Any tip on taking a random people's portrait on street?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by rustyair, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. rustyair

    rustyair Member

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  2. Fixcinater

    Fixcinater Subscriber

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    This is key, why would they let you take the image if YOU yourself believe it is unusual behavior?


    Did you take the time to explain why you might be interested in having/making that image?
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Hand them a business card as you are asking them? Offer a print in exchange for signing a model release? Dress nice?
     
  4. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    I have tried it and I must admit its quite hard. A lot of it comes down to self confidence, which is something I lack at times. I tried to start a '100 strangers' project (check out flickr, there is a group for it) and failed after 3 or so.

    If I give it another try, I'll probably use events and functions to try at.

    Actually, using the 100 strangers project is a good idea. Tell your subjects exactly why you are taking there photos. Maybe even provide a link to the pictures for them to look at, if you put them online (but warn them that since they are film, it will be a bit longer till they are online!).
     
  5. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I think you must always respect a persons right to privacy and not intrude on their personal space unless invited. In terms of your question, I would suggest you explain in detail and reverence to your subjects what you are trying to do. A light hearted approach may help.
     
  6. rustyair

    rustyair Member

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    First, It's not easy to gain their trust because I just met them and I understand why they said no. It's because they don't want to see their faces on weird nasty websites. So do I.


    Yes I tried and answer was still no. The problem is I really don't know what to say..The people I asked looked interesting. That's all. How did you approach someone interesting? I need to work on my speech.
     
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  7. fastw

    fastw Member

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    Thank your politicians and media scaremongering for many years now. I rarely get a refusal at a Sunday Market in Melbourne and almost never in a third world country like India.
    Internet doesn't help either. Saw a doco on Mc Curry just sticking the lens in people's faces without asking, didn't say how often he gets punched.
    Street portraits are actually quite hard.
     
  8. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Good luck. Considering the proliferation of annoying phones on everyone's faces, all the time, I would venture out and say that most people in NYC are now more inclined to shove a camera up someone's butt than let them take their picture. At this point, as far as NYC goes, it takes a special person to do it, and very careful choosing of subjects. I find most people to be either fully engaged in their iCrap, or in a pissed off mood (because of it, and not) so thread carefully.
     
  9. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    Something I've mentioned before on this topic...

    Try to make every encounter a really special one. Something fascinating and out of the ordinary. Well off the beaten path. It's an approach to putting people at ease that I learned many years ago while working at Disneyland during my college days.

    One way to do that is by using what I've referred to previously as a "novelty" camera. It doesn't need to be a toy. Just something way out of the ordinary that doesn't resemble a digital anything. Something that jumps right out at strangers and engages them before I ever say a word. Doesn't need to be an antique, but those always work really well.

    I often use a (truly) near-mint condition 4x5 Crown Graphic that was purchased with that mint condition in mind specifically to attract attention. And boy does it. It's an instant ice-breaker.

    I also know the history in detail of both Graflex and my particular sample (right down to the month and year of manufacture), and can regale the potential subject with interesting background facts about the camera, the company, it's use in history (Iwo Jima, the Hindenburg, etc.), and long-ago photographers and subjects (Weegee, Murder Inc., etc.).

    After a few minutes of friendly chatting, telling a few fascinating stories and answering questions, I will often open the lens, flip open the GG hood (with a flourish, it makes a great attention-grabbing whoosh of a sound), and hand the camera to them for a look. And the inevitable observation "but it's upside down..." and "No, that's not an electronic viewing screen..."

    It's much harder to be afraid of a camera that you've just held in your own hands and looked through with your own eyes.

    More often than not I end up having the subject pleading for me to take their picture. And if they are also carrying their own camera I usually end up having to pose for them with my camera as well.

    To seal the deal I always offer them my email address (I never ask for theirs, especially if they are female, and I explain why), offer to send them a nice scan, and if they like that a follow-up mounted print (to a safe postal address).

    Finally I say, "Hold out your hands" and pop the used flashbulb into them as a souvenir. People just love that. I also always try to let them smell the still-hot bulbs in the Graflite right after firing, and explain how that's a rare and wonderful experience from a bygone era.

    Whenever possible I never use an electronic flash for people. Flashbulbs are a really big part of the attention-grabbing mystique. Plus, I like the quality of the slow-burning light much better, both for daylight fill and as a main source at night.

    Using this camera and approach I can count on one hand the number of refusals I've ever had.

    :smile:

    Ken
     
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  10. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    People skills are critical. A friendly, engaging, sincere and slow approach. Street photography of people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and in many, many other places in Vietnam for example is easy, fun and the people themselves are engaging with and love it, but always talk to them, shake their hand, perhaps even buy something from them, at least talk with them. This is the same for anywhere you are, but your first task is to instil trust and sincerity; people are right to question your motives — what are you going to do with their image? And why? he world is a very different time and place from 40 years ago when street pics was easy and carefree. Ubiquitous and thoroughly shit-annoying phone-cameras are the new norm in bad manners and appalling presentation; I can snap angrily if there is a phone flashing or ringing near my table in a restaurant; I'm sick of the bastards and their rudeness. We photographers, the real deal if you will, have more class and street-cred than this. Keep trying, but always give the impression, "I'm your friend".
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have done this .. not recently but i have done this, and often ..
    if you are on the street .. have a camera set up
    i see from your profile you use a 4x5 or lager camera use that ...
    maybe ask some friends you can "fake it with" so the people know what is actually going on ..
    talk to them, engage them in conversation, tell them you are a traditional photographer
    and you want to take their portrait with whatever contraption you have. give them a business card
    and something YOU sign saying you won't post their photograph on ANY website without their consent
    don't dress like anything but "normal" ( whatever that means )... get their name and email ( or give them a time and place
    you will meet with them ) and when you have the photograph made show it to them, and GIVE them a copy and ask their permission to
    publish or have a show with it, or have it in your portfolio.

    over the years i have photographed a lot of strangers, on the street or in some sort of work environment. never really had a problem
    except for once or twice ether when the person was trashed or totally paranoid ...
    after a while i was hired by a company to do something similar. but they made the contacts / and i arranged to photograph the strangers.
    it was still tense and sometimes strange .. and it usually worked out ..

    expect a lot of rejection at first, working on the street making portraits like you plan to do, is very hard, leaps and bounds harder than
    doing stealthy street photography with a long lens and 100 feet between you and your unknowing subject.

    good luck !

    john

    ps. some brain feed :smile:
    http://roarkjohnson.blogs.com/photos/stranger_a_day/
     
  12. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    "Hi, I'm Parker Smith, can I make a portrait of you?"

    It's a yes or no question. I'd say 95% of people say yes.

    You have to be confident. If you launch into "um, it's a long story how I, um, I started thinking of, uh, maybe making pictures of strangers so I, uh, could work on some, uhhh......" the answer is always no.

    Sometimes I don't even ask, I just hold up my hand like "stop!" and people will freeze right where they are! It's a trip!

    As Ken said, it helps to have something other than a chump 35mm, because then you look like you are serious, and not just another 35mm chump. It's like "I'm going to take a real picture of you..." A look down through the ground glass always opens up the conversation. It's magic.
     
  13. rustyair

    rustyair Member

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    Thanks all you guys! I feel so much better now. I definitely said too much 'um...'

    Janaian, those pictures look amazing!
     
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  15. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Wow Ken, reading that routine, I totally want a picture taken now haha.

    Rusty, dont worry about it, remember confidence is key! Also it might be easier to photograph certain people who are already dressed the part to stand out and attract attention. I find those folks usually would like to chat and that always opens it to asking for a photo. Parades and festivals are a good jumping off point as well, not just waiting on the sidelines, but if you are at the start or finish you can get some great snaps and chat up the groups of people there, and they are always game for a photo, especially one on film!
     
  16. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    im glad they fed your brain :smile:
    when i first saw them, they fed my brain too !

    john
     
  18. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    My tip is to use the smallest camera with the smoothest edges you can find, because it's only a matter of time until someone tries to insert it "somewhere the Sun don't shine" :D
     
  19. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    I'm as awkward and introverted as they come. If I can do it, I'm sure anyone can. It was only this past spring that I started (regularly) approaching strangers for their photos. I'm still refining my approach and I still get nervous, but I think I'm getting better at it. My general advice:
    • Smile.
    • Don't stalk potential subjects or linger in advance of approaching them. Best to look like you came out of nowhere.
    • Be confident and direct. "Pardon, would it be alright if I get a picture of you (and the boy/young lady/your family)?" That's my approach line almost verbatim.
    • Have a convincing response ready when asked, "What is this for?"
    • Context helps. Go to parks, parades, festivals, ball games, car shows, etc. They're great for this kind of work.
    • I'll second the notion that people who are ostentatiously (sharply or gaudily) dressed are usually more than willing to be photographed.
    What follows, I won't call advice, but rather part of my m.o. This is what works for me personally:
    • I don't outwardly promise anyone anything about what I will or won't do with the photo. This is usually because it simply doesn't come up. That said, I'll certainly respect the wishes of anyone who asks. And I'm not dumping these to the internet anyway.
    • I carry business cards but hand them out only if people are interested -- or skeptical. I offer them a scan via e-mail and a print "if it works out." People typically don't follow up though.
    • I don't detain or engage my subjects beyond the business at hand. If they're interested, I'll chat for a moment. Otherwise it's, "That's great. Thanks so much!" And I move along.
    • I'm torn on the bit about the camera. I've taken lots of street portraits with my Olympus XA2. I travel light. That said, my confidence level increased, as did people's interest, when I lugged my Yashica Mat 124G to a local park recently.
    The result? Most people (nine out of ten) say yes to me. In fact, what I'm finding, is that gaining access is the easy part. Composing a good portrait is the hard part.

    At the risk of stepping on toes, something should probably be said about "profiling." Who you are and how you look (beyond "dressing nice") could have a lot to do with how people respond to you. People have their prejudices. Tattoos and piercings, for example, I think still put a lot of people off. So I can only speak for myself. I'm pretty featureless, for lack of a better word.
     
  20. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    No, you need to work on why you think they look interesting, is it because they would "look" cool in *your* photograph or because you want to take the time to get to know their story, how they evolved as a person to become who they look like?

    Do you have an assignment letter or letter from a book publisher? What is your purpose for the photographs because if you can not answer the questions I have asked you, then why do you want to take these photographs?

    It's 2013 sir, too many hacks out there calling them selves "Street" photographers and slathering pictures of people they do not know or care about all over sites like Flickr like they were human prey who's heads are on display in a taxidermy shop. The days of Bresson and Winogrand have been pounded deeply into a permanent grave thanks to amateur camera owners who think of no one but them selves. Heck, I shoot professionally and do not bother people I am not assigned to photograph, I think it is super creepy in the internet age.

    I'm afraid that unless you have a professional reason with official backing to do this, you are out of luck and rightfully so, no one wants to be the subject of photos they have no idea of what they are to become or why they are being taken.

    Get a magazine or book assignment or, well....leave these people alone.
     
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  21. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    I've found, or at least suspected, your appearance to the subject matters as you approach. I'm 6'4" and go about 230# a bit of a softy really, but I'm sure that's not the first impression folks get if I approach them. :confused:
     
  22. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    Well, I'm not sure I agree with the premise that only professionals* with magazine or book assignments or letters of introduction should be allowed to photograph people, presumably while all others are banned. Especially if the people to be photographed have given their consent.

    But I do wholeheartedly agree with the premise of taking time to get to know your subjects at a much deeper level as individuals before releasing the shutter.

    A camera can be a license to find out about entire worlds that may have been totally unknown to you before you asked. That was certainly the case for me with this photograph. It's just an unposed simple grab shot. But when combined with what I learned over the course of an hour or so of quiet listening, to me it's priceless.

    Ken

    * Photographers, that is. We all are, or were, professionals in some current or past field of expertise.
     
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  23. rustyair

    rustyair Member

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    No Sir, You leave these people alone. Me, I will ask for their permission.... :cool:
     
  24. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Well played!
     
  25. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    If you have examples of what you intend to do with the results, it can help allay fears.
     
  26. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    There you have it. Works every time...

    :w00t:

    Ken