Street Photography: Invisible

Although I like people giving me 'The Eye' as most people who follow me know, staying invisible is crucial in street photography. Especially before taking the shot... There are a few methods I use to accomplish just that and thought it would be a nice subject for my April blog.

Most of the time I just use auto focus, but you can also use manual zone focussing techniques. Just set your lens at 2 meters (6 ft) for example, learn to estimate your apperture and wait until your subject is within that range. Then take the shot... Everything within that range will be sharp. Needless to say to set your shutter speed at 1/250 minimum (I prefer 1/400 or higher) if you don't want motion in your shot. Many photographers just want to be unnoticed for obvious reasons. But by trying too hard, acting nervous and being anctious to get that shot and get the hell out, you will get noticed.

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Click to enlarge


If I use a wide angle lens (14mm for example), I can go really close and take a shot while pointing right beside my subject. They will see me, but will not know I took their photograph since my camera is not pointed directly at them. It can be really funny too, since they will definitely look behind them what the hell I'm photographing :) A bit sneaky but it works. And a shot taken from very close just gives it that little extra... The image here on the left is a perfect example of that...


If I just hang out on a street corner, people will not notice me after a while. At least not conciously... Interesting things can happen like people bumping into each other, people meeting someone they know, people crossing the streets or whatever.

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If I see someone interesting walking in my direction, I'll just wait and look beyond them. Then I act like I'm photographing something else and take the shot. Wait until they've almost passed and then I pretend to shoot in that direction again. Never ever make eye contact on this one! They will know or at least suspect that you photographed them.

The image here on the left is an example where I was hanging on a street corner and already focussing on the window way before she arrived. I just waited until she walked into my frame and left her thinking I was photographing that window. The interaction with the camera made the shot for me...


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What I think is also a good way to avoid being noticed taking a shot of someone passing by is too keep my camera before my eye as they pass. It looks like I'm shooting something else and they'll just move on not knowing I took their photograph. Also a sneaky way, but it works and I have nothing but good intentions. I'm not there to make fun of people...

The image on the right shows that style.. I saw her coming from a distance eating and putting her mouth full of food. I just framed and kept my cam before my face. Luckily there was interaction with the camera which makes it more interesting.


This is something else and honostly I do not master this and I can assure you that this technique takes lots and lots of practice (and frustration. I tried that many times and came up with nothing), so I asked a Willem Hoogduin if he wanted to be part of my blog. He has over 30 years experience in street photography and has developed his own way of handling his skills. So for this part I'll leave it to Willem Hoogduin...

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I was 18 when I started shooting. The first years it was just looking through the viewfinder to take pictures. In my student days I noticed that the shooting at parties was hampered by staring so visibly with the camera towards the subjects. I never used flash, so I could be somewhat inconspicuous. Then I decided to make hipshots. At that time I had become a completely invisible photographer at parties and I could get as close as I wanted to my prey… Initially my hipshots were made by holding my camera at waist height. You can then easy shoot to the left and right. About 5 years ago, I had invented the “thigh-shot”. In the photo “Coca Cola” you can see me (bottom right on the photo) while I’m walking along the subject with the camera vertically in my hand and looking straight in front of me. The technique of this thigh-shots is difficult. Fortunately, while walking your arm is always at ease in the upper position. Around that time you have to shoot. You can also stand still and pretend the lamppost in the distance has fascinating looks ...


- You need a lens of about 18mm, because that gives no distortions.
- You have to hold the camera at an angle of about 45 degrees upward if you shoot close by.
- I mostly use ISO 800. Your camera must be fast (at least 1/125), because there is always some movement.
- You should not look at the person nor at your camera.
- And yes, practice makes perfect !!

Thus, using the thigh-shot technique makes you invisible and you can get hardly any closer to the subject.

Finally, the two “Walk By” pictures are done in a sequence. I shot several times while walking along the cop. Meanwhile, I was busy adjusting my hand posture and was focused on the position of my hand in relation to the cop all the time. Btw, I shot dozens of cops this way and never been busted. So it seems to work!

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Click to enlarge

Many thanks to Willem Hoogduin for his wonderful contribution... Also that pov is something I can always appreciate in a shot :-)

Finally I'd like to emphasize that by being invisible doesn't mean that people cannot see you, but you'll just leave them in the dark if you took their photograph or not. Or they didn't notice you at all for that matter...

Hope to have given you some insights and inspiration!

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Have fun all,


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