Avoid Eye Contact
Make a photo of someone and pretend you are making a photo of something behind them or off to the side. Once you make eye contact you pretty much blew your cover. A can of worms may open up but in my experience nothing serious has ever evolved. Even if you don’t make a photo of someone out in public but you just happen to lock eyes with someone, doesn’t it feel awkward. So imagine if that person locked eyes with you and saw that you have a camera in your hand. If it’s the wrong person things may escalate.
Keep Walking Along
Let’s say you do lock eyes with someone, my advice is to walk along and blend in with the crowd. Don’t go off running that would just be weird. Just be as casual as possible. Remember you are not doing anything illegal by taking someone’s photo in public.
Compliment the Person
Okay, so you made eye contact, you don’t want to walk away but instead want to stay in the area, perhaps work the scene some more. Compliment the person. See what the person is wearing, a cool tie, colorful hat, their hairdo. More often than not in my experience, women tend to freak out if you point a camera in their direction and assume that you made a photo of them. To easily dissolve the frightening behavior, compliment the lady. Women love to hear how lovely they look, give them that extra fuel of confidence for the rest of their day. If complimenting the person is not an option, compliment the area or weather. If I’m in a situation like this I do whatever comes to my mind first.
Fiddle with your Camera
Look at your LCD screen, pretend something is wrong with your camera. Check the front, back, side, act as if your camera is not working and walk along.
If You Do Happen To Make Eye Contact…Smile and Walk Away
Again, if you do happen to make eye contact…smile and walk away. I have been surprised what a smile can do. Even in the workplace, the more you smile, the more your boss and colleagues think “Hey this guy has an upbeat attitude and loves his job”….Sad to say, perception is everything. When a stranger sees you smile at them despite making a photo of them or within their radius, a smile can bring a calming effect and makes them easily forget what just happened.
BONUS Tip! (this only applies if you look like a foreigner)
Ignore and pretend you don’t speak english. It works for me especially in crowded touristy areas. People think because I’m Asian with a camera in Waikiki that I’m just another stupid tourist making photos of every little thing. So they don’t take me seriously. Finally my Asian genes has worked in my favor!
If they don’t mind, you don’t matter (to them). Just keep shooting and working the scene until the subject leaves or the scene dissolves. If you are a walk and shoot type of person, just keep walking and shooting. Especially in a dense area you’ll blend in with the crowd and everything is moving so fast no one will notice you.