The Boldness of Photographers: How Do They Do It?

I wrote a while ago about my growing interest in iPhoneography. I by no means consider myself a photographer, but have enjoyed learning more about composing, taking, and editing pictures with my iPhone.

As my interest in this hobby grows, I find myself “seeing” photos as I’m out and about, just living and moving through my normal daily life. Subjects include people, signs, building, landscape, you name it. Problem is, sometimes capturing those images involves me feeling – and probably looking – a little silly.

Below is a picture I took of a field on a corner neighboring our subdivision. The yellow wildflowers made a lovely blanket, and with the trees as a backdrop, you could almost grab this one single image and forget you were in the suburbs.

field of yellow wildflowers

(taken with Hipstamatic app, John S Lens, Ina's 1969 Film, No Flash)

Believe it or not, a busy road runs directly behind where I stood to take this picture, and I got plenty of honks and a few shouts as I crouched out there to get this shot. A little embarrassing!

This next picture is the underside of the bleachers at a high school track. Our son had just finished an event there, and the angles of the structure caught my eye. My husband chuckled as the two of them stood waiting for me to grab this shot. I’m sure several people leaving the event wondered “What on earth is she taking a picture of?”

underside of bleachers

(taken with Camera+ app with the Depth of Field effect and a Frame)

Finally, the picture below is of the steeple at our church’s chapel building. It was taken while I waited for my son to finish with Scouts one night. Several other church members passed me on the walk into the building, looking at me, then looking up, then looking at me again. Also a little embarrassing.

chapel photo

(taken with Hipstamatic app, Jimmy Lens, Blanko Film, No Flash)

I’ve had several other instances of feeling and looking a bit goofy while trying to take a photo: snapping a picture of my neighbor’s brightly-colored flowers (I felt like I was trespassing!), capturing the cows in the field behind my son’s school (what is she doing hanging around school property after hours?), trying to master the “distorted photo effect” with my iPhone (why is she standing in the street, waving her iPhone around in front of her?).

My question is: how do photographers get past that awkwardness? How do they adopt the boldness they need to grab the shot, no matter what others may be thinking while they’re crouched, perched, poised, or positioned in some potentially strange places? One of my newest obsessions is the Humans of New York Facebook Page – photographer Brandon’s “effort to create a photographic census of the city of New York, with an eye toward creating artistic portraits of strangers on the street.” He is nothing if not amazingly bold, and his photos are often genius. How does he do it?

If you’re a photographer, how do YOU do it? I’d love to hear any of your stories or suggestions while I work to get over my timidity and learn to grab more great photos!


  • Dimondliane

    Hi Stacey, I love your question. As when starting anything that’s new you will have sometime to adjust to it. Once you start seeing the results of your “moments of awkwardness” and you start trusting that you have an eye for photography and you do have a great eye for photography the awkwardness becomes confidence. The next time you think someone is looking at you oddly as you snap a photo, show then the photo, so they can see it through your eye. I know they will be impressed by what you can see that they couldn’t. Have a great day and keep taking pictures, they are great!

    • Thanks again, Liane, for your awesome advice! I love the idea of showing someone the photo I just took. That will definitely make a better conversation starter than “What are you doing, lady?” 😉

  • Cara Rolinson

    My husband is a professional photographer. It seems when you have the pro gear, most people stop giving you the sideways eye. That’s not saying it still doesn’t happen, I guess he (and me too really) have just gotten over it by saying (in our heads of course) ‘screw you for judging me and what I’m doing here. If you don’t see what I see then I guess it’s your loss.’ Don’t let others get in the way of what you enjoy!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Cara! I never considered the impression that professional gear would make, but you’re right – I would never think to question someone who really looked like they knew what they were doing. It probably looks stranger that I’m just out there with my little ol’ iPhone – I don’t think many people understand or think about the potential it has for great photos. I will definitely take your advice and just keep on doing what I’m doing! 🙂

  • Stacey, 
    First of all I must say I absolutely love your pictures, you definitely have an artistic eye for photography.  I definitely remember that phase of feeling awkward in my business, but the more I got out there and kept going towards the goal of capturing beauty with my camera the more I felt comfortable with what I was doing.  Eventually the awkwardness went away and I just enjoyed doing what I love know matter what I looked in the process of trying to capture the perfect shot.  I remember once taking photos of a family and as I was composing myself to get the best picture, I almost fell backwards as I was backing up.  It was quite funny, but the family loved the photos I was able to capture of them…in the end they will forget about that awkward moment and have a photo of their family they can look back on forever.  If this is something you love and are interested in, don’t give up! I look forward to seeing more photos Stacey!!!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Shelley! You hit on something that I recently realized: the more I’m out there, the more comfortable I will be. I think seeing what I can actually do will give me that confidence. Thanks so much for the great advice!

  • Twinchaser

    Hi Stacey,

    First let me say that I really enjoy seeing the photos you’ve taken.  You have a great “eye” and there’s lots of pictures you’ve taken that I’ve thought “Gee I wish I’D taken that!”

    It’s interesting that you say you “see” potential photos everywhere you go.  I do the very same thing.  Sometimes it’s something I “see” while I’m the passenger in a car flying down the freeway!  BTW I’ve shot lots of pictures through the windshield from the passenger seat!

    A pro-photog once told me to not limit what I’m seeing to just one shot.  To look up and down, move the camera angle, bend down, stand up…and to watch the background!  I think about what he said everytime I take a picture…and that sometimes makes me look a little funny while I’m doing it.  So what?  🙂

    Keep it up Stac…it’s just another avenue for you to explore and enjoy…and you’re good at it!  🙂

    BTW I LOVE the Humans of New York Facebook Page.  He is fantastic and I envy his talent.  I DID email him asking if he got model releases from his subjects or if he gave them a copy in exchange….but never heard from him.


    • Oh, I *really* like the idea of getting on more sides of a photo’s subject. I need to try that more. Usually I just try to snap it and go, but probably if I spend just a few more minutes I might come up with something cool (and unexpected). Love you, Mom! xoxo