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Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 14 of 20

What to Do When People Say No to Photographs

Ashley Gilbertson

Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Ashley Gilbertson

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Lesson Info

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.

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. 



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!