Men waiting for their turn to get a shave in Old Delhi, India
May 4, 2015

Street Photography Tips: Seeking Permission to Click

Men waiting for their turn to get a shave in Old Delhi, India

Men waiting for their turn to get a shave in Old Delhi, India

Street photography is one of my favorite genre of photography, so I thought I would start my blog with sharing Street Photography Tips with everyone. While on the street, one of the common question rises in any photographers mind is – should we get permission from the person, the subject, or no. I have encountered this question several times during DFC Photo Walks and otherwise too. Everybody has their own ways and approach to this matter, here I am sharing some practices I follow while on the street or traveling.

I try and always ask for permission of my main subject, unless it’s a candid moment I am trying to capture. If I click without asking them, I still walk up to them and ask them if they like their picture, and mostly people do not object. Well most people do ask, if I am from a newspaper or a magazine and why am I clicking their picture, to which I answer whatever I feel like – I am a student, I am hobbyist, I am clicking to archive memories of the place etc. etc. depending on the situation and the place. Getting their ‘permission’ can mean different things in different situations – I often simply point my camera and smile at them, sometimes I might just walk-up to them and ask but gesturing is usually sufficient enough to get a nod or a shake of the head. It’s quite rare that people object from being clicked. If a person is a secondary subject in the photo then I don’t seek his/her permission – it’s just not possible to ask everyone on the road  if you can click them!

If you are traveling, do some research before you land on what is and isn’t acceptable culturally in that place – I often noticed, people who have no clue about the place and culture they were visiting to shoot, result in often acting inappropriately and annoying a lot of locals. For example, in India, in some communities it is inappropriate to click pictures of women, in such cases it’s always advisable to do some research about the place you are visiting and validate the information with the locals before you start clicking the pictures.

I usually don’t  tip people on street for photographs – unless I am clicking for a client for commercial purposes. But sometimes you might wanna pay a small tip if you feel the subject is worth it! Tipping people can usually help you get good poses and expressions of your choice. But, the most important thing which works for me all the time and can sometimes do wonders is, smiling at the person and maintaining strong eye contact while taking the photograph! It helps with getting the permission, it helps the subject relax and it shows your appreciation and that you value him/her. Sometime it’s necessary to chat up with your subject a bit to make them comfortable. Show a genuine interest in the person, his/her life and what they’re doing. By doing this you’ll not only get a great shot but you’ll leave a positive feeling with the person – you might even make a new friend! If you are photographing children, make sure you get the permission from a parent where there is one present.

If permission is not given or if I feel the other person is not comfortable with me clicking their photo, I always stop and politely move on with a smile. You can never create a good photograph if your subject is not willing to get clicked or is uncomfortable!

Avoid  travel in very large groups – One of the key things that I’ve noticed is to get good street photos of people is to travel in small groups or alone. There’s something about a large group, all carrying cameras, coming up to a person that is very overwhelming. And you end up with everyone shooting the same subject and the subject will never be comfortable in posing. But if you are in a large group: Keep your eyes open and look for your own opportunities.

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    2 Comments

  • Jas May 4, 2015
    Reply

    Shash, I must say THANKS ! As I always look for tips and guidance for photography from you, specially in Street. I agree with your tip to taking permission but yes I also face the questions as you have.

    I will keep my eyes on your blog for more helpful tips, wonderful photographs (treat for eyes).

    ALL THE BEST for your blog… KEEP POSTING !!!

    • shashwat May 4, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for your comment Jas… This will keep me motivated to write more… 😉

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