Uncomfortable with candid photography - how do I make sure people are ok with being shot?

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johanh323 New Member • Posts: 7
Uncomfortable with candid photography - how do I make sure people are ok with being shot?


first time poster here, I apologize in advance for the long post but I don't know how to make it shorter and I could really use some feedback from other photographers.

I'm a hobbyist photographer, I almost exclusively take candid shots of friends and family and share the pictures with them. I don't share anything publicly, not even on social media. My goal is to capture natural moments when people are relaxed and unaware/unprepared, so I try to be inconspicuous. That doesn't mean I hide in bushes, but I might use the electronic shutter and not make it obvious that I'm shooting sometimes.

Now, this last weekend we had some friends of the family come over, about 20 people (adults and kids aged 2~7). I tried my best to get shots of everyone, especially the kids, but it was not a pleasant experience.

Basically, I'm feeling increasingly more uncomfortable with my approach and it's starting to affect the results. There are a few reasons for this:

1. Since I'm trying to capture natural moments, I tend to take a lot of pictures. I hesitate to put the camera down out of fear of missing something good. And it's getting to the point where I'm concerned about overdoing it and becoming nuisance. I sometimes have a hard time telling when I should give it a rest and put the camera down.

The only ones who have ever complained about this are two family members who often strongly dislike being shot, and they've given me an earful a few times just for pointing the camera in their general direction. The others are very positive about it, but when I asked one time they also said it's a bit much sometimes.

Except for that, the closest thing to criticism is that a few people outside the family jokingly called me "the paparazzi" or the "press photographer". But no one outside the family has ever outright complained. That being said, I notice some people seeming uncomfortable when they see the camera pointed at them.

2. How do you tell if someone is uncomfortable being shot or if they simply don't care? Sometimes I wonder if I should ask for permission in some way, just to make sure, but that would often ruin the moment I'm trying to capture. So how to do this? I'm worried about being known as "that annoying camera guy".

The people I shoot are never strangers, but I don't always know them well. So it's also possible they're annoyed or uncomfortable but too polite to say anything.

3. Would you ever ask a child for permission to shoot them? If so, are there any specific ages where it's more/less necessary or appropriate to ask? I didn't ask these kids and some of them were even happy to pose, but I felt a bit like a creep for just walking up to them (with a smile) to take shots without saying anything. I understand that talking to them helps, but I struggle with this because I just don't know how.

4. How do you ask for permission? Specifically, do you just ask or say something? Or non-verbally, how do you ask with a gesture?

TL;DR: How/when to ask for permission? How to tell if someone is uncomfortable being shot? Also how to talk to/shoot small kids?

 johanh323's gear list:johanh323's gear list
Fujifilm X-T2 Fujifilm 16-55mm F2.8R LM WR Fujifilm XF 35mm F2 R WR
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