Approaching a stranger for a photo

March 30, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

For some photographers, it can be pretty intimidating to approach a stranger and 'take' an image. In this case, the person may think you are actually 'taking' something away from them such as their privacy. Some people love having their picture taken (in many, but not cases). Others tend to run in the other direction when someone even that they may know pulls out a camera. Yet other people may get highly offended or even aggressive at the thought of someone taking their picture.

There are some techniques that may improve your chances of making some candid and portrait shots with people that you know or even strangers:

  • If you are lugging around a large DSLR or even a medium format camera with a long telephoto lens this can be pretty intimidating to most except possibly models or extreme extroverts.  If you are planning some candid or street portrait shots, think about using at the very least a 50 mm lens. If you have one of the mirrorless cameras, so much the better.
  • If they glance at you once or twice, you may have an opening for a few images. If they walk away- not so much.
  • What is the person doing? Would you want your picture taken performing a similar task?
  • If you approach them and they assume a closed body position (arms crossed) you may have less of a chance of getting some decent shots
  • Try to show that you are interested in what they are doing and engage in a short conversation. This may drop some barriers related to the prior point of a closed body position. Keep in mind that most people will know if you are fake relating to interest in their activities.  Ideally this will result in the other person actively participating in the conversation. Simply raising the camera and asking to take their image will at best result in a stiff and unnatural image.
  • Know your camera equipment. In this setting, it is not horrible to keep your camera in the "Program" mode. If you are fumbling with adjustments, in many cases you will erode any rapport that you have built up so far and your subject may loose total interest in anything you wish to say or do after that point.
  • Remember, No is No. Regardless of how much you want an image do not intrude on an individual or several people who do not wish their picture taken. Not only is this rude, it can bring out the aggressive side in someone who may be otherwise pleasant.