PSA: If You’re Going to Shoot Street Photography, Please Wear a Mask

To those who shoot street photography during this time, please distance yourselves and wear masks.

Testing cameras has made it apparent that many of the traditional tenets of street photography need to go out the window right now. The best solution possible is to just not do it right now. But I sympathize, empathize, and relate to folks not wanting to stay in all day. They want to go out and shoot. So if you do, I urge you to please be careful. COVID-19 is real. Nothing Trump says will help, and here in the US, we are far behind most of the world when it comes to recovery. If you’re going to do street photography, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

People Aren’t Congregating, Hopefully.

The aim of street photography is to document everyday life. And that’s pretty easy to do while out on the streets. Here in NYC, you’ll see lots of nearly empty streets. But there are folks out and about in smaller numbers and generally being safe. Of course, Social Darwinism is bound to be at play here, so photographers need to adapt or, better yet, altogether avoid it. At the moment, I’m actively testing the Fujifilm X100V. Why? It’s literally my job. I’m also finishing up our Sony RX100 Mk VII review. What I’ve found is that people aren’t really congregating in most places. There are exceptions, of course: like in parks or waterfronts. And if you’re going to head to those places, be careful. Look around. If you’re a bit antsy (and you should be), move to a safe distance. More importantly, think of this as a test to look for different angles and to push yourself in a new way. Can you get above people? Can you be across the street and use the Photo Wait Method?

If you’re not familiar with this method, check out this video we did with Jonathan Higbee a while back. Adapt it by not being close to your subjects and instead, looking at the world as a street and urban landscape.

Reach for a Zoom Lens

In all honesty, you can shoot street photography with anything you want or need. Even consider a telephoto lens. But the thing is that it needs to feel like a street photo. Lots of folks sometimes go for 85mm telephoto primes because the images they get look more cinematic. But that’s one of the reasons why I make a strong case for a zoom lens. Here’s more on that:

  • You can photograph and document safely
  • You can still tell a story about what’s going on in the world
  • We’re pretty sure that most people won’t be able to tell or even care as long as it’s a beautiful image
  • Though the old masters would say that you should still get up close and give a human perspective, times change. There’s nothing wrong with adapting to the new situation.

Social Distance and Wear a Mask

Lastly, again, if you’re going to do this, please wear a mask. I see way too many people not wearing them. Don’t have a mask? Grab a scarf. Don’t have a scarf? Take a shirt and rip it up to create something like a mask. In 2020, we’re gifted with the largest free libraries in the world in the form of YouTube and Google. You should totally find out and figure out how to make one. And you should not only walk with one on but also consider bringing a can of Lysol with you and hand sanitizer. You can make it easily with some rubbing alcohol, essential oil, and aloe vera.

But please, no matter what you do, be safe. Or don’t do this at all.