A Street Photography Warm-Up Exercise

An exercise which you can do if you have anxiety approaching people to take their pictures.

Nothing breaks the street photography ice like a challenge. It was a challenge I set for myself on my birthday. I wanted to photograph 47 (my then age) rickshaw drivers (rickshawalas) in under two hours.

Why the challenge? To prove to myself – and hopefully to street photographers out there who need a morale boost when it comes to facing fear in photographing strangers – that the concept of “warming up” in the world of sports is an analogy to fully embrace for shooting street photography or in any genre of photography which involves photographing strangers, especially if you suffer from anxiety.

How does it work?


The answer is repetition. The number doesn’t matter. The subject matter doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re holding up your camera to shoot your subjects (candid or otherwise) x amount of times in a relatively short amount of time.

If you get used to photographing strangers quickly and with little or no hesitation as a warm up exercise, when the time comes to shoot “for real” then you should feel a lot less anxiety or fear when photographing strangers. And over time, maybe a warm up exercise won’t be necessary at all because shooting street photography – or strangers in any genre – will have become second nature.

Preparing your own warm up exercise

Unlike my challenge with a goal of two hours, a warm up should be just a few minutes in duration, maybe as little as five or as much as 10 or 15 minutes. The goal is to warm up as soon as you hit the streets. Here are three considerations.

Base your number of shots for the warm up on the number of people you actually see. For instance, setting a goal of 50 people when you only see four people spread out over several city blocks will not be helpful and probably take all day if you reach your target at all. Maybe set the goal of shooting five strangers close up in say, under 15 minutes.

Whether to shoot candid or street portraits or both? For my challenge I knew I would be shooting both candid and portraits because I felt I didn’t have the time to discriminate. But you can customize each warm up to your needs. Maybe approaching strangers and asking them for their picture is problematic. Make your warm up about street portraits. The choice is up to you, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re in the groove and getting the shots that you want.

Forget about the technical aspects of photography for your warm up exercise. Here’s your excuse to shoot utter crap and be okay with it! It doesn’t matter if your pictures are blurry, poorly framed, underexposed, or otherwise painful to look at. What matters is that your finger is clicking on the shutter button and your camera is aimed at a stranger.

For my birthday challenge, over half of my shots turned out to be garbage due to technical flaws or just weren’t interesting. I didn’t care because the point was to shoot like a mad dog until I got my number.

That’s a wrap!

That’s all there is to creating warm up exercises for your street photography adventures.

As for my challenge, I was able to photograph 50 rickshawalas in 30 minutes flat. Afterwards, I continued the photo walk in my neighborhood and discovered that I still possessed the positive momentum to shoot fearlessly and fluidly.

If you decide to do this exercise, come back and tell us about your experience in comments.

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