Street Photography and confidence


Jan 2, 2011
I read through this again just now after Pete, Julien and Armando resurrected it ... a good read, and almost inspiring (I rarely if ever do street work) ... it also triggered a strong twinge of pain that Don no longer contributes here ...

Ray Sachs

Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
I just watched that - the guy gets really good results but its something ENTIRELY different than what I'd ever want to do on the street. To the extent possible, I'm really trying NOT to be involved in the photograph at all. I want people reacting to whatever they were reacting to BEFORE I showed up - having THEIR moments, not reacting to me or being part of MY moment! He sort of makes instant friends with people and then cajoles them into posing for a photo. If I knew nothing of his process and just saw his results, I'd like a lot of them, and I guess that's the bottom line. I'm not a purist so I can't really object - its not like he's harming anyone or anything. But on the relatively rare-ish occasions when my subjects are aware of me taking their photo in time to react, it usually takes something away from the shot. And its just not a way I'd enjoy working, even if I got good results at it. Even if I got to dress up like a failed rock star from the '60s or '80s. I also don't have any desire to go back to shooting film again, but that's a whole different topic...

In reacting to a set of photos I'd put up elsewhere a couple of weeks ago, a guy asked me something like 'how do you get so close without being seen - do you have a cloak of invisibility or something"??? Well, no, obviously not, buy by not having my camera at my face and by not looking right at people when I'm close to them, its almost like I do. An awfully high percentage of people don't notice anything about my camera or what I'm doing, although a few obviously do. My technique is pretty much as Pete describes his. I usually have my camera somewhere around my belly or waist and I"m usually shooting a 28mm field of view and I know basically what's in the frame at any given point. Sometimes I'm wrong and miss a shot completely (the old blank brick wall shot - then I can check the lens for distortion!), but its pretty rare. And when I'm shooting with the EPL3 or any other camera with a flip up rear screen, I'm framing the shot visually and looking down and people don't tend to pay any attention to me when I'm looking down eiher.

A lot of different ways of doing street photography. The main thing is to be able to see and anticipate the moment, the gesture, the expression, whatever - something that makes the shot a bit more interesting than JUST people walking down the street or sitting on a bench somewhere. Getting in their faces like this guy is clearly one way of accomplishing that...



Hall of Famer
Oct 22, 2011
UK, Essex
Peter Tachauer
The thing I take issue with Bruce Gilden is that, yes, everyone has a right to take a photo in a public place of what/whomsoever they wish. But to put an unsuspecting pedestrian in fear of assault by this loud ambush.....even for a microsecond is unforgivable. As an analogy, let's say everyone has a right to go shopping. What if you ran into a grocery store, stood eyeball to eyeball with the owner and spat "please may I have a kilo of Jerusalem Artichokes my good man"........would you find a Saturday night special shoved in your face? I suspect you would.

People are actually often startled when loudly confronted by his flash bang wallop method and relieved to find they are not being attacked.

Anyway, that's my tuppence worth


Super Moderator Emeritus
Nov 5, 2010
Down Under
Must say I downloaded and read Thomas Leuthard's eBooks, and to be honest didn't really like his style - esp. after seeing the YouTubes of him in action. I know we have a 'right' to photograph in public places but his "in your face and what are you going to do about it" attitude runs contrary to what I consider documentary. I mean I suppose it depends on your intention really.... Also confidence is one thing, but what Thomas extols is something completely different.

Anyway just my opinion....


Jul 14, 2010
Must say I downloaded and read Thomas Leuthard's eBooks, and to be honest didn't really like his style - esp. after seeing the YouTubes of him in action. I know we have a 'right' to photograph in public places but his "in your face and what are you going to do about it" attitude runs contrary to what I consider documentary.
In the part of the world, where Thomas Leuthard lives, people have the right on their own pictures, that is, one must not photograph people without prior consent unless they are not the main motive. Therefore, doing street photography obviously violates personality rights in that part of the world (and most notably this style). Even if the law were not that clear, I would still consider this style as rather annoying. I dislike this style for ethical reasons, too.
I have a few different techniques, note I have a bright red Pentax Kx just to make things trickier! Firstly I tend to use a longer lens. Plan what you want to shoot from a distance move in and shoot quickly.
If the subject catches my eye I keep shooting around them so they don't feel they are the 'subject' of my shooting. I use the red camera as it is immediately non-professional looking and touristy.

My other technique is totally the other direction - be VERY visible. Have a tripod/fluro vest- big lens and camera, strut around like you have a job to do.
After a while people just ignore you/they think you are just a surveyor or something. Also people stay out of your shot!
Obviously the second doesn't work with a small camera and real closeups but the lesson is to own your action and take control of it :)

An idea if you wanted to take a close photo of someone would be to take it-if they notice you ask them if it is ok to take their photo.
Why would you ask if they have already taken their photo? :wink: If they were very adamant in saying no I would probably delete it though which is where this technique would fall down.

Lastly I use the following accessory on my DSLR for waist shots.

You do have to compose upside down but acts as a screen protector also.

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