BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Matt Gerhart
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/6/2005

How often do people question what your doing

How often due people stop and question what, who and why your taking photos? or even give dirty looks and stare at you?

Just trying to make sure im not getting this much more than everyone else out there, becuase within the last month this has happend to me twice. and previously before.

About a month ago I was taking pictures or a farm about to be torn down to make room for housing devolpments, while I was taking pictures, before I knew it, 4 guys on four wheelers rode up to me and gave me the dirtiest looks ever.

than tonight I was taking the picture a resturant and the cook came out and started questioning me, on what exactly I was taking photos of. I wasnt even on his property, I was on the street.

How do I proove to people that its strictly for art, and nothing shady?

What do I say to people when they start questioning me?

If im not on there property do I even need to tell them (becuase its not illegal.)

To love this question, log in above
5/25/2008 6:50:59 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  In our society, it's common to assume that everyone else we encounter is up to no good.

I once had a bunch of cops waiting for me at my car with their weapons drawn, after someone spotted "...a suspicious looking individual sneaking into the woods with a rifle."
It was just me with a tripod bag slung over my shoulder.

Passers-by will often stop and gauk or ask questions. This is normal.
(...and getting yelled at sometimes is a bonus!)
See Example.

To love this comment, log in above
5/25/2008 7:46:02 PM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  The way I handle that kind of thing is to just smile and tell them what I'm doing. So far it's worked ok, but I'm old and I look like someone's grandmother so that probably doesn't hurt either. AND I never carry my tripod into the woods in its case LOL.

To love this comment, log in above
5/25/2008 8:33:55 PM

Jerry Frazier   Just be courteous and nice and tell them not to worry. Offer to give them a pic. You can take down their info, and probably learn a little about what you are photographing, and make the story more interesting by possibly getting the chance to photograph the people of the place you are photographing. Offer to give them all pics. I always like people in my pics, even in environmental pics. But, for me, I love photographing people more than things.

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 3:42:52 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
  Hi Matt,
I usually get more more inquisitive remarks about what I am photographing (since its obvious with my camera bag & tripod) and I usually take the time to explain what kind of angle or lighting I am looking for.
The only time I had anything negative happen was when I was shooting an empty carousel and kids showed up to ride it. I stopped taking photos but that didn't stop the mother calling security. I had already spoken to the security guard and he knew what I was doing but I put the camera away so that the mother would not be worried.
If you are out shooting a picturesque barn and someone is suspicious, this would raise my suspicion about that person. Is it not obvious what I am photographing ? Is there a meth lab in the barn and is the suspicious person running the lab ? I hate to think along those lines but anything & everything should be considered because you may not really know what the situation is.
Standing in the open with a camera on a tripod should put people at ease since it is so obvious - its the guy slouched down with a 600mm lens in a car that looks suspicious to me.
My .02 - Carlton

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 7:57:12 AM

Jerry Frazier   2 things to add:

1. Be respectful of people's privacy. If they don't want you taking a picture of their barn, don't start spewing 1st amendment rights. Just pack up and leave and forget it. It's just best and it's not all that important. You can find something else to shoot.

2. With digital really taking hold and more people finding a renewed interest in photography, other people on the other side of the camera may be getting annoyed. It just seems like there's more of it than ever, and it can get annoying when you're in the line of fire.

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 8:40:38 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  People ALWAYS ask me what I'm doing, even when I don't have a camera in hand. But I find this is much more of a problem when *I* start to question MYSELF about what the hell I'M doing and even worse is when *I* start answering my own questions. Anyone experience that? It's kinda like having W.S. hanging out on my shoulder just below my left ear.

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 9:07:17 AM

Carolyn  M. Fletcher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/6/2001
Contact Carolyn
Carolyn 's Gallery
  I almost got arrested trying to photograph a train wreck. The cops were waiting when I came back to my car dripping with camera equipment. They told me to not do it any more!
And don't try to shoot inside Wal Mart either..They think you're looking for a reason to sue them.

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 9:46:10 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
  Hornings Hideout 2007
Hornings Hideout 2007
© Carlton Ward
Canon EOS 40D Digi...
Good points Jerry. I do also ask permission when I can and try to be aware at all times if I am intruding or cramping someones style.

A little "W.S." on your shoulder ? Mark, try the blue one next time..

Carolyn, I haven't been in a Walmart for years but I would not take photos in any store unless asked to do so by the owners. I suspect the train-wreck was a liability issue that the police were concerned with but I would think as long as you kept your distance, they shouldn't mind - unless they were involved with a cover up due to faulty railing or other possible insurance liability.

I shoot a lot of festivals and some of them even have a disclaimer when entering the venue that persons are agreeing to be videotaped/photographed by the production crew by entering the gates.
One music festival last summer, I spent 3 days photographing intimate moments of couples laying in the grass, kids playing in the the lake, stiltwalkers, puppets, musicians (even a small wedding ceremony) and processed them in the production office sunday afternoon and made a slideshow that was presented on the big screen behind the main stage during the headlining act later that night. All these woderful images of all the smiling, hugging, laughing, costumed, beautiful & kind people was incredible.
The slideshow had everyone in tears at how beautiful the community we created & shared that weekend together was and it was reflected in my images.
The slideshow went almost 20 minutes and the band improvised the song to last longer, to let the slideshow complete. It was a very powerful moment for everyone.
To see these images look in the links tab of my website and go to "SCI Hornings 2007" (this goes to an Kodak/Ofoto account slideshow).

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 10:20:10 AM

Matt Gerhart
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/6/2005
  Thank you all for your great stories. I guess I have yet for the police to be waiting at my car for me. haha

thanks again

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 2:21:35 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Businesses have a fear of other businesses spying on them, and also code violation seekers.
Govt' buildings have 911 fears.
Your farm maybe are being forced to be torn down because of financial problems or something like eminent domain. So they may have been just unhappy about a lot of stuff. You never know for sure.

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 4:17:26 PM

Matt Gerhart
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/6/2005
  So do you guys think the Pizza guy was trying to hide somthing?

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 6:31:58 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  Hmmmm I don't think anyone has ever asked WHAT I'm doing when my models are on the beach in their swimsuits...but I have had guys tell me they wish they were

To love this comment, log in above
5/26/2008 7:22:23 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  I think 911 fears are behind the suspicions of anyone and everyone taking pictures of (or lurking around) national monuments, bridges, tunnels, dams, and all public areas where people gather...including government facilities.

And the public in general is fearful or at least cautiously suspicious of any individual exhibiting behavior or demeanor that's a little different or unexpected within a given environment.

I can recall an instance when I was decked out in old clothes, a pair of dirty old rain pants, waterproof L.L. Bean pac-boots, a backpack, a crumpled straw hat and a home-made walking staff...just headed for one of my favorite bug meadows for a few hours of photographing insects, arachnids and wildflowers in the early morning dew.
As I was crossing the street at an intersection, the people waiting there at the light were rushing to lock their car doors.

This brought a smile to my face when I crossed that street, as it nullified and erased any personal fears of my possibly getting hit over the head and robbed of the thousands of dollars worth of cameras, gear and lenses I had tucked away in my pack.

This brings me back to my original post...that we assume the worst in the folks we encounter.
(This includes my fear of getting hit over the head and robbed.)

People we photograph in the street in everyday life or at their work place have been conditioned by society to assume that we are up to no good. Even when we are on public thoroughfares and point our lenses in the direction of their properties or businesses with innocent artistic intent, it arouses suspicion.

(..which is why I prefer to spend most of my time photographing bugs, and flowers.)

To love this comment, log in above
5/27/2008 5:13:27 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.