Last Updated on 04/19/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
Eric Kim tells us why it’s okay to be “aggressive” as a street photographer and get our best shots
Street photography is certainly one of the most engaging genres to get into, but it also comes with some pretty significant caveats. Among them are the ethical considerations when it comes to taking photos of people on the streets, often without consent. The rules differ in every city, state, or country, but the general consensus says there shouldn’t be a problem taking photos in public spaces as long as you’re not photographing the homeless, disabled, sick, and even children. But what if you’re still having doubts about pressing the shutter, in the fear of upsetting a potential subject? Eric Kim says, just go and take that shot; you’re only going to “minorly annoy” someone.
True, someone may shout at you or get somewhat hostile for taking their photos without permission. But, what if they don’t? What if, while you’re busy internally debating your decision, a snap-worthy scene just flashed before you and you weren’t ready for it? You’re more likely going to berate yourself repeatedly for missing that shot instead of saying, “Oh, at least I didn’t risk being chased or shouted at.”
For Eric, going after the shot is the most important thing to keep in mind when shooting street photography. If you want to truly excel in the craft and improve your eye for noteworthy street scenes, you have to get close. Be aggressive. He explains his thoughts on this tricky and often debatable topic in his video below.
Our thoughts on this? Eric makes a valid point when he says there will always be people who aren’t comfortable getting their pictures taken. There’s always a risk of upsetting someone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for it. As long as you’re not hurting someone or putting them in harm’s way, you should be good. If you’re confronted, have the confidence to explain as calmly and best as you can why you’re doing what you do, and what the photo is for. There’s no such thing as a “nice” street photographer, only a “minorly annoying” one. It’s the reality that comes with the art.
Of course with that said, always check your intentions.
The only rules we’d say you should follow? Don’t be a reckless, stupid photographer. Doing street photography is not a license for you to break laws, risk your life and career, or get other photographers possibly labelled in a specific (often negative) way.
“You’re empowering humanity by taking pictures that inspire people. You’re photographing the beauty of everyday life. Don’t let the fear that you’re hurting other people get in the way of your street photography,” Eric concluded. We can’t agree more.