Invisible or Suspicious?
Wanting to be invisible on the streets is something you hear a lot about in Street Photography. Unfortunately, I don’t see this super power becoming available anytime soon. In reality, attempting invisibility only makes you more visible.
Imagine someone maneuvering around the streets focused on being invisible. It would not only look funny, but suspicious too. It’s one of the surest ways to stand out even more.
So how do you not look suspicious while still getting candid shots on the street?
Here are a few tips that have worked for me:
Act natural, not sneaky
Instead of trying to be invisible, focus on not being noticed. Sounds the same, but it isn’t.
People don’t notice other people unless they are given a reason to. If you act natural, like any stranger in the street, no one will give you a thought.
You don’t need to act sneaky and then jerk your camera up, snap and run. Just walk naturally, observe and then move your camera up with confidence and take the shot. Don’t look like you’re in a hurry. Look calm and natural instead.
Don’t worry about being caught
Worrying about being caught gives the sense that you are doing something wrong, which will show. Be confident and think positive. If you feel like you’re doing something positive, it will show. If you act like you’re hiding something, people will assume you have something to hide.
Don’t shoot telephoto
You might think it looks better or that you won’t get caught as easily if you shoot far away with a telephoto, but if anyone sees you, which they will, it will only look worse to them. You automatically look like a voyeur photographing people with a long lens from far away. Own what you are doing, be comfortable with it, and get up close. Your pictures will benefit from this too.
*As always, I don’t believe in hard rules for photography. If you prefer the look of telephoto, then shoot with it. Great street work has been done with it before (e.g. Saul Leiter). I’m saying don’t shoot telephoto just because you’re worried about being caught and looking bad.
Don’t use a big dslr or long zoom
Big cameras can be intimidating and much more likely to be noticed. Looking like a professional isn’t always a good thing when it comes to Street Photography either. If you look like an unassuming amateur out enjoying their hobby, people don’t mind as much.
Bring one camera with one lens. If you want to bring a bag, make it something unassuming like a messenger bag. Or don’t bring a bag at all, which i prefer. Again, the more unassuming and normal you look, the more you blend in and the less people wonder what you’re doing.
Focus on photography
If you are completely focused on photography and observation when you’re out in the street, then you have no time to worry about anything else. And as I wrote earlier, not worrying is good thing when it comes to not looking suspicious. So get in that Street Photography zone and shoot away.
If someone does notice you took a photo of them, a smile goes along way to erase any suspicions. You know your intentions are only positive so be friendly and act like it.
Who cares what people think anyway
No matter what you do, there will always be some people who find Street Photography suspicious. Not everyone understands it and that’s not going to change. There’s plenty of people who do understand and appreciate Street Photography, though. As long as you know what you’re doing is positive and you get enjoyment out of it too, that’s all that really matters.
If you have any tips of your own on not looking suspicious or have thoughts about mine, write them in the comment section below!