Petrified of Street Photography? So am I!

By Mridula Dwivedi October 2, 2013 25 Comments , , ,

I am truly petrified of street photography. It feels like a daunting task to point my camera at a stranger’s face and click. I know, I know in India not too many people mind, but I just completely freeze most of the time. And yet I was fascinated by it too. I would keep reading tips after tips thinking something would unlock the secret for me. I am still uncomfortable with street photography but I have given it a try from time to time and here are the things that worked for me. So consider this as street photography tips for the petrified.

Miniature Apsaras, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Miniature Apsaras, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Shooting Things: Since I was petrified of shooting people I started with shooting things. Most of the times, the street vendors are fine even when you walk up close, exchange a glance towards their stuff and raise an eyebrow. They generally wave a hand to go ahead. I know this is not real street photography but I had to start somewhere. That is where I started and remained for a very long time.

I do remember one incident when I was framing a shot of vegetarian street food in Kuala Lumpur. I had clicked the shot but I was still looking through the viewfinder. I sensed someone walking into my frame and that startled me! He was the owner of the stall. I had ordered something with the young boy who was there. And while I was waiting for my mushrooms to arrive and clicking this man rudely walked into my frame. I did not understand the language but I guess the young boy told him I had already ordered. The burly man was now sort of apologetic. And that was the end of the incident. I guess sometimes it helps to buy something from a stall and then soot. But I can’t do this every time, more so when I don’t eat non-vegetarian food. A lot many owners are just fine if you are shooting their stuff. Sometimes the vendors even insist that I click there picture as well!

Too Difficult to Open: Using a Zoom Lens

Too Difficult to Open: Clicked Using a 75-300 Lens

Using a Zoom Lens: I know every self street respecting street photographer would advise you against it. But remember we are not dealing with self respecting street photographer but a terrified street photographer. I actually gathered courage only after I used a 75-300 to shoot people walking by at Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal. I was sitting on a bench under shade as it was too hot. I saw boats coming and going as well as people walking by the lake. I decided to use the zoom. No one took any notice as I was a little away from the scene. It helped that I stationary as well. I liked what I clicked and this was the first time (June 2013) I thought I have to try it more.

Framing Wider

Wanted to Click the Man Under Umbrella Really

Framing Wider: So when I found myself in the colorful border market at Aranyaprathet (Thai-Cambodia border, September 2013) I wanted to do street photography. I was using a 50 mm (Canon) prime lens which would not let me zoom anything. I wanted to click the man under the umbrella but my nerves failed me as usual. I then decided to frame the scene wider. What to do, you have to think of ways to click things when you are scared of offending people.

Busy with Making a Dish, Aranyaprathet, Thai-Cambodia Border

Busy with Making a Dish, Aranyaprathet, Thai-Cambodia Border

Clicking Busy People: While walking through the Rong Kluea Market at the Thai-Cambodian border I realized that the vendors were so busy doing their business they hardly had any time for nosy photographer. Now that is a good thing for petrified novices like me. She never knew I clicked her picture.

Mom is Asleep, Rong Kluea Market, Thailand

Mom is Asleep, Rong Kluea Market, Thailand

Chancing upon Things: This mom and baby were resting in their shop when I chanced upon it. I think the mom knew I was clicking a picture but she didn’t stir beyond giving me a passing glance from beneath her hands. I was happy I mustered the courage to point my camera at them.

Taking Pictures from a Corner, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand

Taking Pictures from a Corner, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand

Positioning Myself in a Corner: But what has worked best for me is positioning myself in a corner of a busy street. That way I could watch the world go by and occasionally get a picture too. I must have clicked at least 30 pictures standing at this particular corner of Rong Kluea Border Market. Not one person stopped and asked me what did I think I was doing! A very happy scenario for me.

You can see more pictures from this market in another of my posts.

I know a purist reading this post would cringe. But what to do, I am just a petrified street photographer who is equally fascinated by it. I am trying hard to find my way around it.

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25 thoughts on “Petrified of Street Photography? So am I!”

  1. Street photography is something that am not very confident about. Things are easy to click, but people? Am not at all confident. Long shots are fine, but the closer ones are tough. Nice insights, Mridula.

  2. Oh my, how that resonates. I’ve adopted a new term, “street side photography” , to describe my cop out street photography where I stand by the road taking pictures of people on bikes and scooters.

  3. Street photography is indeed an art to muster. I still remember how scared I was to even bring out my small digicam in a busy street to take pictures for work purpose. But your pictures are really amazing and speak volumes..

  4. Nice ideas!

    Actually I have observed typically people in eastern countries are pant much bothered with anyone clicking them. But in USA people can get irritated, frightened, angry etc for someone clicking them!

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Travel Tales from India

I am Mridula Dwivedi and I started blogging on 'Travel Tales from India' in June 2005. Within a few months of the launch my travel blog found a mention on both the BBC and The Guardian. I also featured in a National Geographic Skoda Yeti Video.

I quit my job as a professor in May 2015. I am having a blast ever since. I do not miss my work but sometime I do miss my salary! Somewhere along the journey I ended up acquiring a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur! I now wonder why?

You can write to me at mridulablog at gmail dot com For advertising queries please check out my advertising page.

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