do you blur their faces or leave them clear?
  • How do you get over the nervousness and embarrassment of shooting in public on your own?
  • How does all this add up to something like doing a Wedding? It’s kind of all of the above rolled into one.

I would love to hear you feedback, especially from seasoned photographers.  I am sure I am not the only one who deals with these issues. I mainly do landscapes, landscapes don’t care, they are there to be photographed. I also do a few portraits, and they are there to be photographed as well, it’s the random people in my streetscapes and landscapes, they are the issue.

– Julz