How to Take Outfit Photos in Public Places Without Feeling Awkward
How to take pictures of yourself in public without wanting to die of embarrassment, by someone who does it for a living
One of the blog-related questions I get asked most often is about how to take pictures of yourself in public without feeling awkward about it.
My answer? I don’t. The fact is, while I much prefer to take my photos outdoors when I can (because natural light beats artificial light every single time) the problem with “outdoors” is that that’s where Other People are. And other people don’t really understand style bloggers. They think we’re nuts, basically. They may have a point, actually.
OK, I’m kidding, I’m kidding… Fashion bloggers aren’t nuts, but taking photos of yourself in public places can certainly make you feel that way: especially when you encounter people who act like they’ve never seen a camera in their life before. I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling awkward when I run into an Other when I’m out taking photos, but I do have some techniques which can make it a little bit LESS awkward. Here are just a few of them…
How to take pictures of yourself in public without feeling awkward
FIND A SECLUDED SPOT
The first thing you have to understand here is that when you’re taking photos in public, nowhere is truly “private”. Unless you’re on your own property, there’s always the chance that someone will come along and interrupt you: seriously, I sometimes feel like I could drive to the exact middle of nowhere, and the second I start taking photos there, an entire bus-load of people will turn up to gawk at me in amazement.
With that said, some places are more private than others, so your first job is to identify a few of those places, to use as your “go to” locations. This can take a bit of time and patience, and basically involves just always being on the lookout for locations that might work. I don’t have the time to drive too far from home in order to get photos (and I quite often have a very narrow window of opportunity with the weather), so I like to try and scout out places I can get to quickly.
I’ve come across quite a few good spots while out running, or walking the dog, but if we have a bit more time, Terry and I will also sometimes hit up Google Maps and take a look to see if there’s anywhere nearby that looks like it might be worth checking out. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t – you never know until you try.
HAVE AN EXCUSE AT THE READY
While a lot of the people I encounter while taking outfit photos will politely pretend they haven’t noticed the over-dressed redhead twirling in the big skirt, others will be a little less tactful, and will stand and openly stare, or want to know what on earth I’m up to. For these people, it’s a good idea to have an excuse at the ready: for instance, you could say you’re studying photography, or working on a project for school or something.
Obviously this involves lying, which you may not be comfortable with, but personally I just find it easier than getting into what a “blog” is, and how it all works: basically the less you say, the less likely you are to get follow-up questions, so I’d avoid using the words “blog” or “fashion” and just say something vague. In my case, I’d probably just say my husband is a web developer (true) and that we “need” some photos for “a project” (also true), in the hope that they’ll assume I’m referring to some kind of stock images for websites or something.
I’ve never had the opportunity to use this excuse, though, because Terry normally just buts in with a long explanation along the lines of, “Well, my wife has a fashion blog, so we take photos of her wearing different outfits, then she puts them on the internet, and people look at them. Sometimes people pay her to do it! Oh, you don’t know what a blog is? Well…” And, you know, that’s true, but… awkward.
(If anyone ever asks what the “project” is, my plan is to say, “I’m afraid that’s classified. I’d tell you… but I’d have to kill you.” THAT’LL teach ’em.)
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Preparation is everything when it comes to knowing how to take pictures of yourself in public. Once you have your location and your excuse at the ready, the next step is to prepare yourself by working out exactly what kind of shots you want to get, and discussing them with your photographer (or just working them out yourself, if you’re using a tripod and self-timer) before you get to your location.
So, you might decide that you need a close-up of your shoes, say, or a particular detail of your outfit, as well as a couple of full-length shots: working that out before you leave the house will save you time when you get to your location, and will give you a better chance of getting in and out without The Others appearing on the scene.
FIND OUT WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
One of the best things you can do for your outfit photos in general is to find out what works best for you in terms of poses, angles etc. I know that sounds a bit silly, but if you know what works (and, more importantly, what DOESN’T work…) it can save you a lot of time, which makes it much easier to grab some quick photos, even when there are other people around.
In my case, you might have noticed that I’m often walking towards the camera, or looking off to the side in my photos – that’s purely because it looks more natural to me than standing rigidly in place and staring right at the camera: if I try to do that, I’ll almost always end up pulling a stupid face or closing my eyes, which means we have to take tons and tons of photos, just to get one I can use. Once you find out what helps you get a usable photo, taking those photos in public will be that bit easier – mostly because it’ll be a whole lot quicker.
DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT
This one will probably sound rude as well as silly, but if I’m out taking photos and I see someone coming, I’ll do my best to avoid making eye contact, even if I have to pretend to be looking at my phone, or adjusting the settings on the camera or something – anything that makes it obvious that I’m busy doing whatever it is I’m doing (Important busywork. NOT that newfangled “blogging”!) and don’t want to stand and chat. Most people will pick up on these cues and leave you alone – for those who don’t, go back to point 2, tell them you’re “working on a photography project”, and leave it at that.
One of the things to bear in mind when you’re taking photos in public places is that while it’s annoying to have people staring at you or making comments, it’s also annoying for them to have to stand and wait while some fashion blogger twirls around the street. If you’re in a crowded place, make sure you’re not in anyone’s way, not blocking an entrance or exit, and are generally not putting anyone out. And if you are… it’s time to find another photo location, simple as that!
REMEMBER THAT PEOPLE CARE LESS THAN YOU THINK THEY DO
My final tip
when it comes to how to take pictures of yourself in public is easier said than done, and basically involves building up the confidence to just do your thing and ignore everyone who stares at you or tries to make you feel uncomfortable. Taking outfit photos is weird, sure, but it’s not illegal and you’re not harming anyone, so it’s really no one else’s business what you’re doing. When I start feeling awkward about it (which happens a LOT), I try to remind myself that it’s probably a much bigger deal for me than it is for the passers-by who I imagine are staring at me.
Sure, they may well be looking, and they might even be thinking something negative when they do: but what does it really matter? In a few seconds, they’ll have passed by, and a few seconds after that, they’ll have forgotten all about me: it’s not like they’re going to spend the rest of their day thinking about that woman they saw having her photo taken in the street, and the fact that someone I’ll never see again MIGHT have thought something negative about me for a second shouldn’t be a huge deal.
If it is a huge deal for you, you might want to re-consider the idea of blogging altogether, because there will always be someone who thinks you’re weird, or stupid, or something else negative – just as there will always be people who think less-than-charitable thoughts about you in real life. Why let those people call the shots?
Do you have any advice on how to take pictures of yourself in public? I’d love to hear them!
P.S. If you'd like to hear more from me, please consider subscribing to my newsletter…