Leo Laksi’s Bangkok And Back

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Too shy to photograph people on the street? Step 1

with 2 comments



Sometimes, people the world over are reluctant to take photos of strangers on the street.  There are all kinds of explanations for that reluctance.   Sure a photographer can sneak a shot but sometimes this only aggravates their feeling that they are doing something wrong.  Most of the time, my experience has been that the problem lies with the photographer’s feelings of fear of the unknown and not necessarily the subject’s reaction to having his photograph taken.  There are times when subjects may not react pleasantly and, if so, try smiling and move on.

There are a few ways for the photographer to become comfortable with street or documentary photography and that’s what I am going to discuss today.

Price of rice

Price of rice

  • Locate an area where there are plenty of people engaged in some activity.  A street fair and weekend market come to mind but think of some location with plenty of people.
  • If you are apprehensive about shooting people, shoot an activity or object as I have done in these photographs.  This is the first step.  Subjects can be less suspicious if they see you photographing activities and not them.
  • Smile and make eye contact.  Talking  to them is a good thing.  They will feel less threathened and you can end up becoming part of the scene and not an intruder.
  • If you feel the time is right, you should consider taking the shot.  If you’re uncomfortable, smile and ask them if it’s ok to take their photo.  You have nothing to lose.  If they say “no”, thank them anyway, smile, and move on.
  • If the activity is an ongoing event, attend frequently.   After a while you end up being familiar to everyone and people will be more at ease with you.  They end up recognizing you as the “camera” guy (or gal).
  • Practically every photo of people that I’ve posted on this blog is the result of this approach.  Sure, sometimes people will pose by smiling for the camera.  Others won’t.  Either way, you will become more comfortable with taking people photos.
Yes, even eggs

Yes, even eggs

These photographs were taken today at a street market that I visit about every Sunday.  The vendors have seen me so many times that they sometimes smile at me as I approach.    Most of the time, they don’t pay attention to me.  When I first visited this location, I shot photos just like the ones here.  Food, food and more food.  I talked about the food, I smiled at the food and I bought food.

Deep-fried fish

Deep-fried fish

Give this approach a try and see if it works for you.  Granted not all people and cultures are the same but you may find that this approach is universal and can be successful regardless of where you live.

Once you become more comfortable shooting people in the above manner, then you can branch out to other types of street shots.

More fish

More fish

Photographs taken with a Nikon D700 and either a Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 or a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro zoom lens.

Lots of chilies

Lots of chilies


Written by leolaksi

September 13, 2009 at 6:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. ^o^ yummy!!


    September 13, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    • really. i love this style of fried fish. first the fish is sun-dried then deep fried. yummy indeed.


      September 13, 2009 at 8:31 pm

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