My observations on doing street photography in a non-metropolitan area.

I’m just getting my feet wet in street photography, but I’ve been reading about it and preparing for it for years.  I had planned out what to do if I were confronted and what to do if the police started asking about what I was doing, but I couldn’t have conceived the reality of actually shooting in downtown Macon, GA.  Here are a few of my observations.  They’re as much for my future reference as anything else.  Maybe someone else will get some use from them as well.

People notice you.  I’m sure that happens everywhere you shoot street, but here they really notice.  I wasn’t using some big, obtrusive camera or acting nervous or anything.  I was using my Yashica GSN and walking around casually, but that was enough.  We had the same conversation over and over: “You must not be from around here.”  “No, we are, we’re just taking pictures of daily life downtown.”, followed by confused looks.  Next time, I’m not carrying a camera bag.  I’m just going to carry one camera and one lens.  If I shoot film, I’ll stick a few rolls in my pockets, if I’m shooting digital, I’ll stick an extra battery and SD card in a pocket.  Being unnoticed is going to be hard, so I’m going to do what I can to minimize my “tourist” look.

Go where the people are.  Yeah, that’s simple, right?  Well, not really.  Most of the people were along one street.  It may have had to do with the weather (it was a cool day), but people were congregated around the restaurants on Cherry Street and that was it.  Maybe spring will be better.  It seems like the festivals may be the ticket to getting more people around.

Dress down.  I wasn’t dressed up by any means, but I was dressed less casually than most people down there.  It’s all about becoming part of the scenery and you can’t do that if you stick out.

Wear comfortable shoes.  It’s common sense, but what I thought were comfortable weren’t as good as they could’ve been.  I’m really considering hiking boots because we did a LOT of walking.

Smile.  I always thought it was a little weird that people had to keep mentioning in articles that you should smile, but I really found out why.  I really got into the moment a lot and got to concentrating on my shots and I’m sure I looked pretty intense.  That’s scary and counterproductive.  A smile will loosen people up and get you much further than a scowl of concentration.

Strike up conversations.  I found myself talking to a lot of people, more than I would’ve expected.  They saw us walking around with cameras and they were curious.  I’m a friendly person who can talk to just about anybody, so I spent time talking to people about landmarks that we had no idea were there.  I asked to do a portrait of a couple of people but they declined.  Oh, well, what can you do?

Always be ready.  I had my camera in my hand, but it wasn’t always the right camera.  I had one shot that keeps me kicking myself.  There was a hip, young guy with a bouquet of bright yellow flowers walking right toward us.  I had my GSN in my hand loaded with Tri-X.  I quickly tried to get to my NEX, but by the time I had it out, he was gone.  If wasn’t trying to fiddle with things I may have gotten the shot.  Oh well, it’s always the shots you don’t take that you regret.  I should’ve asked the guy if I could’ve gotten a picture.

Get some business cards.  I think my street portraiture would’ve gone better if I’d had something that people could’ve seen that showed that I wasn’t a creep.  Something with my name, blog address, and email address would’ve gone a long way, I think.

That’s all I can think of at the moment.  I may post another post later with more musings after I’ve done a few more outings.


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