This post is by Michael Johnston from The Online Photographer

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TV cameraman (and, of course, TOP reader) Mike Plews wrote a nice comment to yesterday's post about approaching people in the street—he said that a tip he gives to "new kids" is to lose their sunglasses.

I second that. A few additional tips—keep your hands out of your pockets, keep the camera out in the open, and no hoodies! Light clothing helps too, in my opinion, unless you look like the business in dark clothing. Short sleeves in Summer—people won't think you "have something up your sleeve"! Anything that helps you look more like what you're presenting yourself to be


A photo vest helps…even if you don't have anything to load into the pockets and you don't actually need the vest. Remember, people are going to be sizing you up quickly. Photo vests remain useful in that they look faintly silly so they're seldom worn as fashion—who would wear something so dorky unless they needed it?—so to many people they still telegraph "photographer." And that helps you with your bonafides. 

Consider this guy. Who could take that dude for anything but a photographer? And note, no sunglasses, and nothing on his head, and light clothing, and nothing up his sleeve. He's old, too, which helps—people are less threatened by oldsters. If you're younger, you'd best be charming.

You might consider Lee's getup to be a disguise. He's a real photographer who has disguised himself as a photographer.  🙂

Of course, your attitude is the main thing. Peter's got mad skillz in that sense. Me, not so much.

If you're anxious, people are going to pick up on it right away. (Three guesses how I know.) As strangers appraise you, an anxious attitude is a turnoff. My advice is, be fully prepared for a "no" answer and have the ability to treat it like the proverbial "water off a duck's back." If you're all set and ready for rejection, then there's no need to be nervous.

Here are a few photo vests from Amazon, and here's one from B&H. Unfortunately you cannot purchase a good attitude. If you could, I'd recommend it.  🙂

(Thanks to Mike P.)

Original contents copyright 2019 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.

Amazon.comAmazon UKAmazon Canada
Amazon GermanyB&H PhotoAdorama

(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:

Josh Hawkins: "Relaxed, approachable smile. It’s been my go to for 20 years. If that doesn’t smooth everything over be prepared to have a nice friendly conversation about who you are, what you’re doing and why. And always stay nice and positive even if you’re not going to get a good photo."

Gordon Lewis: "As a veteran street shooter I can confirm that the less intimidating you look, the better. This of course can mean different things to different subjects, but generally speaking, any photographer with reasonable emotional intelligence has a sense of how intimidating they may seem to other people. I've never been a fan of photo vests and the like, but you'd be surprised how often I'm asked if I'm a pro photographer simply because of the way I carry and handle my equipment. I don't do this intentionally, it's just that most people can perceive that experts move differently from novices.

"The takeaway here is it helps to look like you're confident and know what you're doing. Final tip: Consider what type of person you're approaching for a photograph. I once approached an extremely dapper gent in Philadelphia and asked if I could photograph him. When he asked why, I replied, 'Now surely you didn't leave home today looking this fabulous without thinking that maybe, just maybe, you might turn a head or two.' He grinned and said 'Where do you want me to stand?' The point isn't to use flattery per se but rather to look for a seamless way to introduce the idea of taking a photograph. Frankly, considering you're probably standing in front of them with a camera on your neck or shoulder, they should hardly be surprised if you make a polite inquiry."

Dennis: "Some years ago, when my daughter was a younger child, a photographer took pictures of her on the boardwalk in New Jersey…at first, my parent's instincts jumped to attention, but he was a friendly older gentleman wearing a photographer's vest with a couple of cameras, and he approached us after taking a few shots and talked briefly to us—might have asked for some information, I can't remember. In hindsight, it may have been Bob Krist—I vaguely recall him looking somewhat like Bob does in pictures, and I bought a book of Krist's photos that features some taken on that same boardwalk around the same time period."

Martin D (partial comment): "Personally, I'd rather not be seen in one of those photo vests. I am already rather deficient in the fashion department, and I want my young daughters to accumulate the right sort of memories of their dad! I don't need such vests to look even more geeky.  🙂 "

Dogman: "When I shot film, I loved my vests. Especially when traveling—you could carry guide books, maps and brochures alongside rolls of film and extra lenses. But digital cameras and the iPhone kinda did in the need for a photo vest. But I'm not givin' up my cargo pants and Tilley hats…."

Tom: "This is all well and good, but what we really need to know from Peter is how he manages to get a woman he's just met to sit and have a cup of coffee with him."

Mike replies: Your comment made me laugh, because when we talked on the phone I told him that that had never happened with me in my entire life.

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