I'm a shy photographer

I used to be heavily into photography (as an amateur hobbyist), and now I want to get back into it. I’m soon going to buy a decent entry-level DSLR and some gear (total under $1,000, as I said, it’s a hobby, not a profession).

My request for help comes from the fact that I tend to be self-conscious when I’m out photographing. I suffer from avoidant personality disorder, so while I’m competent at tasks, I really don’t want to get involved with people.

What I want to do is go outdoors and photograph landscapes, cityscapes, etc. without having to deal with people around me. I know that’s not always possible (say, if I go downtown at lunch hour), so how do I deal with my condition in those circumstances? (I’m happy to deal with people in a very short term situation–waitstaff at a restaurant, people at a checkout lane in a store, etc. I know how to control it then–it’s workplaces and real conversations that paralyze me).

And if I photograph crowd scenes in a public place, do I need any kind of model release or anything if I were to ever plan on publishing the photo?

The simple answer is to seek help for your disorder, which will prevent the need for workarounds. However, I understand that’s easy for me to say and difficult for you to accomplish.

IANAL, but I believe that photography in a public space is permitted without a release.

Go out at the time when the places are deserted, which is probably Sunday morning.

Dress in a way that doesn’t draw attention that you’re a photographer. Make it look like you’re a tourist taking photos. If you look like a pro (lots of cameras and equipment), people passing by are more likely to want to ask what you’re doing.

Do a bunch of practice outings where you are just in the space taking irrelevant photos. Hopefully, that will help you realize that no one is going to care or notice you’re there. Then when you want to take photos for real, you can concentrate on the subject.

Maybe you should focus on nature photography?

As far as model releases, I think the criterion for that is that the subject needs to be recognizable in the photo. If they are just a silhouette or a blur in a crowd, there is no need.

Stay away from places that have kids. I remember reading about the story of a dad who was taking pictures of his own daughter, and the other idiot parents around were ready to lynch him for it.

I’m a semi-pro/am (what’s it called when you went to school for it but don’t get paid for it) photographer who focuses on architectural/cityscape/street photography. I can tell you 99% of the time no one bothers me.

A good zoom lens is your friend. Assuming you’ve got a clear line of sight, you can stand half a block away and still get a good picture–and nobody will have the faintest idea of what you’re taking a picture of.

The rule of thumb for model releases is that you need one only if you use the picture to make money. Other than that, there is no expectation of privacy in a public place.

Thanks for the responses.

Seek help for my condition: I’m doing that now (actually tomorrow is the first real time for this avoidant disorder, but I’ve seen counselors, therapists, etc for anxiety and depression for over 30 years. Most haven’t been helpful, but I am on meds, and that, along with a lot [A LOT] of introspection and acceptance, have helped).

Go to places that are deserted, focus on nature photography: That’s exactly what I’ve done. When I go to parks (even with my dog, sans camera, or by myself), I try not to draw attention to myself, and stay away from people. If I can’t avoid it, then I’m certainly pleasant and polite. I have no trouble saying “Hi” to people, I just don’t want to get into a long conversation.

As for no one bothering you when you take pictures, that’s true. There was one time I was photographing (I almost wrote “shooting”) a building for a commercial real estate company (a job on spec), and someone came out and hassled me. Fortunately, I had a legit reason to be there. I just don’t want to go through stuff like that. I like being private.

Zoom lens: That’s a good idea.

The other option is just to say “To hell with people” and do what I want. Not to be rude, but if someone asks me what I’m doing, then tell them. I know that, it’s just hard from a psychological point of view.

Anyway, thanks y’all. It’s nice to know you guys are pretty much thinking along the same lines as I.

Get some of those big, fat, noise-canceling headphones. You know the ones which cover your whole ear. That will keep most people from talking to you. Plus, you’ll be in virtual silence. They make some really good ones these days. It will cut almost all the ambient sound and you’ll feel like you’re all alone.

Or if you don’t want real headphones, just get some ear protection headphones from the hardware store. They are just as big, but a lot cheaper.

No hablo
No sprechen sie

Business card- High I’m a non speaking photographer…$50 minimum.

Hand them the card, put hand out for payment. People will leave you alone.

Also could be done with, Hi I’d like to tell you about my religion, I’m a photographer for XYZ god. People will run.:smiley:

Good luck, follow your muse.

…Hey Leo.

Regarding model releases: where you live in the world will make a difference, so where in the world are you? :slight_smile: Some links that should answer your question (if you are based in the US)


I’m a professional photographer. You can see some of my work here.


I’m also chronically shy and suffer at times crippling social anxiety. I haven’t really thought about my coping mechanisms, so I’ll put a bit of thought into what I do and I’ll get back to this thread maybe later on. But I know where you are coming from. :slight_smile:

Buy a nice set of clothes. Cover them with stains and plausibly biological scents. Make a few tears or holes (something that looks like blood around those holes is a nice bonus.) Mumble incoherently occasionally. People around you will suddenly make great effort to not see you.

True, although it’s a little more complicated than this, as Banquet Bear’s links make clear.

In the United States, you can make money from a picture without a model release. You can sell your photos to whomever you like, for as much money as they are willing to pay, and a model release isn’t necessary. A model release relates not to the taking of a picture, but to the publication of a picture. And even then, there are plenty of ways that you can publish a picture without a release.

For example, using an image for news, artistic, or editorial purposes does not require a release. If you take a picture of someone at a rally, or at the scene of an accident, or at a sporting fixture, and your local newspaper asks if they can use your picture to run alongside a story about the event, no model release is necessary for the publication of this image. It’s a news story, and the use of the image is for news or editorial purposes. And this is true even if the paper pays you money for the image.

If, however, you want to publish a picture in a setting that is designed to endorse a particular product or service or organization, and if there are recognizable people in the image, then a release is generally necessary. The most obvious example is pictures used to illustrate advertisements, but there are other instances as well.

It’s worth noting, though, that the responsibility for obtaining the model release (legally, at least) falls on the publisher of the photo, NOT on the person who took the photo. So, if a company calls you up and asks if they can buy a picture that you took of a group of people, you can sell it to them. If the company then goes and uses that picture in an advertisement for its products, then the company is the one who has fucked up, and could face a lawsuit.

But companies know this, and so most companies that buy images for commercial purposes (including stock photo agencies) usually require, before purchasing the image, that the photographer secure model releases for any identifiable people within the photos. Commercial photographers obtain model releases for all their images as a matter of course, wherever possible, if they want to sell those photos to stock agencies or advertising agencies or other outlets that use images for explicitly promotional purposes.

Basically, for 99 percent of photographers who are taking pictures for their own personal enjoyment, or for artistic purposes, or for news purposes, or even to publish a book of photos, a model release is basically never required. The OP will be fine without them.

Leo Krupe, when you are looking for photography gear, if you want to get a decent amount of bang for your buck, i highly recommend the Buy/Sell section of the Fred Miranda photography forums. Members of this forum buy and sell gear on a regular basis, and as long as you’re a little bit careful, and check people’s feedback, you can get some excellent deals.

My last four purchases of photographic gear have all been done through Fred Miranda, and i’ve purchased some outstanding used equipment in excellent condition, at well below the sort of prices you’ll find in stores. I got my Nikon D7200 with extra battery grip for a little over $600, and just a week ago i took delivery of a like-new Nikon 16-80/f2.8-4 lens for $560 (new price: $1066). I’ve also bought a couple of different flash units there - an SB-700 on-camera flash, and a set of two R1 wireless close-up flashes for mounting on my macro lens. It’s now my go-to place when i’m looking for “new” (used) equipment.

Note: I have no affiliation with the site; i’ve just used it to get some good deals on camera equipment.

Hey, Leo, I can relate. I used to be ‘embarrassed’ about photographing things when I first started. Gradually I came to realize that most people don’t really care unless you’re in their face.

I’ve grown to the point where I’ve asked folks if I could come on their (farm) property and photograph their barn. They were super nice and honored to be asked.

And this is how I captured my favorite shot of all time - and old tractor in the weeds that won first prize in a photo contest.

If you look like you know what you’re doing - which is not that difficult - most people will look at you with respect without you even being aware of it.

Rule of thumb, is that if you dress creepy then people are gonna think that way about you. Wear a nice blazer or suit jacket and slacks and avoid sniper zooms. Go with a nifty fifty and tell the curious that your shooting for a real estate company. Unless you have picked one person in particular to focus on, then its no different from any other event shoot. Lastly check with Photogs in your city, there might be legislation or permits that you need, that you might not be aware you need.

Learn to fly a small airplane or glider and do aerial photography. There is some fantastic aerial photography out there, done by people that I know. You could do more like that.

Look at some of the beautiful photography on these pages. Doesn’t that just make you want to be there too?

More: Ramy's Soaring blog: January 2016

More: Ramy's Soaring blog: 2015

Pictures of San Francisco and surrounding areas:
Low altitude (around 4000 ft.): Ramy's Soaring blog: My 2/26/11 Bay Tour soaring flight with Buzz
High altitude (over 14000 ft.): Ramy's Soaring blog: Bay Tour - the sequel

Flying over northern california coastal mountains:

(Lots of cloud pictures, but some good ground scenery shots too.)

Note, most of these pics you can click on (or right-click and choose “View Image”) too enlarge. Some you can click on again to enlarge even more.

Somewhere I’ve seen similar pics on-line over Lake Tahoe too.

OP, y’oughta give it a try. Nothing more isolated and people-free than flying a single-seat glider 16000 feet over everything, like you see in some of these pics!

This is an excellent suggestion for a person on a sub-$1000 budget! I mean, flying lessons and plane rental aren’t too expensive, right?

(ETA, I just realized this thread is a few months old, but that’s okay)
Back when I used to dabble in photography, I got asked to do weddings a few times. Most of the times I could get out of it by explaining that I’m not a wedding photographer and years later they’re going to be annoyed (and mad at me) that all they have is a bunch of bad pictures. Honestly, all they knew was that I ‘had a real camera’ and assumed that meant I could (and I wanted to) take their wedding pictures. Something I knew very little about and had zero interest in doing. In fact, much of my photography was still images.
That didn’t stop people from getting mad at me about it.

I did do one wedding. However, they way it worked was that another friend of mine was also working as a photographer. He’s much more outgoing, so he was the one saying ‘all the bridesmaid’s, look over here’ or ‘can I get the groom’s family at the bottom of the hill’. Then we could both take pictures.

Doing that just isn’t in my wheelhouse, but the pictures turned out really nice. It helped that we rented some lenses. I’d have to go back and look, but I believe I shot the whole thing with a prime f/1.8 lens. You can do some fun stuff with that.

For more of a stealthy look, check out mirrorless camera gear. They are substantially smaller than equivalent DSLR cameras and are more discreet, without sacrificing quality (unless you are doing high-end stuff that needs full frame sensors and all that).

I frequently go out with Fujifilm gear and people just don’t notice, it looks like I might be using a point-and-shoot or old-school rangefinder, but the photographs are every bit as good as a modern DSLR.

I don’t know what the market looks like these days–there are several players in this space and there might be a good kit that fits your budget.

A bonus of resuming your hobby now is that ISO sensitivity is amazing compared to the old days, so you can bump your ISO up quite a bit in order to have good shutter speeds for handheld shooting longer lenses and you will still get high quality images.
It’s so good that I often manually set shutter speed to a very safe speed for the lens, set aperture to an artistically nice value, and let ISO float for automatic exposure, a thing that just wasn’t an option many years ago.