I admit to being a fan of street photography and whilst I have no problems photographing a scene comprising of several people (neither one of which I will make the focal point of my photo) I do have a problem with photographing scenes comprising of individuals or a couple.
I am one of those people who prefers to be behind the camera, as opposed to in front of it and I don’t like my photo being taken. If I am snapped when out and about, at a family BBQ, a mates’ birthday party or anywhere else for that matter and I am the focal point of the photo I am not impressed and I see these candid shots as an invasion of privacy. I never ask for my photo to be taken so it sucks when it is taken without my permission.
I know a few photographers (in the same photography club as me) who consider themselves street photographers and have no issues taking random and candid shots of complete strangers going about their lives without them knowing, which I think is horrendous. These photographers often exchange images, stories and experiences of their street photography exploits at the photography club, and even hearing of them bragging about capturing a shot of “this person or that person doing this or that” without them even knowing gets my skin crawling. It’s just not on. If you ask a stranger if they mind you snapping a quick photo of them, and them agreeing of course, it’s fine and I have no issues with that, but to simply snap away without permission is like stealing.
The other week I was privy to a conversation about street photography and there was a bloke there who said on his last visit he had a couple of confrontations from people catching him taking their photos. The bloke was in the “wrong area” and was trying to capture, and I quote, “proper street life” and he ventured to some of the poorer and rougher areas of the city in order to “keep it real”. As he revealed his story of being threatened (and on more than one occasion) and having his camera snatched away, his memory card removed and stolen, and then getting his camera back (that’s one good thing at least) I have to say I did find I started grinning to myself. At the end of the day the bloke should have asked permission to take photos of people instead of snapping away, so I have no sympathy for him at all.
Another club photographer said that he found he was being challenged more and more, and the only way he could find to capture candid street portraits was to use a long each tele photo lens, although he did say this was far from ideal. This photographer said that being a long way from the subject and using a long reach lens to zoom in close didn’t always lead to an engaging photo and blurring out the background with a wide aperture was difficult. By this I assume he meant that he didn’t have a long reach lens with the ideal apertures for portraits. He also said that he got more unwanted attention walking around with the white “in yer face” Canon 100 – 400L than a small prime lens, but he still managed to get in the shadows out of the way and capture photos of unsuspecting subjects.
Another club photographer said he had found the perfect solution and used his smart phone to take street portraits of unsuspecting subjects. This bloke said that he could hold his iphone within inches to a personas face, take a shot, carry on walking past and they would bat an eyelid. Loads of people walk around snapping photos with their smartphones and very few (if any?) get challenged. Phone photography has become an accepted way of life and embracing “phoneography” is the way forward. I never use an iphone for photography because I think the image quality still isn’t up there to take commercial photos, but technology is moving on and the time when a smartphone can capture a RAW file as good as that of a dslr camera isn’t too far away.
This bloke agreed the image quality can be hit or miss but he said there are plenty of great photo editing packages out there to clean the photos so they are useable and high enough quality to make money from. This bloke was really shouting about using a smartphone for discreet street photography and was urging other club members to give it a try.
This underhand tactic riled me and I have to say that I was not impressed at all. At the end of the day, snatching candid shots like this is identity theft, and when photographers are trying (and many succeeding) to make money using a photo of a model without some release form is absolutely disgraceful behavior, and something I can’t condone. Even if (or should that be when?) the technology in smartphones reaches the point where the image quality is good enough to capture photos of sufficient quality to edit/enhance and sell that is one band wagon I will not be jumping on. Rather than giving my opinion on the subject of candid street portrait photography I decided the most diplomatic (and sensible) thing to do was remain mute on the subject and simply listen without saying a word. If there’s one thing I have learned about most photographers in the club it is that they love it when they are center of attention, when they are talking and everyone listens and when no one challenges or disagrees with anything they say.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.