Camera Tip: Avoid the Awkwardness of "Street Shooting"

My mother always told me it was not polite to point at people. So I became a landscape photographer.

I don’t know any photographer who is truly comfortable taking shots of strangers on the street, a.k.a. “street shooting.” In the old days, when I walked miles in the snow to school, it was a bit easier because cameras were small rangefinders and not too obtrusive.

These days, the average pro and most amateurs carry around a large body camera with a zoom attached that looks more like a tank turret than a lens. I joined that club big time.

While I always street shoot on my travels, I’m never really comfortable doing it. Because of that, I don’t get many of the photos I’d like to have and I always wind up with a headache and the need to sit and have coffee or a glass of wine.

Thanks to a recent shoulder injury, I have great difficulty lifting the big rig to my eye. And thanks to the great quality of the new smaller cameras with interchangeable lenses (called micro four thirds cameras) I no longer have to.

My current take-it-everywhere kit is an Olympus E-PL5 camera with a Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens. This Olympus also has an articulated screen. That means I can hang it around my neck, turn the screen up, and just look down to take a photo. (See where I’m about to go with the “sneaky” thing?)

And it gets even better! This particular model has a touch screen. I can set it to focus where I touch it. No more fiddling with the four-way controller on the back, trying to move the focus point to the spot I want -- a quick touch and I’m there.

On top of that, I can set it to both focus and trip the shutter when I touch the screen.

By the way, the weight of the new combo is 1.4 pounds. The exact same setup in my full frame Nikon is almost five pounds.

Now I can look down -- most observers would just think I’m chimping my photos (checking every photo on the camera display immediately after capturing it) or changing a setting -- and both compose and shoot. I’ve even found it’s easy to do as I stroll along the street. I don’t even need to stop. Here are a few examples.

And here’s what any passerby would see when I shoot:

I can now take pretty much any shot, any time, and be sure it’s in focus. All without calling attention to myself.

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