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Photography/How suspicious is this camera setup? For legitimate street photography?


Camera Setup
Camera Setup  
QUESTION: Dear Steve,

If you don't mind me asking, I am curious for your opinion.  How noticeable is the setup of this snapshot camera, as far as "shooting from the hip", if I were to hold this pack at my stomach level with the top zipper open and make it look like I'm fiddling with something inside? There's a right angle mirror I placed in this fanny pack so that I can still see my camera's LCD screen when looking straight down so that I don't have to hold it up at eye level (I want to make it less noticeable that I am taking photographs). In your opinion, is that cut out square obvious, or does it look like it could easily be confused as part of the pack's design if others aren't aware they are supposed to suspect?

Let's say I'm in public out in the open where people don't reasonably expect privacy, but I don't want them to try to pose nor smile for the camera, but rather just act normal? Or maybe I want want to take pictures for legitimate "editorial" Freedom of Speech protesting purposes and don't want someone to physically confront me even if what I'm doing is perfectly legal, since they're visible in a public area?

Thanks for any feedback on my setup here. Also, if that cut out square from the fanny pack is too obvious, I have cut out a small square of thin automobile window "one-way mirror" film, so if I need to I can slide in front of that camera lens you see there. It would make it so outsiders can't see the lens at all, although it makes that square more shiny. Just testing my setup out, the disadvantage to using the one-way mirror is although the photographs are still mostly the same quality as without it, it's obvious the pictures are getting slightly less light and the fine details aren't as good.


ANSWER: I do not understand why you have to hide. In the history of photography all the great street shooters like Garry Winogrand, HCB, Doisneau etc...took pictures openly. They took photos responding to the moment and interacted with the subjects when appropriate.

I find your setup offensive and dishonest. It will do nothing to produce good photographs. Why not try shooting on the street openly and dealing with the reactions of subjects and your own feelings first?

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QUESTION: So just to make sure I'm understanding, in your opinion the camera setup would be quite obvious?  As in if I were to walk around with it, people will most likely become even more suspicious than if the camera was standalone?

One of the reasons I am interested in a setup like this, when people know you're pointing a camera at them, don't they often pose for the camera, or do something else to look unnatural.

The second reason for motivation, let's say you want to "protest" about some activity which is being done, so you decide to take some pictures so you can post them online in opposition, but don't want to be physically confronted if they notice you're picture taking?  Let's also say the people are visible out in public, so they have "no reasonable expectation of privacy", but it's obvious they probably don't want a camera pointing in their direction because if others knew what they were doing they may object?

Think it through.

The hidden camera setup makes things worse. If you take pictures with a camera and someone objects you can apologize and play dumb. But be found with a hidden camera, you are toast. You are a terrorist, you are a bad person at the get-go.  And they will toss your sorry butt in jail for being a terroist for sure.

Walking around with a camera raises two questions.

1. Why are you doing it? Are you propering a photo show, practicing your photography or just  out for a day in the sun. No one need know you are posting anything online.

2. What are you afraid of? What is in your head? If you are opposing something expect to be hassled by the other side.

So you have to have some courage. (Weel, actually you don't have to have any courage because most people are sheep. Join the flock.)

I am a photojournalist. I live in Europe and have friends who run safe houses for writers and photographers who oppose dictatorship in Eastern Europe. Those shooters have courage. They don't hide their cameras but they hide themselves from hired killers and thugs.

But you are talking about opposing something in what, Utah? And you have to worry? No one's shooting at you at your front door like in Russia or have hired killers on your tail. You have the luxury of the Bill of Rights and if your are polite and clever there won't be a problem.

In fact in America since everyone's got a cameraphone, anyone hassling you will be recorded and then you'll really have something to post. In fact rather than hide a camera just use a goddamn iPhone. It is fine disguise for a camera anyway.

If you are going to fight in opposition to something you cannot do it half way. Hiding a camera only makes it worse, it says you already feel afraid and that gives the other side power over you and an advantage. You are lost before you've begun.

To be a photojournalist I had to face my fears and some really nasty shit. And surprise--the really biggest thing to fear was my own fear.
Bon chance! Courage!


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Steve Meltzer


I am a professional photographer and I've been shooting for newspapers, magazines, commercial clients and artists for over 30 years. I have shot stock photography for dozens of years and in 1977 created West Stock (Seattle, WA) which was one of the first to produce stock photo CDs and later one of the first to establish an online stock photo slaes site. I have a new book on digital photography "PHOTOGRAPHING ARTS, CRAFTS AND COLLECTIBLES (Lark Books, 2007)which is available at, and in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. I have another book, CAPTURE THE LIGHT which will be puiblished in November, 2008. I write 20-30 feature articles and columns for regional and national publications a year. My education includes studying with photographers like Cornell Capa, Duane Michels and Oliver Gagliani (from the Ansel Adams Center.)

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