There is no other way to start the photographic new year than with a new edition of my “Instant Inspirations”, something for you to try to overcome photographers block or if you simply want to give your photography a new angle. This eight episode might be tough on some of my readers, as it is about shooting Street Portraits. For a bit of how-to, more examples and links to previous episodes 1 through 7 continue reading after the jump…..
By nature human beings are wary of each other. Especially so when they are complete strangers to one another. Combine that with an often observed awkwardness when it comes to the making of portraits, more often on the subject’s side, but some times also for a photographer who makes only the occasional portrait. Combine those two effects and you face a situation that id seemingly difficult to overcome. Only it really is not.
First of all, there is absolutely nothing to lose. If you see someone that fascinates you just go up, give them a big smile and ask if you can “make” a portrait of them. The worst thing that can happen is that you get a rejection. Then you just smile, say “thanks” and move on. But trust me, it is by far more common that people smile back and agree than they would reject you.
Smiling is one of the biggest success factors anyway. This is the way human beings are wired. If someone approaches you in a friendly way you typically return a friendly reaction. There is no bigger ice-breaker than a smile.
Asides from smiling, approach your subjects in a confident and professional way. This is also why you should ask if they mind if you can make a portrait of then, rather than asking if you can take their photo. Tell them you like their looks, their demeanor, bit of flattering never hurts. Another important point is that you have you camera set and now your equipment inside out. Nothing worse if your object of desire agrees and you start fumbling with your equipment.
One of the benefits to making deliberate portraits of strangers is that it often gives you the opportunity of further interaction with your subjects. Show them the portrait on the LCD screen of your camera, ask them if they would like to throw another pose. Introduce yourself, give them your Street Photographer’s Business Card and offer them to send them the photograph, as most people don’t even have a proper portrait of themselves. Ask them for their story. You will be amazed how interesting these little conversations can be.
I understand that approaching strangers will put many people out of their comfort zone. But there is much more to gain than to lose. If you are unsure, find yourself an interesting street musician. They play to earn some money. So trow them a few coins in their hat and start shooting. They will absolutely to mind, trust me, and even throw in some nice poses.
So use the start of the new year to give your photography a new interesting angle. Step out of your comfort zone and look for those rewards.
Most of all, have fun!
If you succeed in making some interesting street portraits, I would love to see the results. Post the links in the comments below.