Approaching Strangers--To Photograph Them

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by zig, Jun 3, 2004.

  1. zig

    zig Guest

    Could someone point to articles or books dealing with the best
    approaches to photographing strangers?

    zig, Jun 3, 2004
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  2. I think all you really need is a good pair of running shoes.
    Seriously though, I don't know.
    Tyrone Jackson, Jun 3, 2004
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  3. I doubt that it would work. I just tell them I work for "The Irregular" and
    around here it's well thought of and works well. So...tell them you work for

    Look...all this has to be individualized. There are no books. They say if a
    guy propositions every woman he meets he will be slapped a lot....and get
    laid a lot.
    Gene Palmiter, Jun 3, 2004
  4. zig

    Phil Wheeler Guest

    A very long IS lens works well.

    Phil Wheeler, Jun 3, 2004
  5. If wishing to photograph someone that is female its always best to
    approach them if they are not on thier own, even better if they are
    with their boyfriend and make sure you shake his hand to put him at
    ease... always speak to them both, or her and her friend(s)

    Confidence is the key, if you come across as un-sure and sleazy then
    it aint going to happen.

    If you are a professional, or good amateur, its always a good idea to
    hand a card over, explain that you can show examples of your work if
    you dont carry any with you and suggest that if "they" are interested
    then you can meet to show them at a sutable public venue.

    If you are looking to take "candids" there and then, although why
    someone would want to have posed candids beyond me, the above also
    applies.... do they get a copy, whats the reason behind the shot, etc.
    I prefer to make an approach and arange a shoot or meeting at a more
    convienient time to them.

    If you are wanting to take "street shots" of people then I guess the
    laws of the country apply, if its street shots of streets with people
    then that tends to be different if that makes much sence... generally
    in the uk one can photograph people as part of a larger scene and sell
    them on without concent, and "celebs" without concent even if they are
    the only subjet of the photo.

    If I see a shot that would work, but could do with say a human
    interest I find enough people have a good look at what I'm doing, or
    say something, at which point I can politely as "can you do me a
    favour, this shot would look great with someone walking buy... you
    wouldnt mind would you?" most people agree, and again I give them a
    card and loads of thanks afterwards :)

    I guess your question needs to be more qualified as to the intent of
    the approach... If I fancy someone at a more personal level then
    photography is the last thing to be mentioned as personally I dont
    think I'd be very professional using my work to get people in the sack
    especially if they have concented to nude or glamour work, everone has
    their own take and morality on this tho.
    Jonathan Wilson, Jun 3, 2004
  6. Can't point, but can report my own experiences, mostly
    photography in developing countries. Here the problem is that
    some people resent being photographed for various reasons or
    they demand outrageous amounts of money, then stand unnaturally,
    like statues. So you have to resort to clandestine photography
    or to various tricks.

    Many people will allow being photographed when asked, more men
    than women. A trick here is to do it very quickly, before they
    can even think. Look at the person, raise your camera and your
    eyebrows. Unless the person immediately refuses, shoot.

    A similar trick is to ask and shoot at the same time.

    With a modern camera, disable all sounds. Digital cameras are
    often so quiet that the actual photo is almost unnoticeable.

    A technical trick is to use a non-normal focal length, either a
    long telezoom or a wide angle lens. The usual situation for the
    wide angle is that a person sits or several persons sit at a
    table. You take a photo of the table or of something on the
    table, but due to the wide angle lens you're actually
    photographing all people around the table as well.

    Another trick is to hold the camera such that it doesn't look as
    if you're taking photos, like in front of your belly or at least
    fairly low. Some cameras, like the Nikon Coolpix 5700, have an
    articulated viewfinder that, I presume, helps a lot. On others
    you have to peep at the viewfinder screen obliquely, or you
    don't use it at all and just point the camera at the motive from
    the hip, use a sufficiently wide angle, and crop later if

    I used a concealed mirror for some time that could be put in
    front of the lens and looked like part of the lens, a device
    especially designed for this purpose. It is very difficult to
    handle and there is the residual risk that you avoid the wrath
    of the person being photographed, but incur the wrath of another
    person that happens to be standing in the direction of your
    lens. I later gave up on the mirror, mainly because of the
    awkward handling, so I can't recommend that. It is an
    interesting method though, certainly allowing a few photos that
    you could not otherwise take.

    More interesting ideas, anyone? I will soon need some again (see

    Hans-Georg Michna, Jun 4, 2004
  7. zig

    Ken Weitzel Guest

    Hans-Georg Michna wrote:

    Be aware though, that unless the photographer is
    incredibly large, both of the above could very
    well quickly end up with the camera or the photographers
    body or both not working nearly as well as they did
    before the moronic photographer tried to pull this trick.

    Ken Weitzel, Jun 4, 2004
  8. zig

    Gary Radford Guest

    ....a psychology course ...or 10x + optical telephoto. Gary R
    Gary Radford, Jun 4, 2004
  9. zig

    Denis Marier Guest

    The human behavior changes from one country to another.
    In general people do not like to have their picture taken by a stranger.
    In some country the believe is that when a stranger takes a picture of them
    it takes part of their soul away. Compensation must be given for taken part
    of one soul away. In some cases no compensation can replace the part of
    their soul being taking away.
    Its always better to ask the person if you can take their picture. Some may
    say no and some may say yes other may ask to be compensated.
    The use of a 10x + optical telephoto is conspicuous and may make some
    Denis Marier, Jun 4, 2004
  10. zig

    RustY © Guest

    In the UK there is no law that forbids photographing anyone or anything in a
    public place. You may photograph nuclear reactors, secret service
    buildings, military aircraft and vehicles, anywhere where it says
    'photography forbidden', in fact anything you wish. There are laws that
    protect people on their own property and rules to prevent newspapers and
    magazines from publishing certain types of pictures but anything taken 'in
    the street' for personal use is OK. Having said that, try openly
    photographing nude women at the beach and don't expect to last long.
    RustY ©, Jun 4, 2004
  11. Ken,

    never happened, mainly because the people can't tell whether I
    took a photo or not. They all seem to expect the typical
    photographer situation, all standing, smiling, the photographer
    pointing the camera at them, possibly focussing, then the
    clicking sound of the shutter.

    With the digital camera I think that almost all people believe I
    haven't actually taken a photo, because it's so quick and almost
    totally silent.

    The point here is, you have to be quick.

    Hans-Georg Michna, Jun 4, 2004
  12. Denis,

    ha, this happens often where I travel. The funny thing is that
    they are all willing to sell you a fair part of their soul for
    relatively little money.

    Some people pay whatever they ask, even if it is absolutely
    outrageous in comparison with normal incomes in the area. I
    don't think that's good. It creates a hugely warped local
    economy, it creates evil people, and it is unfair to those who
    don't happen to live near the tourist path.

    Hans-Georg Michna, Jun 4, 2004
  13. The above edited to highlight "personal"

    True, but come to publish or sell, then it can get iffy... not to say
    the courts wont just say "dismissed" but i'd rather not take the
    chance if there is only 1 or two individuals... on my site I have some
    shots of the conwy river festival and a couple are of people coming
    through the arch way... I felt as it was more of a group shot, and the
    arch is part of the overall focus I would take the risk. 2 people sat
    at a table however might be different should they take exception

    Nudes at the beach (or at least topless) is fairly much ok... bar the
    english weather, lol

    I wouldnt take "snaps" of non concenting topless people anyways, but
    slapping a model down on the beach would probably not raise more than
    a giggle from the lads, and a tut tut from the older generation.

    A shoot at aber falls in N-wales however is a different matter (tried
    it, gave up) because its a tourist spot where 1, there are a lot of
    kids, 2, people dont expect someone nude there.

    The only time we could get it set up was so late (dark) and to cold,
    the shots just didnt come out, stiff nipples might be good but goose
    pimples and blue tinged flesh cos of the cold is not very
    flattering... but hey was a nice walk :)

    Jonathan Wilson, Jun 5, 2004
  14. Am I correct in thinking that a lot of, and i hate the expression, 3rd
    world countrys still believe that a photo somehow steals the sole of
    the person, hence the negative response to having their photo openly

    Its also quite hard for us in the "western world" to comprehend that
    even now, if you go to some of the more remote areas of the world
    there are people that have never even seen a camera, or only seen them
    a few times so they still seem like strange un-comprehendable objects
    and even worse with digital suddenly they are seeing themselves as
    other see them on the display...

    Actually thats possibly not as un-believable as it sounds... where I
    live people know what a pig looks like, but have never seen one in
    real life... and the first time they see a fully grown pig, especially
    in a pen with other pigs, almost run for thier lifes, they are not
    what they look like on the telly!
    Jonathan Wilson, Jun 5, 2004
  15. zig

    Mxsmanic Guest

    This type of violence is actually extremely rare.
    Mxsmanic, Jun 5, 2004
  16. zig

    Mxsmanic Guest

    This is not an accurate generalization. Many people are fascinated by
    photographic equipment and enjoy having their pictures taken, IF their
    minds have not been poisoned by sensationalistic media reports or other

    In decades past, people were happy to have their pictures taken; they
    were flattered that anyone wanted to record them and found the whole
    idea of having an image of themselves very interesting. This is _still_
    the case, if you can get past media-induced paranoia. Most people
    fundamentally like to see photos of themselves.

    The problem is that various factors have worked to make people fearful
    of everything, including and especially photographers, at least in the
    developed world. Some Third-World countries have similar problems
    because people have been taught that photography is religiously
    unacceptable or dangerous.
    A 10x telephoto is a telescope.
    Mxsmanic, Jun 5, 2004
  17. zig

    Lionel Guest

    Busllshit. I've been threatened a number of times by idiots who I
    haven't even been trying to photograph, merely because I was aiming a
    camera at someone (who were fine about being photographed, BTW) in their
    general direction.
    Lionel, Jun 5, 2004
  18. zig

    Mxsmanic Guest

    Being threatened and being hit are two different things. Only the most
    stupid and testosterone-soaked men will actually hit someone in such a
    situation, since the risk of going to prison for a long time is a strong
    deterrent, and since normally adjusted people usually don't have such
    violent impulses.

    Perhaps you take photographs in unusual situations where such people are
    present in abundance, but in normal, everyday life, most people simply
    are not that quick to violence and anger. Assaults on photographers are
    no more common than street fights (both being variations on the same
    theme, almost).
    Mxsmanic, Jun 5, 2004
  19. Jonathan,

    no, I don't think anybody really believes that. People like to
    say it though, only to immediately quote a high price for a
    Getting rare.
    A little story on the sidelines.

    In Kenya a few years ago two elephant bulls decided to travel
    north from Amboseli. When they arrived at the rural town of
    Kajiado (map at,
    people ran towards them to have a good look. Children went to
    their parents, telling them that there are some very big camels

    The younger ones had never seen an elephant. The slow movement
    and the friendly looks of the animals soothed two of them of
    going too close. They were killed. You don't toy around with an
    elephant bull.

    A hundred years ago Kenya may have had a million elephants. Now
    there are something roughly in the range around 10,000 left,
    perhaps a few more. With poaching on the decline, they are
    recovering slowly, but conflict with settled humans will make
    sure they will never roam the country again as they used to
    before modern times.

    To see some interesting elephant photos, peep at

    Hans-Georg Michna, Jun 5, 2004
  20. zig

    Lionel Guest


    Take a walk with me down my local high street, & I'll be able to point
    out at least a dozen people who have probably only been out of a prison
    for a couple of weeks, & will most likely be back in another couple of
    weeks. In fact, you probably won't need me to point them out to you,
    because they'll walk straight up to you & hassle you for change.
    Street fights are pretty damn common around here too, & getting caught
    up in one can be as simple as letting your eyes rest on the wrong person
    for more than a fraction of a second, & not being sufficently streetwise
    to calm them down.
    If I were to decide to photograph anywhere nearby, I'd be damn sure to
    use the cheapest, ruggedest camera I own, or have a few of my more
    agressive friends accompanying me.
    Lionel, Jun 5, 2004
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