Few days back I went out at night to the try the low light performance of my camera. There was a stream of people going home from work, some coming out of a shopping mall nearby.
I got approached by not one but two guys within 15 minutes, both asking if I were taking photographs of them as they saw me walking around with a camera.
One asked me to show him the pictures I’ve taken, the other one, well I offered to do that myself because I didn’t want to lose any more time since it was getting quite cold too.
Why do people think I would take pictures of them? They see a big camera and think, “So, he must be a private investigator or something”.
The Question Is – Why are people so afraid of Street photographers?
By the way you look and act makes a huge difference. A young, attractive, friendly woman has a night and day different experience when going out on the street to take photos compared to a guy who is overweight, dresses weird, and acts weird. This might not be fair. but it’s definitely true.
Even when they’re out in public, people like to think they’re protecting their privacy. They don’t want a stranger taking pictures of them, especially not knowing what will happen with those pictures.
Some people don’t like the way they appear in photos, some people think you’re some kind of pervert.
Also Read: How to stop feeling awkward when taking photos.
Yes it’s completely legal to take pictures, and of course everyone has a cellphone camera, but it can also be rude. It’s an uninvited social interaction.
I am a big fan of Street Photography, and some of the best comes from this. Often asking “Can I take your picture” spoils the scene.
I recently heard a story about a photographer who did a Gigapan image of the Dubai downtown area using a medium format camera and in the final image, when zoomed in, you can see a guy on the balcony of his flat completely naked talking on the phone, clearly oblivious to the photographer who was probably hundreds of yards away. In regards to being seen, people are curious by nature and like to ask all sorts of weird questions.
People don’t like being watched or recorded in general, especially in the modern world. People just get paranoid when they see a camera around, that’s all. It’s the same reason why you focus on walking straight/driving correctly when there’s a cop around – even if they’re off duty.