Instagram tips: taking photos in public

Yorkshire mills

Do you feel confident taking photographs in public?

It’s something a lot of people struggle with – made especially tricky if, like me, you’re an introvert who tends to photograph the things that other people overlook. If you let the thoughts in, they can become a major barrier to taking the images you want – are people looking? what will they think of me? 

The answer is, of course, very little – they’ll be too busy being wrapped up in their own life and problems to care. Unfortunately, that’s not always enough to quiet the panic.

at the florist

The good news is it’s something that definitely gets easier the more seriously you take yourself & your photography. When there’s a paying client waiting for that image, it suddenly doesn’t feel quite so stupid to stand on your chair to get the angle. When you’ve had messages from people you admire to say they love your work, it’s a little bit easier to believe your work is worth taking a risk for.
And in the meantime? Here are a few pointers that helped me along…
  • Use your smartphone. This is usually the most subtle way of getting a shot – better than whipping out a giant DSLR complete with beeps and shutter noise.
  • Practice taking shots surreptitiously – I can take tabletop flatly without even having to look. Remember to tap the screen to focus, and use the volume controls (or your iPhone headphones) as a shutter release. Take a batch, review, take more if necessary. Even if people notice, you look super breezy, like you’re expending basically no effort. 
  • Don’t rush it. You will know when you’ve got the shot – and it probably won’t be the first one you take. Don’t let your fear of observers possible thoughts stop you from doing your best.
  • Make up a backstory. If it helps, prepare an answer for anyone that might ask what you’re doing – I’m just taking some journalistic shots for an independent magazine should do it, or maybe just this. You’ll never actually be asked though because, as I mentioned above, everyone’s too busy looking at their own iPhone to care.
  • Don’t walk on by. You will forever regret the great photos you saw but didn’t feel bold enough to take. As long as it’s not confrontational or irresponsible, stop and take that shot. The people will walk on and be gone, but that photograph will be yours forever. 

the cafe bus, honey farm

Do you ever feel rushed or self-conscious taking photographs in public? Ever judged someone else for having a go? Would love to hear your thoughts below.