Shooting Through Windows

Question for today. Is it too much of an intrusion to shoot from the street through cafe or shop windows. Can this be defined as street photography when the subjects are not physically on the street. We wouldn’t shoot through the windows of peoples’ homes without permission so should this be permissible?

VIP MaccyD

Now, I’m raising this question as I was recently followed, stopped and asked to delete an image I had taken through a barber shop window. I took a non confrontational stance, smiled, explained what I was doing and presented the guy with a business card. After he stood over me to ensure I deleted the image he was fine, even apologised and as we chatted invited me to take pics in his shop sometime. One of his comments stuck with me though, when explaining I was doing street photography, he just said ‘but we weren’t on the street’. Fair point.

Feeling a bit disconcerted by this encounter I took to social media to give me an idea of how many other street photographers ‘shoot through’ cafe and shop windows. The answer is that almost all of the accounts I looked at had a few examples of such images.

The Windowseat

Shop windows are generally display and promotional areas as are cafes to a certain extent, who hasn’t been seated at a window table in a bid to attract business. Can they be interpreted as extensions of the streets as they are effectively live billboards? Would I like my picture taken when I was sitting in the hairdressers chair, probably not. So I guess I have my answer. I could ask permission, take shots and then subsequently tag the barbers shop/cafe, but the images would probably be weaker as a result.

Should we then, as street photographers, also refrain from shooting public transport? Buses, trains, trams. You know the type of shots, shooting through to obtain rainy day reflections and steamy window effects.

Bus Tour
Rivulets of Rain

Perhaps I’m not as bold or confident as I should be, but it is not my intention for my snaps to cause offence, distress or be considered an invasion of privacy.

I’d be interested to hear any thoughts. Are these types of ‘shooting through’ images an invasion of privacy and therefore an image too far?


To end on a positive note this image taken recently goes to prove there’s a flip side to the coin. She made my day!

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