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Lochlomond

Too shy or introvert to be a stock photographer?

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I have done studio and portrait photography for years and would like to focus more on stock photography, especially in light of managing my own time and being able to travel more.  However, when in a studio, I'm confident and in control.  While out there, trying to take random and candid pictures of, for instance, by-passers.  I get shy and self-conscious.  The other day, I saw many opportunities in a park (people enjoying the last summer sun, youngsters in love, a student under a tree reading a book, ...).  I hardly took any pictures (even though I had my 70-200 2.8L with me so I could keep a distance) as I did not want to be considered a "weirdo" ...  This may be more a topic for a psychologist, actually :) but I was wondering how you deal with this.  Do you ensure that people know that you are professional photographer?  Do you hand out business cards?  Do you wear a nametag/label to identify yourself? Do you stay under the radar and take pictures in a more hidden way?

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What helped me a lot is using a pocket camera (Sony RX100) so I look like a tourist instead of a photographer. Kinda makes you invisible and no questions asked   ;) 

 

Yeah, moi aussi. No-one bats an eyelid if a tourist points a camera everywhere.

 

Don't have the problem of people thinking I'm a weirdo though, because I know I'm a weirdo.

 

Alan

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I cloud men's minds so they cannot see me.

 

I know that sounds like a flippant joke, but in a sense I'm serious. And thinking of myself as invisible is just one of a dozen tricks I use when doing street photography. I've covered wars, riots, protestors, travel and just people going about their business. Accepting an assignment to do any of these things always gave me the (false?) courage I needed to go forward. I'm older now and less interested in courting trouble, and when shooting stock, where one image is rarely more important than another, I tend to avoid conflict. 

 

Not everyone who can use a camera is suited for street photography. 

 

As far as using a long lens and hiding in a doorway . . . that won't work. If you are spotted you will look very much like you're up to no good. The famous PJ, Robert Capa is often quoted as saying; "If you're pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough."  

 

Let me close by giving you a few useful tips:

 

1. Go to where there are lots of people.

2. Use a wide or medium wide lens -- a 35mm is my favorite.

3. Don't make eye contact with your target, pretend to be looking at something to their side or above them.

4. If people notice you, start fiddling with your camera until they get bored with you. 

5. Ask permission by holding up the camera with a little wave and a smile and a shrug. 

6. Ask with the word "please?" in French or Italian -- use bad pronunciation.

7. I see photographing strangers as a "double exposure." I must expose myself to get an exposure of them. It's only fair.

 

Asking if you can take someone's picture will produce a controlled and possibly awkward image. For good candids, your subjects must be mostly unaware of you. 

 

Good luck, Edo

Edited by Ed Rooney
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Good advice from Edo and I would add:

 

The 70-200 2.8L makes you look like a voyeur, and intimidates the subject.

 

Use a wide angle and get in close. Photograph where people naturally congregate. The woman in the top image thought I was photographing the vegetables only. Smile. The butchers in the second shot smiled back and asked me to take their image.

Farmers_market_in_the_Saint_Lawrence_Mar

Butchers_cutting_Canadian_bacon_in_the_S

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Start with only one small camera. Actually a phone would do as well at least for the first days. Do not zoom: zoom with your feet. If you have a zoom: tape it.

The best camera for this has a fixed lens of an equivalent of 35mm or a bit wider. Too wide will get you into trouble later on ;-)

Too long will get you in trouble probably immediately.

 

First week:

Go out every day. (Rain or shine. Make it into a ritual. The same amount of time every day would be really good.) Time of day is not important. Place is not important. Except for the first days.

Don't come back until you have 50 images. There has to be at least one person in each frame.

Yes you can shoot them all in one go the first day and from the back. But on the second not any more.

Start in an area where either everybody knows you or where everybody is snapping away with phones and cameras.

 

Second week: Same, but people must be from the front only.

 

Third week shoot full frame portraits. Still no zoom!

 

Always: when possible engage in feedback about the image on the back screen of your camera. Try to initiate it in the second week. In the third week: try to have the subject choose his/her best image. Offer at least an image by email / on FB better: a print.

 

Have a place to show them. At least at the end of the week, but every day would be better. Flickr will do. The wall where your breakfast table is, will do as well.

Last resort: as a wallpaper on your computer or smartphone.

 

Simple answer for why you're doing it: photo course / masterclass / teacher told me so ;-)

You will only need this for the first days.

Try not to think in all those terms of your post. Try to enjoy the place where you are, and/or the people, and taking photographs. Maybe throw in a couple of difficult photographic issues to solve, like shooting into the sun, moving things or people, weird perspectives. Hey it's only play! It's your time off! Half an hour will do, if you can get to 50 images. An hour or more is better, because it's less stressful.

 

If you decide to put it on Flickr, please invite us.

 

If you still hate it after 2 weeks, it may just not be for you. Not everybody loves chocolate either.

 

good luck!

wim

 

edit: typo

Edited by wiskerke
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I understand your issue Lochlomond. I'm often there. One method is to get your self hooked up with the festival committee or parks department, or city, as their photog and give them copies of the pics. Then when in public it is easy to do this as a "job" motivation (gotta bring home some shots) and on inquiry tell them you are shooting for the Parks Dept or Festival Committee. I often get cooperating models with big smiles if there is a chance they will end up on the event web page. I wear a lanyard at such events indicating EVENT PHOTOGRAPHER with my name address, and contact info. I find it much easier to use this as a forward reason to be shooting and not be in the mindset of a bad weirdo. Failing such a connection my excuse can be I'm just shooting creative images for my photo club competition next month. Having a quickly explainable shooting reason in mind helps with the personal mental attitude and questions from people around.

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I'm in the same boat (i.e. The HMS Introvert) and have also adopted the chameleon approach. I tend to go to places where people don't usually mind being photographed such as markets, public events, etc. I also find it easier to photograph people when they are doing or making something. Using a small, unobtrusive camera definitely helps. I feel much less conspicuous since I started using a compact, mirrorless camera. I've never understood photographers who strut around with ginormous, bazooka-like lenses. I figure they must just want to show off their expensive equipment.

 

Edo's hints above are really good IMO. I tend to follow a similar game plan. BTW there's a great little out-of-print book called Chameleon with Camera by Dennis Carlyle Darling that I read years ago and still pull off my bookshelf now and then. It's mainly about travel photography, but it does deal with this subject.

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Spot on, Bill. And the veggies look good too. With a long lens there's no question who you're pointing it at. And some intuitive people can "feel" the lens on them. 

 

One day in Rio I was shooting in a park and pool area of a resort hotel. I had a 500mm lens setup in a shady area on a tripod and was about to take a snap of a cute young lady sunbathing in a bikini (no, it was that small Brazilian swimsuit). When I put the lens on her, she sat up and looked right at me. I walked over to talk to her and apologize, and asked about this special ability. She admitted to sometimes having that gift. She was a stew with KLM, I think, and we ended up having dinner together that night. 

Edited by Ed Rooney

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Stock isn't all about photographing strangers in public places. If you are comfortable in a studio, why not shoot studio setups? There are a lot of uses of food shots, common objects (often on white) or concept shots with various props, such as paper money rolled up in an medicine vial. But if you really want to shoot people in public places then do follow the advice about. I do think that photos with people sell more that photos without people in them.

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There is a lot of good advice above, about how to learn to deal with the issues of photographing people in these (paranoid) times, but I would point out that are a great many successful stock pictures in which there are no people, or the people are far away and not affected by what you are doing.

 

Over the last eight years, I have made 327 sales.    There are many repeats and the actual number of different images sold is 208.   A quick review of my images sold showed that 150 of the 208 (72%) had either no people, or the people were distant and inconspicuous.

 

There is much you can do in stock without getting hung up about photographing people.

 

There is a very good piece by David Kilpatrick which is well worth studying…

http://www.dphotoexpert.com/2010/12/31/thirty-keys-to-stock-photography/

 

Good Luck

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Actually, most of my best-selling images on Alamy either don't have people in them or the people are secondary to the main subject. This figures because I'm admittedly not a great people photographer (but I continue to work on it).

 

I do have some notable exceptions, though. This one taken in El Salvador is a regular seller. A smile and a por favor opened the door here.

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I find when photographing candidly close to others in the street, best to avoid any possible eye contact of the subject after you've made the photograph.

 

Plenty of strangers are happy to help/pose too if you ask. Just tell them why.

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Surprisingly being visible (ED's point 7) seems to makes you less intrusive, stange as it may seem. I guess you can't be furtive if you are wearing a bright yellow jacket (as I often do). Actually I am also introvert as a street photographer but I am working on it. I get occasional glimpses of why it is not as big an issue as people (including me) think. Switching from a pro Canon to a Fuji X-T1 has helped.

Yesterday I was at the famous Nottingham Goose Fair shooting pics for News. A woman was having problems with her toddler getting up while the ride was going and just a smile and a sympathetic comment got engagement and smiles even though I was taking pictures of the ride (blurred as it happened but she would not know that) with no issues. I am sure I could have taken a picture, I would have given her a card and suggested she send me an email and I would send a copy - did that at Disney World once. I have had other similar experiences by being up front and actually engaging l rarely get asked why I am taking pictures. A lot of people will strike a pose, and would probably be open to acting as an informal model.

I can only think of two occasions where I had issues, apart from the waved discouragment, always respect it. Once at the fair some years ago I was politely asked not to take photograph's of a woman's children, obviously agreed, I wasn't anyway - more blur. But it was at a time when the paedophile issues were a lot more in people's minds. The other was taking some photographs of a square (last year) that was to be remodelled and a guy 50 yards away was very agressive (shouting across the crowded square) about me not taking photo's of his kids - I had not even seen them as they were the other side of a crowd! I said I wasn't and it was public place anyway and moved away to avoid confrontation. I went back to get my pictures later. If he had got more overtly agressive, we were only 100 yards or so from the city centre police HQ; I would have suggested we went there to get it resolved - I suspect he was the sort that would have run a mile at that suggestion.

That is on 35 years of photography but I am not naturally a street photograher, working on it though as many favourite photos (by others) are from the street. As I am shooting more news I want to get more people engagement in my work - as an old journalist told me: "it is always about the people". Trying to get out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers more; be more open about my photography. As they say "A stranger is a friend you have not met yet"

I am trying to encourage myself here ...

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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I suffer from the same problem as the OP, and the advice above is excellent. My approach is to use the RX100 for most street photography and only use the DSLR where it's expected that there might be photographers with long lenses - e.g. sports or cultural events. 

 

One thing that I've wondered about is having an answer to the question "Why are you taking my picture?" Saying "I'm taking it for stock" is only likely to invite further questions about exactly what you are going to do with those photos (to which there is no real answer!). Would it be better to say "I'm taking photos for an article on xyz that may or may not get published" ? It might also help the photographer as well to answer, in advance, the question about what that photo might actually be used for?

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Stock isn't all about photographing strangers in public places. If you are comfortable in a studio, why not shoot studio setups? There are a lot of uses of food shots, common objects (often on white) or concept shots with various props, such as paper money rolled up in an medicine vial. But if you really want to shoot people in public places then do follow the advice about. I do think that photos with people sell more that photos without people in them.

 

That's very true, Michael, but the OP was asking specifically about his problems with photographing strangers for stock. My own main sales subject seems to be food: produce, cooked food and restaurants. I've made a mental note to go out some days and shoot only people. 

Edited by Ed Rooney

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I have done studio and portrait photography for years and would like to focus more on stock photography, especially in light of managing my own time and being able to travel more.  However, when in a studio, I'm confident and in control.  While out there, trying to take random and candid pictures of, for instance, by-passers.  I get shy and self-conscious.  The other day, I saw many opportunities in a park (people enjoying the last summer sun, youngsters in love, a student under a tree reading a book, ...).  I hardly took any pictures (even though I had my 70-200 2.8L with me so I could keep a distance) as I did not want to be considered a "weirdo" ...  This may be more a topic for a psychologist, actually :) but I was wondering how you deal with this.  Do you ensure that people know that you are professional photographer?  Do you hand out business cards?  Do you wear a nametag/label to identify yourself? Do you stay under the radar and take pictures in a more hidden way?

 

All the situations in the park could be handled using models, no strangers and you would have released stock which is far more valuable in stock revenue terms than easy to get candids.

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I suffer from the same problem as the OP, and the advice above is excellent. My approach is to use the RX100 for most street photography and only use the DSLR where it's expected that there might be photographers with long lenses - e.g. sports or cultural events. 

 

One thing that I've wondered about is having an answer to the question "Why are you taking my picture?" Saying "I'm taking it for stock" is only likely to invite further questions about exactly what you are going to do with those photos (to which there is no real answer!). Would it be better to say "I'm taking photos for an article on xyz that may or may not get published" ? It might also help the photographer as well to answer, in advance, the question about what that photo might actually be used for?

 

Ah, The Land of White Lies. I would not assume to tell anyone else to speak untruthfully, but. . . .  Most people don't know what stock photography means, and so you'll need to answer a bunch of followup questions, and you'll probably scare the person off. Let's see . . . if I were going to fib a little I might say: "Photography is my hobby, and I thought you made a good picture. I'll be happy to delete the picture if you like." And if they say, "You might ask me first before taking my picture," I would say, "But then I would have lost the honesty of the moment." And so on: blah blah blah.  I think when your lying it's good to use the words 'truthfully' and 'honestly' at lot. Long ago I might have said: "I'm doing a book on Rio or Rome or Bali." Usually I was doing a booklet, a brochure for an airline or tour company.  ;)

Edited by Ed Rooney
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What I have done on several occasions when approached by (esp) council employees, security types is to be friendly but take the initiative by offering them my card, tell them they can check my web site, client web sites (like Alamy) then they usually back pedal very quickly as though there is a subliminal message:

  • I am affronted
  • I am organised,
  • I know the rules and my rights (probably better than them),
  • I could get them into trouble if they get it wrong,
  • I look honest and straightforward. I am not apologetic, aggressive or defensive but there is presence, an underlying confidence
  • So pushing too hard is going to create work or hassle for them, most people want a quiet life.

Of course I look them in the eye and engage with them professionally and calmly. Oh, apologise if you know you are in the wrong "Oh dear, am I in the wrong place/ shouldn't I?"  :)edited to add: "So can you help? Where can I get my pictures for ..."

Edited by Martin P Wilson
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I was stopped by three people today, all curious about what I was doing, and wanting a chat.  I was in an area where cameras are rarely seen.  I'm always surprised by how friendly everyone is, particularly in 'hard' areas.

 

I would never be furtive or try and disguise what I was doing - people would think I was a private dick, or investigating benifit cheats. 

 

Always be very careful with children around though.

 

To overcome any inhibitions in busy places I sometimes stand next to a wall and just look through the viewfinder until I feel invisible. 

 

Robert, we already thought you were a private dick (detective, that is). B)

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I would add to my previous post: I recently had a police man and community support officer come up to me, make small talk about what I was doing and to offer ideas. Did I know about ... It helped that I knew some well known local police characters of the past, a current police sergeant and a fair few, now retired, policeman - my cousin was a sergeant and I sailed with several who went on to senior roles. All that only came about as we got deeper into the conversation. We chatted for a while as we walked through the town - a very pleasant 15 minutes.

 

Officials are not always a threat, many like to help.

Edited by Martin P Wilson

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I was stopped by three people today, all curious about what I was doing, and wanting a chat.  I was in an area where cameras are rarely seen.  I'm always surprised by how friendly everyone is, particularly in 'hard' areas.

 

I would never be furtive or try and disguise what I was doing - people would think I was a private dick, or investigating benifit cheats. 

 

Always be very careful with children around though.

 

To overcome any inhibitions in busy places I sometimes stand next to a wall and just look through the viewfinder until I feel invisible. 

 

Robert, we already thought you were a private dick (detective, that is). B)

 

 

You might be confusing me with a fictional narcotics agent called Bob Arctor, who ends up investigating himself.

 

The authors name is Dick.

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What I have done on several occasions when approached by (esp) council employees, security types is to be friendly but take the initiative by offering them my card, tell them they can check my web site, client web sites (like Alamy) then they usually back pedal very quickly as though there is a subliminal message:

  • I am affronted
  • I am organised,
  • I know the rules and my rights (probably better than them),
  • I could get them into trouble if they get it wrong,
  • I look honest and straightforward. I am not apologetic, aggressive or defensive but there is presence, an underlying confidence
  • So pushing too hard is going to create work or hassle for them, most people want a quiet life.

Of course I look them in the eye and engage with them professionally and calmly. Oh, apologise if you know you are in the wrong "Oh dear, am I in the wrong place/ shouldn't I?"  :)edited to add: "So can you help? Where can I get my pictures for ..."

 

I have been approached by so many security personnel I can detect them approaching from half a mile away.

 

I hope the subliminal message they receive is that I respect the fact that they are just doing their job, and that involves being nosey.

 

I then just explain what I am doing - most of my location work is used in textbooks.  Sometimes that leads on to a very interesting and informative discussion about what is happening in the area, or where/when I might get some interesting material.

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