What Type of Photography Do You Fear Most?

As I begin my quest into the December Challenge, I’m finding that I’m not only uncomfortable with portrait photography — I’m downright scared of it. I love taking photos of people, but if I have to talk to them and tell them how to act or pose, I freak out and start losing my photography-mojo. Hopefully by the end of this month my fears will have dissolved.

This got me thinking — How many other photographers have a genre-fear? Is there some aspect of photography that scares you into avoiding it? I’ve seeded the poll with a few basic choices, but this one’s open for adding your own answers if it’s not in the list.

Also check out the poll results from last week “What Would You Pay for a GPS Compact Flash Card?” A quick overview shows that most people would pay $100 to $150 for one of these make-believe cards, and there were even a few willing to pay as much as $300. There’s also some good discussion in the comments, so go check it out.

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I voted for portraits but my fear is wider than that. I would really like to work with models to learn the lighting skills needed but it is the very lack of skill that makes me nervous of doing it. I think that like yourself it is the interaction with models that scares me too.

December 4, 2007 2:47 am

Yeah, I think I’m scared of artificial lighting too. I do almost nothing but natural light and handheld. All of my portraits so far have been with fully natural lighting.

December 4, 2007 2:53 am

I go street :)

I don’t have the guts to hold a camera and point it at ppl in the streets it freaks me out

December 4, 2007 3:11 am

Really? I find that a whole lot easier than talking to them! You just have to be sneaky and use long lenses.

December 4, 2007 3:23 am

I voted street also. I don’t have a long lens, so I’m mainly shooting with a 50mm prime, or at the most with a 35-70mm zoom Not much room for candid shots there! With film anyway…I managed to catch a few decent ones recently (that I haven’t uploaded yet) that gave my confidence a boost though.

I’m finding that the December Challenge is decreasing my fears about photographing strangers though.

December 4, 2007 4:33 am

Definately street photography. Shooting models isn’t so bad *because* you’re talking to them. There’s an understanding that you’re there to shoot, they’re there to be shot. But on the streeet, people are going about their business, and if they see you taking their photo, it’s an intrusion on their privacy and noone likes to be surprised like that. Particularly in the city and in today’s paranoid culture. Even taking photos of buildings I feel like there’s hundreds of suspicious glares boring into me. But when I’m taking photos of people on the street, it can feel downright terrifying. Who knows if that weathered face belongs to someone with a short temper?

I was tempted to add “beach photography”, but I think thats kind of like street photography in many ways. The main difference here is that people are more exposed and relaxed than on the street, so an intrusion upon them here might make them feel even more violated. Add into that the problem with the inevitability of kids in bathing suits, and it can be too overwhelming to even take out the camera, even if you’re only taking photos of friends or shells.

Incidentally, regarding the fear of artificial light – it’s well worth learning! It opens up so many possibilities. Study strobist.com, read every page, then read it again and do the exercises. In no time you’ll be over your fear, and excited about the possibilities it can bring :)

December 4, 2007 4:55 am

Portraits are the ones I fear the most because I don’t know how to approach someone with the camera, a stranger, and not come off, at least in my mind, as creepy.

December 4, 2007 8:11 am

I have the most difficulty with formal portraits, which tend to more static in posing, were as fashion shoots are more action oriented, at least in giving ongoing direction to model to constantly change the pose.

To help solve my learning curve I bought and assistant Betty-Lou at least this is what I call her.

It is a rubber Head with shoulders and painted eyes, lips and even has ears a reasonable skin tones but not tanned.

These are wig stands and can be found for about $30. Wig extra, but not really necessary at first until you want to highlight or backlight only parts of the hair.

I used this table top model to practice my lightning shots in learning to adjust the various flash heads and the light controlling attachments.

Niels Henriksen

December 4, 2007 8:22 am

My fear really isn’t a particular genre of photography, but Photoshop. I’m better than the average dude, yes, but I’m fairly certain my Photoshop skills are not good enough for a photographer.

December 4, 2007 9:40 am

Street for me, simply because I never thought about portrait. I think I’ll need to improve my basic photography skills before I start portrait photography. Even when I’m not taking pictures of people I get many strange looks by people seeing you stand there with a camera in your hand. I guess the least ‘scary’ genre would be nature. When I go to some nearby wetlands there’re loads of people with all kinds of fancy equipment, cameras, video cameras, bonoculars, they really don’t mind if you also take pictures…

December 4, 2007 10:31 am

Brian,
I was a little apprehensive about portraits and model shots until I helped out a buddy of mine with a shoot the other day. He had hired a model from ModelMeyhem and rented a studio which he had never shot in before. Just those two items would have had me freaking out. He was pretty calm and collected. He knew ahead of time what he wanted to get as a result of the shoot so he was pretty focused on that. At the end, he told me that the best way to deal with a model or anyone that you are photographing is to talk to them all of time. Involve them in the process. Show them what they look like on the LCD. He told me that most people being photographed are more nervous than the photographer ever will be. The more you talk to them, the more relaxed they will become. The more relaxed, the better they will look because it will feel more natural. It was the best learning experience I have had in some time and helped to eleviate my fear of portraits (at least with good looking models)

Jeff

December 4, 2007 4:05 pm

I should say portrait and street. To me, those are the genres I fear the most. Every time I say to myself I should give them a try I almost instantly feel a certain fear creep into me… I think I’m helpless…

December 4, 2007 5:07 pm

Ooo… so many of them but they all tend to have one thing in common and that is people. I don’t mind street photography because I’m sneaky with my camera and actually tend to take photos of the buildings anyway. But anything that has to do with people (portrait, kids, weddings, NUDES! EEEK!) I’m not comfortable with. I think it stems from being shy and reserved. I’m not a bubbly people person and you have to engage people when you are taking those kind of shots.

December 4, 2007 9:08 pm

Well, for me it is people. I am bad at that.

December 4, 2007 10:46 pm

Yeah, this challenge is helping me break my own fears. I’m not afraid of the people, strangers or not. I’m afraid of not knowing what to do. Afraid that my shots will all suck. Afraid that I’ll have too much flash, or not enough.

December 4, 2007 11:57 pm

Oh, definitely off-camera flash. I’ve been trying to learn it these past few months using trial and error. Right now – 60% error. Yikes!

December 5, 2007 11:50 am



Wedding. Never shot it, never will. Anything that has a “one-time-gotta-get-it-right” flavor to it is a no-go for me. You can pose and repose and rerent (that’s a word, right?) studio space for portraits and nudes, the Grand Canyon ain’t going anywhere, but one pissed off bride (or mother of the bride) would have me cowering in a corner.

June 5, 2008 10:30 am

i would say none of the above.

for i am more afraid of OTHER photographers with mega lenses, grips, flash, bouncers, reflectors, equipments etc. while i’m just using a Sony Alpha A100.

it really freaks me out.

July 18, 2008 1:32 am

I think it’s funny that portraits and low light are the two most feared tpes of photography because honestly they’re my favorite two. They’re the two most difficult to get your mind around. i mean — how counter intuitive is low light photography? And getting past the nerves of photographing a subject never mind making them look good is a daunting task. I think the importance comes in the satisfaction of these types of photography. I love the feeling of working hard for a good shot and actually getting it. I know this is an old post and I’m probably writing this comment to myself — but I thought I’d share. Thanks for the good read.
-Aaron

January 3, 2009 9:35 am

I agree with Aaron, I also enjoy taking portraits.

February 6, 2009 1:34 am

To Willy`s post on July 18th, never be intimidated by other peoples bigger and better equipment! It reminds me of when I was studying photography and some of the students spent more time obsessing over buying the latest gear. There was this rather quiet girl in the class with and old batterd praktika (cheap russian camera) and damn! you should have seen the images she developed in the darkroom. It certainly shut up the technofreaks!

April 26, 2009 5:24 am

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