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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 14 of 20

What to Do When People Say No to Photographs


Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 14 of 20

What to Do When People Say No to Photographs


Lesson Info

What to Do When People Say No to Photographs

You might have noticed that I haven't got necessarily a script, except I've got, like some some things that I always say, I'm always saying my name saying, where I'm from, like a photo agency, if you're not from a photo agency to say who you are, I'm a student photographer, I'm an amateur photographer that lives in hong kong that lives in seattle that lives in sydney. No, I'm uh ah, I don't know, I was just giving this camera, I'm testing it out and you know, I'm on the street like it doesn't matter just tell people what you're doing, where you're from like it adds to the context and the transparency of who you are and why you're taking pictures. Um, so that I didn't do that? No, but you should have some idea, like consider consider why you're shooting until the person that, um, conversation, some people will engage immediately on, you know, much deeper sort of conversation, and this is just the way that human beings are, you know, like there's there's, people that you meet that instan...

tly, good, like the really, you know, intense conversations and then there's the people that no matter how many times you meeting, they're still talking about the weather it's the same thing when we're shooting, thanks sometimes you'll find I got you really wrapped up for the cold it sounds so lame when I'm sitting here in the studio saying it except it's just it's just conversation I think about think about being in a dinner party and breaking the ice when you're sitting next to the new guest it's never easy for the first course but then it gets easier and easier as it goes on so go through those little chit chat questions get to know the person you know when did you move to seattle? You know from here when did you move to seattle? Arjun move here you moved all the way from florida it's the exact opposite side of the country is your family crap you know, whatever it is they you can make silly jokes with him try to break the ice and get into it a little bit. I think that went pretty well. We had one really weird exchange which I screwed up but that's okay, I'll go back into it on a photograph to really interesting people with different approaches that I think highlights what we're talking about that there is the eye contact that you can make and the people understand what you're doing is a photographer and they don't have to act or do anything different and I think that a frame that the man that we photographed was a great example of that and then the lady was like really the jehovah's witness was a really good example of somebody just didn't mind being photographed um on dh yes there's been a really good location it's being interesting shooting inside it um and I guess I hopefully I'm getting over that hump of the day when I start feeling really uncomfortable on dh tired from sort of over exerting myself on being a charming as I can I'm not naturally charming, I guess so while I am curious, it doesn't mean that I'm always as friendly as maybe I should say so when I'm shooting I'm really, really conscious of being approachable on dh really honest on dh um extroverted, you know, that's a really, really hot part of this job is toe to turn yourself into the extra vote that you need to be in order to approach strangers like this and to be switched on all the time like being that switched on I think is what maybe I was trying to say there because when I go home I'm not an introverted layer um I you know, I still had I think, like you said earlier like there is some of this work is extroverts butt in, you know, in the end we need that time to ourselves as much, you know, as much as being interacting, engaging with other people out there, um we so when you switched on for an entire day out there shooting, you know, you get to these points and humps in the day where I want it like that was ah, that hour of the day was a difficult one because I wanted it to stop and I wanted to go home except these are the points that we have to run through these the point that we have to push through and you come out the side and it's good that's when you start getting good work when you're really uncomfortable, it means to me like that feeling is a good feeling is it means that I'm pushing myself and it's not pleasant when you're in it but you have to accept it work and then work through it and work by working through it and I mean there's no process to that it's just being in it and it always passes it always passes, but sometimes it takes longer than others, so you just got to sit with it and keep working and wait um well there's there's also this element which we get a lot off so when people tell you know, you have to realize first and foremost it's not about you that they've got their own lives they're going to go ahead they've got their thing on things to do they got their own reasons not to be photographed it's not it's not a personal affront against you usually maybe in the case maybe in some cases I don't know like if you act like a freak like I did then somebody might say no but usually it's about what the person you know they're busy they just don't feel like it right then so you take the knowing you keep moving you find somebody else to photograph um some days you get a hell of a lot more of that than other days um and some days you get almost all yeses so it has taken into account and don't take it personally hi uh I'm taking pictures of seattle in the street do you guys mind if I take a picture uh just taking pictures of seattle on the street and I wanted to photograph you guys like walking out the street just uh just documentary pictures of the city. Okay, thanks. It's gonna be a lot of that good I'm a photographer I'm just doing pictures of the streets of seattle and about the city I want to photograph you walking I don't know um are you only speak chinese mandarin everyone bring a photo no no okay. Okay. All right. I'm just doing photos of seattle uh I'm from a small photo agency killed seven I was wondering could I take your photo? Could I take your photograph? No okay, all right now, how about you have had you I'm I'm just um doing photos no no ok no problem everybody says no what are these okay, I already had lunch thank you. Um my name's ash I'm a photographer I'm just doing pictures of seattle with a photo agency called seven I was wondering if I could take a photograph of you know okay, no problem thanks have a great day way high I'm a photographer I'm taking pictures of seattle and with a small photo agency called seven and was wondering if I could take your photo yeah no okay, no problem. Okay, thanks have a great day so trying to shoot in chinatown is a little bit difficult um for whatever reason everywhere around the world you get a lot of no's a cz we just so I think we got like six or seven knows for one yes, but that's really normal like in street photography in asking permission of strangers you'll mostly get nose like most people for whatever reason don't want to stop their day on dh you know, being a photograph they may but I think what's really important is to not take it too hard like it's not about you, they're not saying no because you're a jerk like that it's just they haven't got time they don't feel like I've got a million reasons to say no and it's our job just to keep on working teo, to take that and not take it to heart and keep shooting. Keep asking. People. Keep talking to people. Keep being curious. I don't take it to heart.

Class Description


  • Confidently approach strangers for street photography
  • Refine your eye for strong compositions
  • Choose the right gear for street photography
  • Tell a story through street photography
  • Write captions to accompany your work
  • Cull and edit your street photography images
  • Use street photography tips for building a career


Find the courage and skill to photograph strangers in public. Work with renowned street photographer Ashley Gilbertson to build both the confidence and skills necessary to succeed as a street photographer. Learn how to capture people moving through everyday life in artistic ways. Find out how to approach people in the street -- and how to photography anonymously in public places when everyone says no.

From understanding gear and the nuances of focal length to working as a documentary photographer in a public space, take your passion for street photography to the next level. This class isn't for beginners learning shutter speed and aperture for the first time -- it's for anyone that's ever wanted to work in street photography but struggles to build the courage to do so.

Watch behind-the-scenes videos following a real street photographer in action. Hear tales -- and see sample images -- of street photography across the United States and abroad, including major cities like New York and Chicago. Build captions and edit images with Photomechanic and Adobe Lightroom Live. Dive into an art form that reveals the complexity of human nature with Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers.


  • Intermediate photographers eager to try the street photography genre
  • Enthusiast photographers branching into documentary style photography
  • Advanced photographers struggling to come out of their shell to approach strangers

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom 6.0


Australia born photographer Ashley Gilbertson is a well-respected documentary style artist that many consider among the best street photographers. From working on editorial shoots to personal projects, his work has earned him an Emmy nomination, the Robert Capa Gold Medal, and an American Society of Magazine Editors Ellie award. The street photographer is also the author of two photography books and a regular writer for publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Based in New York City, Ashley's work has been featured in major publications as well as museum and art galleries around the world. 


  1. Class Introduction

    Start this street photography workshop with one of the most frequently asked questions: how do you photograph strangers? Meet your instructor and dip your toes into the world of street photography in the introduction lesson. Learn what to expect in the first lesson.

  2. What Do You Mean by Photographing Strangers?

    In many cases, street photographers photograph first in the decisive moment, then talk to the person in the photograph afterward. In this lesson, Ashley explains when he introduces himself first, and when he waits.

  3. Why Photograph Strangers?

    Carrying a camera gives you permission to be curious, to meet new people. See why strangers make such great photography subjects. Gain insight into how Ashley gets strangers to open up about their vulnerabilities.

  4. The Psychology of a Street Photographer

    Can you be a street photographer and an introvert? Learn how Ashley become extroverted for the sake of street photography and how to get out of your own shell. Work to build the confidence to approach strangers by looking at the worst case scenario and imagining how you would feel if the roles were reversed.

  5. Establishing Trust When Photographing

    Ashley says that trust is essential to successful street photography. Gain insightful tips to start building trust with potential photo subjects, whether you are working with them for one image or working with them for months. Learn how to confront your own fears and build trust with subjects.

  6. Decide on a Story to Tell Through Photos

    Begin the segment on the pre-shot process with a look at storytelling through street photography. Work through the process of determining what story to tell, from finding what you are passionate about to working for a specific cause. Just be sure, he says, to be open to changing your opinion as you work. Find inspiration from some of Ashley's past projects.

  7. How To Tell Your Story Through Photos

    Some stories try to change the world, others just celebrate the beauty and fun of it. Dig into researching the location, narratives, and existing work on a potential story. Learn how to build and pitch a photo essay, including a sample pitch.

  8. The Gear You Need For Street Photography

    Gear matters in street photography -- but perhaps not the way you think it is. A good street photography camera, whether film or digital camera, is simply a tool that helps you get the job done, whether that's a fancy Leica or an inexpensive camera and a prime lens or two. Ashley says, however, that you should know your camera inside and out. Street photographers also need to consider the conditions, traveling, and whether or not you need to be discrete when choosing gear.

  9. Know How to Present Yourself as a Photographer

    Perception goes with trust -- including what you wear and how you present yourself. In this brief lesson, gain tips on presenting yourself as a street photographer.

  10. Observe Your Shoot Location

    Scouting out the location helps prepare for a successful shot. Observing the location helps street photographers find the best light. Learn what to look for when scouting out a location.

  11. Where is Street Photography?

    Street photography doesn't require a street. Ashley explains how any public or semi-public location is fair game for street photography. Find insight into additional spaces to shoot besides just outdoors on the streets.

  12. How to Approach Your Subject

    Street photographers can approach subjects in three main ways. Work through each situation to interact with the subject while keeping the interactions unposed. Ashley also shares insight about getting a variety of angles to increase the chances of getting good shots with the right perspective. Go behind the scenes and watch Ashley interact with real subjects in Seattle.

  13. Ways to Connect with Your Subject

    Talk through ways to connect with your subject and how men and women may have different experiences in street photographer. Watch a behind-the-scenes video showing how Ashley talks with subjects. Learn why being at ease and comfortable is key.

  14. What to Do When People Say No to Photographs

    Not everyone will say yes to having their photo taken -- so what happens then? Ashley suggests not taking no personally and moving on to other photo subjects. In this lesson, learn how to capture photos of bystanders in ways that don't require a name.

  15. Always Have a Street Photography Backup Plan

    What happens when everyone says no? In this lesson, Ashley suggests some alternative projects or backup plans when the original plan isn't working.

  16. What to do When You've Finished Shooting

    The post-shoot workflow includes captioning and initial editing -- often on the same day as the shot. Ashley suggests writing down captions while it's still fresh in your mind, instead of waiting for the next day. Learn how to organize and cull your images.

  17. How To Find The Right Caption For Your Photos

    Documentary style photography isn't complete without a caption. Build a caption for your work in this lesson, from a generic caption for large batches of images, to captioning individual images.

  18. The Street Photography Editing Process

    Work through a three-step culling process for street photography. Start with culling photos in Adobe Lightroom using a star system, then continue narrowing down the frames.

  19. Toning Your Photos For Maximum Impact

    Street photography's journalism roots means editing should be minimal. Walk through the process of adjusting the tones in the image from maximum impact using Adobe Lightroom. Work with photos shot in previous lessons during this live editing session.

  20. Career Tips For Street Photography

    How do street photographers profit from their work? In this lesson, Ashley talks about the state of the industry, the different types of assignments, and how to approach street photography as a career.



I have taken more than a few of the Creative Live courses. I have, in general, found all of them to be very good and I have learned something important from them all. Not always enough of exactly what I was looking for, but something useful and important. This course was absolutely amazing. The best I have taken. I would like to download it and see it again and again. Ashley's style was authentic, humble, yet confidence inspiring. The information he gave was focused and totally useful. He shared both philosophy and thinking as well as real tools to learn - whether they be soft stuff (like how to approach someone) or hard stuff (like gear and settings and such). I cannot recommend this class highly enough. If you want to learn to do "humanistic photography" (his term which resonated with me), this is best I have ever taken!


This was a terrific and wonderful class. Ash was superb. His stories were awe inspiring, his passion was evident and his ability to teach was flawless. I would take any other class by him and actually can't wait for more of the VII agency programs eminating from Ron's class during photo week 2015. A great great addition to Creative Live's orbit.


Wow, I loved this course - I watched the whole thing, and most of it twice, during the first run. Ash is is intriguing, a good teacher, honest. I found this class to be so inspirational. I especially loved his encouragement about talking to strangers, asking to take their picture- "what's the worst thing that could happen?" And the videos watching him in action were motivating- you saw him make connections but also saw him get rejected too, but he keeps such a positive outlook. Love this class, please more photojournalism!