How to Avoid Confrontation When Doing Street Photography

When doing street photography, no photographer wants to get into any sort of confrontation. Though what you’re doing isn’t illegal by taking pictures of someone in public, it can offend or creep someone out. That’s easy to do too!

You should be aware that every photographer will get into a confrontation at one point or another–for some it rarely happens and for others it happens often. But there are ways you can avoid it.

Be Aware of Your Own Intentions

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC mirrorless extra sample photos (31 of 46)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 1.4

Something that I’ve said before is this: if you have good intentions then you should have nothing to be afraid of. If you’re a photographer looking to take a stalker style image of a pretty woman or a child in public, then you’re a stalker. It’s pretty simple; and unless there’s a specific project around this you should also be ashamed of yourself. Exploiting people, especially the poor and vulnerable is wrong.

If you’re a photographer that is capturing a truly candid moment and just likes the look of it because something excited you enough to want to shoot it, then that’s fine. Have good intentions when you shoot. Don’t try to harm someone emotionally, physically or mentally.

Think Before You Shoot

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC mirrorless extra sample photos (16 of 46)ISO 1001-500 sec at f - 1.4

Building on the idea presented previously, you should also consider thinking about a photo right before you shoot it. This goes against the thought process of many photographers but would you rather end up in an altercation otherwise? Do you want to take the risk?

In the digital world, we’re taught to shoot and just move on like it’s nobody’s business but if you’re trying to do street photography seriously and not screw up, then pausing for a quick moment to decide on whether you should get the shot or not could save you quite a headache. Part of this comes with the thought process involved in considering what you’re really shooting. If you’re photographing a parent and a child, the parent could become a bit angry because in their eyes, you could pose a danger to their family.

It isn’t as much common sense as it is psychology and thinking about the world from the perspective of the people you’re photographing.

Setup in An Area And Capture Things Going By

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC mirrorless extra sample photos (27 of 46)ISO 1001-500 sec at f - 1.4

One of the more popular ideas is for a street photographer to set up in an area where they think they’ve found something that can interact with people in a really cool way. It could be anything like a wall, a fountain, a bench, a dog tied up to a pole while their owner is inside getting a quick coffee, etc.

This can play a lot into the whole scene to create fun visual shapes and ideas. A lot of this also depends on the time of day you’re shooting.

Zone Focus and Shoot From the Hip

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC mirrorless extra sample photos (13 of 46)ISO 1001-500 sec at f - 1.4

The last method that you can do is shooting from the hip. Some photographers don’t like doing this, but I believe that when combined with the other methods that it can make for great photos taken in a low profile way and that avoids confrontation. At times, you can capture the world from a different point of view–kind of like how children do it when they’re standing.

If you’re caught though, it could be even tougher for you.