Every day you come across several people in your daily life and you find them interesting in many ways, maybe it makes you think “how good would it be if I can capture this person”.
Here are some tips suggested by experts on this subject, over the years that will help you approach strangers and photograph them successfully.
Have A Plan Before Approaching Someone
Before walking up to someone to ask to take their photo be sure to have everything ready to go. This means having your preferred camera body, lens, reflector, lighting, etc set up and ready to shoot in the event they agree. Approaching someone and then fumbling to get everything together will end up making you look unskilled and will most likely yield a sub-par portrait. Also, be sure to have a perception in mind for the types of expressions you’re aiming for, and communicate these ideas from start to finish.
Be Polite and Smile!
When approaching a stranger nothing is more disarming than a smile. When you are walking up to someone in public always make eye contact, smile, and politely introduce yourself.
Being extra polite will increase the likelihood that they will say yes. Once they do be respectful of their time and take your photos as quickly as possible so they can go on with their day. Always be sure to thank them for their time and remember to exchange emails or other contact details so you can deliver the photos once they are ready.
Be Aware of Their Situation
Be courteous and respectful of people and don’t approach them at inopportune times. For example, if you see someone with an interesting look that you want to photograph, but you see they are carrying groceries, having a conversation on the phone, or some other situation where they are clearly occupied, don’t interrupt! This might seem like common sense but far too often we see people approach strangers for various reasons when they are busy and are usually turned away. Timing is just as important as every other step in this process and can’t be overlooked.
Be Confident, Even If You’re Scared to Death
Let’s use our imagination for a moment. Imagine you’re sitting in a hospital room waiting to be treated for a wound. The doctor frantically enters the room, drops your medical records folder, and then loses his glasses as he bends down to pick everything up. At this moment I’m sure your anxiety levels are through the roof. You begin second guessing this person’s ability to help you, and they have a huge climb to restore order and confidence in their ability to patch you up. In contrast, if that same doctor had walked in with poise and told you that the procedure would be simple and painless, you would probably be more calm and willing to let them do whatever they thought was necessary to help. The same holds true for us as photographers. Be confident (not arrogant) that they are in good hands and that you’ll quickly get the photo you’re looking to take. Keep any nervousness or fears on the inside and as the old saying goes, “fake it until you make it.”
Always Be Prepared
One of the things you can do to increase your confidence in these situations is to make a habit of bringing the right camera/lens choices for shooting the types of portraits you like. This could mean a good 85mm lens if your style is tightly composed portraiture. If shooting wide, environmental style portraits is more your thing, maybe bringing along a 35mm might be better. Street Photographers everyday walk-around kit usually consists of a lightweight body like the Sony A7RII or Sony A6300 paired with one of Tamron’s SP line of lenses like the 35mm & 85mm 1.8 lenses. Again, whatever your portrait style dictates, bring the gear that you’re most comfortable with and make it happen!
Challenge Yourself Every Day
Many of us have the opportunity every day to go out into the world and interact with strangers, so use that to your advantage and try to take a portrait every day. Whether that means taking more portraits, or increasing the quality of the shots taken,try to make a concerted effort to engage in this practice as much as possible. You’ll find in the beginning that it may be terrifying, but the more you do it you’ll get to the point to where you can approach anyone, just about anywhere, and successfully take photos.
So this summer, go into the crowded streets, on an early morning walk, stroll outside hospitals, playgrounds, religious places, holiday spots and capture the most candid of images.