Very few individuals feel confident photographing other people right away at the beginning of their journey. When you shoot a building and it doesn’t come out as it expected unlikely the building is going to tell you: “Delete! I look ugly!”… however, the security guy might tell you to delete it for other reasons.
So how do you get to doing it? There isn’t’ one definite answer to this question, but one thing applies here exactly same way it applies in many aspects of life – practice makes perfect. Whether you are just trying to catch the casual moments of having fun with your friends, candid family photos, or posed portraits and fashion-inspired shoots – you have to take so many bad shots until you start seeing how to take a good shot. One can watch all of the YouTube videos explaining how to shoot your friends as if they were models, but unless you actually shoot them, you’ll never master this skill.
If you want to shoot strangers as in street photography, then you have to ask their permission (in the UAE, but you can shoot them the way you wish with or without permission in other countries). Approaching strangers can be intimidating at first, but you have to always remember that “No” has nothing to do with you personally in 95% of the time. It is the stranger that doesn’t feel confident, beautiful and/or worthy of a photograph, and they simply could be too busy to be bothered. However, the more boldly you ask them for a picture, the more chances there are they will say yes. I always advise to start with a compliment (and a smile, but this is tricky while we are still all wearing masks), and say something like hi there, how is your day going? I really like your dress/hat/style/shoes which goes fantastically with your hair/eyes/other accessories/surroundings of the place. Would you mind if took a portrait of you? I feel that when you propose a portrait, it makes people feel more special than when you ask to take a picture (and definitely don’t propose to do a click, unless there is nothing that clicks in your head). Or you can just tell them the light is amazing on their face right now, and you’d really love to capture it the way it is happening.
When you have a couple or a group of friends in front of you, you can tell them that they look like a fun group, or a sweet couple, and you bet they don’t have so many photos taken of them, and promise (plus actually do) to send them a photo later on.
Don’t be shy to ask your stranger to walk with you to some wall or area of better composition, as it rarely is amazing right where you stopped them. Make sure no trees or street lights are crossing their heads in a funny way. Ask them some random question like “what did you have for breakfast?” while dialing in the right settings in the camera, and take a few shots. If something is still wrong with the settings, you can say “these look fantastic, let me just change one thing here” because if you gonna start fiddling with the camera without saying anything, your subjects *applies to friends as well* are going think something is wrong with them.
As for your family and friends, a good trick would be to shoot them with a silent electronic shutter – if light permits, so that they don’t particularly know if you are taking their photos or just doing some weird things with your camera.
Often times people tell me, but what if they say no, well if they do say no, just wish them a good day, or leave them your business card and tell them that whenever they are ready, you will be more than happy to take their portrait.
If you don’t play, you never win. So be a little bit adventurous, and try… talking to strangers and asking people for photographs gives you a shot of adrenaline into your bloodstream, also teaches you valuable social skills. You never know, you might end up making a new friend.
Stay strong, and live with passion, otherwise, what is the point?
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