10 Ways To Blend In – A Street Photography Guide


Eye Contact

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.


Side Streets

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.


Camera Gear

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.


Walk Around

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.


Dummy Shots

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.


Neutral Clothing

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.


Stay Calm

Breath.

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.

Dealing With Doubt


The Little Voice

Your batteries are charged the lenses are clean and you’ve packed your rain coat. Then the little voice in your head starts asking questions:

  • Am I allows to do this?
  • What if someone asks what im doing?
  • What if people think im weird
  • Should I just use my phone so people won’t notice?
  • What if I don’t get any good shots?

These are all questions that still, to this day, pop up in my head before a session in the streets. in the section that follows I will attempt to answer these questions (and hopefully put your mind at rest).


Am I Allowed To Take Photographs In Public?

It is not illegal to take photographs or video footage in public places … The taking of photographs of an individual without their consent is a civil matter. 

askthe.police accessed 27 Jun 21 (https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q717.htm).

But what does that mean in reality? In the United Kingdom, as long as you are in a public place, it is not illegal to photograph a person without their permission. Now there are a few cases where this may be challenged by authority. For example, if a photograph is taken of an individual classed as a “soft target”, under the terrorism laws, the Police may ask you to delete the image.

In my experience, this will not readily be an issue for most street photographers!

In reality, subjects may (very rarely) ask why you are taking photographs, and more importantly, of them. It is always best to be completely open and honest!


What If Someone Approaches Me?

My reply to “Are you taking a photograph of me?” has been and will remain:

Hi there, I have taken a photo of the surrounding area with you in the shot. If you wish I can show you? If you would rather I delete it, I’d be more than happy too.

You will be far more successful in your street photography journey if you remain polite and respect people’s privacy. And who knows, they may even take your details to see the final product… cheeky little future client?



What Will People Think Of Me?

It took me a while to learn this little secret … “No one actually cares”.

People now days are either taking photos themselves (on their phone) or are too busy with their busy lives to even notice you.

For the introverts out there (myself included) reminding yourself that “No one actually cares” is enough to suppress any anxieties that may crop up. The end result will always be worth putting yourself out there.

The bigger problem to worry about is when they start posing to “make it easier for you”!


Using Your Phone To Save Embracement

In the modern world, mobile phone photography most certainly has its place. It is far more convenient to pull your phone out to grab a quick image. Arguably, significantly easier and more often than not, allows you to get an image you would have otherwise not if you were carrying your DSLR.

However, in the context of suppressing that Little Voice I would strongly advice against it. Think of your phone as a safety net. In a situation where a DSLR would be insensitive or would distract the subject to the point you would miss the shot – use the phone. Having the image is far better than not – in every situation.

Otherwise, remember … “No one actually cares”.



What If I Don’t Get A Good Shot?

This is all in your hands. The photographs you regret are the ones you don’t take.

Editing can completely transform an image. I have written a small piece on the matter here.


Summary

  • It is not illegal, in the UK, to photograph someone in a public place
  • If someone asks you to delete a phot of them, please do – no image is worth the confrontation
  • Use your phone only if you absolutely have to – or dedicate a full session to mobile phone photography
  • Photography is subjective – you may not think it’s a good shot… someone will
  • If that Little Voice crops up just remember…… “No one actually cares”.