Learn to Fear the Missed Opportunity

Decide to take the shot more often. There are so many regrets for the images not taken. So many street photographers I have met have an inner dialogue going on inside their heads, driving passivity and fear.

gadgetThis inner dialogue leads to “shooting from the hip” and various avoidance enabling gadgets like this. Shooting at a 90 degree angle is not the answer to overcoming your reluctance to bring your camera to bear on a subject. If anything, it will make you feel more self conscious. I find the more self conscious I let myself feel, the more “dodgy” I start to look to people.

I am not anti “shooting from the hip” – but using it regularly to avoid any chance of being noticed will not lead to the outcomes you want as a photographer. Instead, develop the skills and courage to use your viewfinder!

The more confident and direct you can be with your actions, the less bothered people will generally be with your presence. Try and act too stealthy, and people will often start to notice you more!

Confidence also comes from knowing your gear. When the moment arrives, you can’t be fiddling with your controls and dials, or setting a new iso. Learn how to use your tools. Constantly be thinking about the light conditions and your focal length. Being a film shooter, I am always considering the balance between aperture, shutter speed, and iso. Moving into an area with different light conditions means it is time to check things again. As a rangefinder enthusiast, I am also looking at the focus zone and hyperfocal distances constantly.

Roll 321 tmax400 43mm295

A great example of confidence leading to a positive outcome is this image of a Christian Missionary setting up for the day in Melbourne. Shot on 35mm film using a 35mm lens, the image is one of my more recent favourites.

I spotted them unpacking from about twenty metres and just walked straight up and took the shot. The girl was intent on her work, and only noticed me at the last moments before opening the shutter. Her look of surprised confusion is what I love about the image.

I was only about two metres away from her, and being early in the morning, there was no crowd to melt back into. She knew I had taken her photo. There was no way to avoid it… So what did I do? Just smile and start walking before she had a chance to process the information. No problem, no hassle. Just a great image.

Yah, once in a blue moon one of your subjects might get a bit “interested” in why and what you are doing. It happens to me once or twice a year – keep in mind I go out to shoot at least two weekends out of three, so it is statistically not a significant occurrence. And when it does happen, I just say “sure thing” and disengage by walking away. Nothing much comes of it past this point.

One thing I do lose sleep over is the images that never made it onto my film roll. The situations where I shit my pants and didn’t go for it. Seeing a perfect situation or subject and then worrying about being seen or noticed long enough for the opportunity to disappear is now my greatest fear.

Fear the missed opportunity more than being spotted. Get closer. Smile. Move on.

Some more reading on this topic here :

Dealing with Confrontation

Inconspicuosity Angles

Inconspicuosity Gear



2 Responses to “Learn to Fear the Missed Opportunity”

  1. It’s hard to not regret a missed opportunity, especially when it’s because I ‘chickened out’. But I am trying to change my attitude. I really do believe that my street photography is about a sharing between me and the person being photographed, so if I “miss” a photo opportunity then maybe it’s because I am not meant to get it. Not meant to share that kind of moment with the other person. I’m not quite there yet..at least not all the time, but I’m working on it. Likewise I try to not get annoyed with myself for not having my camera with me when I see the “perfect” scene. Again it’s going to take practice haha


  2. I can relate to the inner dialogue and fear factor sometimes too. Nice post.


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