The rise of the invisible photographer

These are trying times for those of us with a passion for photography. Practicing our art in public spaces requires a low-key approach, Jedi mind control and occasionally, the legal skills of a trial lawyer. 

There are several reasons for this ranging from perceived commercial use of private property to the public paranoia about terrorism.  And, more recently private/public spaces (like Disneyland) are banning SLR cameras with lenses longer than 6 inches <;. Most of these venues encourage casual shooting by their customers but want to eliminate any photo activity that is perceived to be commercial. 

Increasingly, private shopping centers are designed to resemble public parks, small town squares and other public spaces. Though they appear as idealized town squares these quasi public spaces are often private property. You can avoid hassles by following a few common sense rules. Remember your goal is to get great images not look like a great photographer. 

*Did the sign say “no tripods”….you are asking for mall fuz wrath if you drag yours out.  You can offen accomplish the same with a strap pod <; or the tried and true method of setting your camera on a ledge or bracing against a wall.  And, finally, try juicing up the ISO up to 1600. Depending on your equipment you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

*Don’t pull out your long glass in places where you’ll draw attention to yourself.  Instead try using some of the lower priced “kit” zooms that are small, lightweight and frequently go up to 400 millimeters in focal length. They’re slower and not as sharp as the better lenses but if it allows you to shoot who cares. And there is always the multiplier (connects between body and lens).  If you must use that longish 70-200 2.8 zoom lens at least remove that gigantic lens hood. You’ll lose a little image contrast but not look quite so much like a camera geek. 

*The other thing I do to blend in with the background is black tape my camera bodies, remove logos from bags and replace the stock camera straps with grungy homemade rigs made from half inch webbing

*Opt for small but high quality cameras like Panasonic’s Lumix LX3. This rig will easily pass as a consumer point and shoot but produces surprisingly high quality RAW files. The Leica 24-60 lens coupled with some secret software sauce is the reason this sleeper camera is achieving a cult following among pros.

*Shoot from the hip without bringing the camera to your face (or looking at the LCD display). Over time I’ve developed a sixth sense about what the camera is seeing without having to look through the viewfinder. You can explore all the different angles when you’re in Arches National Park but when you’re on the street, get your shot  quickly and don’t dally. 

That’s about it; obey the rules, look like you don’t know what you’re doing and if all else fails…invoke Obi-Wan “these are not the photogs you’re looking for.”




~ by keithphilpott on February 26, 2009.

4 Responses to “The rise of the invisible photographer”

  1. Excellent post and great advice. I avoid public areas like a passion. Too often, I have found it to be a hassle. Fortunately, I love to nature and landscape photography and that keeps me out of trouble.

    I have always wanted a Lumix LX3 and that seems like a great way to go for those public area shootings.

  2. By the way your photography is excellent.

  3. I’m becoming quite fond of the LX3. You won’t stand out in a crowd with this camera but your images may.

  4. Thanks, Robert.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: