STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MYTHS
Myth No 1:
People will stare at me, sue me, beat me up, break my camera, think I am a terrorist, shoot me and dance on my grave.
No, most likely people won't even notice you. Most likely they will think you are taking pictures of something else around you. Even if they do notice you, most likely they will pretend not to see you. Sometimes they will look at you as if you were a weirdo (which you are) and they will keep away, but most often they won't mind being photographed. Sometimes they will even feel flattered by it (well, ok, don't think you will get girls' phone numbers this way, though). I never had problems taking photos of strangers. If after taking a photo you look intensely to something else, people will think you were photographing it. If after taking a photo you turn and take another one...the same. If you get spotted and caught, just smile. People will be less likely to break your nose. If somebody complains about having his picture taken, don't insist, and delete it, while explaining why you took the photo. Avoid dangerous situations, trust your instinct and feelings towards people.
Myth No 2:
Street photography is against the law
No, it is not necessarily. It is always good to be aware of local laws especially concerning children, commercial use of photos, publication of photos. Taking photos in public places is accepted and normal in most of the countries. It is very unlikely that people will find themselves in a published photo and complain about it. Especially if you avoid taking photos that could be offensive and detrimental (which IS against the law) and avoid taking photos of recognizable children (delicate matter, and a written permission from parents is usually required). Let's remember that everybody nowadays snaps photos of everything all the time, and that internet is such a de-regulated place where everything gets reblogged, retwittered, shared, stolen, etc. that pretty sure a street photo is not such a big deal.
Myth No 3:
I need permission/a model release form when shooting people in the streets.
Sure, street photographers usually take a photo in a public place full of people, and then they freeze the time with their superpowers, open their raincoats where hundreds of release forms are hidden in hidden pockets, and they start getting signatures from each person in the frame. Then they start the clocks again, just to stop them a minute later for another photo.
I am kidding!
Street photography is candid. Unposed. Unstaged. Subjects are not aware of being photographed.
No, street photographers don't ask permission, neither before nor after taking photos. It would be impossible. It is not even necessary. And the absence of consent does not imply unethical behavior.
"Photographing without the subject’s knowledge lays at the crux of potential ethical conflicts – without knowledge there cannot be consent. On the other hand, the absence of consent does not imply unethical behavior. Moral codes come into play for all parties involved: the photographer, who is looking to exercise his/her artistic freedom while safeguarding an individual’s dignity – the subject, who might ask for the deletion of his image, realizing he/she has no say in the creation or distribution of the photograph – and the public, who demands both access to street photography (in form of entertainment, news, or art), and to be shielded from excesses. A group not supposed to be guided by moral considerations is law enforcement. However, an officer called to the scene of a dispute may or may not be knowledgeable about the law he is supposed to enforce. The ensuing vacuum is likely filled with the official’s own moral code". www.forwardthinkingmuseum.com/…
Useful articles On Street photography ethics and laws:
- Street photography and moral codes
- Voulez-vous photograph avec moi, ce soir?
- The Ethics of street photography
- Why street photography is facing a moment of truth
- Woldwide photographer's Rights by DougNZ
Myth No 4:
A street photograph is a snapshot
Duh, of course not. Well, sometimes (ok, often) the catch of a great moment is a matter of luck. Sometimes, the photographer just happens to be in the right place in the right moment, notice it and catch it. What makes a snapshot different than a Street photograph, is that the first lacks of composition, technique and a story to tell.
A good street photo is the outcome of a wise direction work. Which doesn't mean staging or posing elements, but playing with unaware 'actors' in a candid setting.
Composition and technique help the photographer making the watchers understand what captured his eye and what made him take a photo.
Composing means selecting the elements to include in the frame and organize them visually.
Depth of field, composition rules, technique solutions, expressive capacity, personal sensitivity and artisitic vibes are what make a good (street) photo.
In street photography there is not a neat separation between form and content. The two concepts are complementary.
From the bible of street photography (Genesis, 1.1):
"To take photographs means to recognize - simultaneously and within a fraction of a second - both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis". (Henri Cartier-Bresson)
Myth No 5:
I need a 10,000 USD-EUROS-POUNDS Leica to shoot street
Well, who couldn't use this amount of money? Though not everybody have them, right? So you don't 'need' a Leica camera. If you can afford it, great for you, go for it. Though street photography doesn't really need to be taken with a Leica camera, or a certain other brand, or type, or on film, or with expensive gear in general. What you need is a reactive, fast camera, preferably silent, preferably not bulky.
Film cameras, DSLRs, mirrorless, point and shoot cameras, mobile phones, everything can work. You need to adjust to your tool, though, each tool has limits, each tool has pros and cons.
You can hardly take 'in your face' photos with a bulky and noisy DSLR, you can hardly split the second with a point and shoot autofocus, you can't afford taking tons of photos with film, you can't expect fine art prints out of the mobile phone.
Though technology is doing miracles, and while the perfect camera still has to be invented, 'discontent is the first necessity of progress' (Thomas Edison dixit).
And anyway knowing your camera by heart makes up for a lot of tech stuff.
You are welcome to add your own myths regarding this wonderful genre of photography and/or discuss the myths mentioned above!