It follows reason that if you’re looking at someone, they will look at you.
If staying inconspicuous is your aim, look straight ahead. Focus on your image. The less attention you pay to subjects around you, the less they will see you.
Putting yourself out there can be very daunting (I know this all too well!).
Something I’ve done in the past, and occasionally still do, is start by finding a side street.
Not only does this give you the opportunity to make sure your camera is all set up, but it allows you to catch your breath.
If you have just spent the best part of 20 minutes traveling to your location, take if a moment to absorb your surroundings (by yourself) – is a great way to calm your nerves and gather your thoughts.
Once you have a clear intention of what you’ve came out to photograph – get out there.
This one will depend largely on your current set up, your confidence levels and whether you’re willing to put mind over matter.
Allow me to explain.
I’m fortunate enough to have two cameras. Both relatively inexpensive. A Canon 5D Mk I and a Canon M50.
The 5D is bulky, heavy but full frame. It is large, imposing and obvious.
The M50 is small, lightweight but a crop sensor. It is subtle, has the appearance of a “cheap camera” and can lead to some very close up moments.
Clearly both set ups have their perks. In my experience, and in the interest of remaining inconspicuous, it certainly helps to have a small, compact and subtle system.
However, mind over matter, if you have a better set up for the job but are afraid of what people might think…. Well, I’ve already written a piece on how to deal with doubt.
Similar to what I’ve already spoken about with side streets, having a walk around can help you blend into the situation.
If you walk into a scene, whip your camera out and start photographing, there will be some strange looks and even a possible confrontation.
However, if you walk around, through and become a part of the crowd, you will very soon become part of the environment.
Once you find people have stopped paying you any attention, it’s time.
This can take as long as is necessary. You will find that the person holding you back from getting started will almost certainly always be you!
The Tourist Effect
This is a favourite of mine.
If you are in a City and it has a tourist attraction, (it may even be your own City) you can use The Tourist Effect to your advantage.
Simply put, if you take a photo of a well known building, street or setting, people will be less likely to wonder why you are taking a photo.
After a few minutes of taking photos of the local environment – again, using this as an opportunity to test and adjust your camera settings – you will fit right in. People will stop paying you attention.
This gives you free reign to start your session.
Get There First
This one ties in with The Tourist Effect.
You have a location. The light is right. You have the image in you mind.
If there is a subject in the right spot when you get there – but it would cause confrontation taking that image – it may be best to just wait.
Once the subject has left, the setting is under your control. When the next subject enters the frame (providing the subject is right for your intention) the shoe will be on the other foot.
I have found, very often, that people will tend to stop and apologise for almost walking into your image.
This is the perfect time to look up, smile and wave them through. They wont mind if you take the image. As far as they are concerned, you were planning to take the shot before they got there – not because of them.
I use dummy shots to make it appear that I’m photographing something im not.
For example, say there’s a story developing, or a beam of light getting brighter as the clouds move for a brief moment, I will take a few photographs of the surrounding area. I will stand on the spot and take photographs all around me.
Timing my shot, I will rotate into position, taking the photograph at the exact moment my subject enters the position I had in mind.
You know the dummy shots will not be used, but it’s a way to take the confrontation away from the situation. If someone thinks your taking photos of the whole environment, they are less likely to think you are taking their photograph.
The image above is a prime example of this. There is no way I would just walk up to him and take his portrait. Instead, I took a few images of the surrounding location, as well as above him, allowing me to take the portrait of him without confrontation.
Once I have the image, I looked away and headed off.
Shoot & Move
This one is simple.
The longer you stick around, the longer people will notice you for.
Take only as much time as you need.
Compose your shot. Frame you subject. Control your light. Click. Move.
This is fairly obvious.
Wear clothing that will allow you to blend in with your environment.
If you don’t look like you belong there people will notice.
Keep it simple, keep it plain. The aim of the game is to focus on capturing your images with as little confrontation as possible.
This is something I have to remind myself of constantly. People are inherently more concerned with their own day then they are with yours. Meaning, people will generally notice you and move on.
What counts is that you share your story. Remind yourself that the story is more important than the pressure you’re putting on yourself.
Because it is – self induced.