How to photograph strangers on street
Tips & Tutorials

How Not To Get Pissed Off From Strangers While Asking To Photograph

Photo by: Alphan YILMAZMADEN

Photographing on the streets or photographing outdoors is one of the most difficult tasks in the world to accomplish. You have to make sure that you are giving your best, being as confident as possible, and approaching that complete stranger like a pro. You ask him if you can take a picture and he simply gets upset over this fact.

What went wrong? Did he think that you were trying to make fun of him? Did they become conscious about their looks? Did they simply not wish to be photographed by you because you seemed too casual with them? Did they believe that you would be charging them money for taking a picture?

As an outdoor or street photographer, you would constantly face this kind of problem. This is because it really takes a lot of guts to go out and photograph strangers on the street. People take their privacy very seriously and the fact that you wish to photograph them might not be the right thing to do. You can’t do this with everyone for sure. This pisses people off and makes you leave behind a wonderful opportunity for a perfect click.

Here are a few ways (actually tricks) that can help you in your pursuits.

Show-offs are a part of the society

Instead of looking for interesting people to be photographed, look for people who wish to be photographed. When you go out, you would be finding many people who not only like to get a picture clicked but would also strike up a conversation with you. They are ready to show off their smiles, the favorite bench that they sit on every day, or even the wrinkles on their faces. These are something that they are always proud of and they would never mind letting you click a few pictures. The poses can be natural or made-up, just the way you like them.

Approach them with a smile, not a huge camera lens

Photo by: Hoàng Thanh Tùng

Go back to the days when you were not a photographer. Anyone approaching you with a huge camera lens would intimidate you. You would wish to move away from them or try to avoid them because you somehow don’t feel comfortable around that huge lens. Even the warmest of your smiles appears like a sheepish chuckle. Now, look at things from the opposite perspective and understand this basic psychology.

Try to look harmless and approach someone with a smile. If they are with family or if they are smiling too, maybe you can click a picture. You can also avoid asking for a picture directly. First, strike up a conversation gently and even compliment them on their looks or whatever interests you about them. They would be more likely to let you take a picture.

Sometimes, it’s not you some people are pissed off because…

Well, it’s because they are pissed off. It has absolutely nothing to do with the way you approach them. However, you can become a victim of their wrath. A better idea would be to study someone and see what his body language suggests. People have the right to be pissed off at times or maybe feel sad or angry. You can never guess what they are going through. So just take a couple of minutes and see if the person is not too pre-occupied. If you think it is okay, go ahead and talk to them.

You can take pictures when they are not looking

Photo by: Matt Caplin

So apart from portraits, the photographers might be interested in clicking something different. They might like someone’s hair or their tattoo but do not gather the courage to go and ask them for it to be pictures. Some others simply prefer to capture a moment that can go away within a split second. If this is the case, don’t waste time asking them to be clicked. As long as it is nothing offensive or ethically wrong, you can picture them from a safe distance as well. Try not to reveal too much of the person’s identity. The picture is not being clicked with their permission. Try to focus on that tattoo and nothing else.

Appear harmless

Don’t look like a colorful personality with a huge set of equipment. You would become a center of attention for people and this might interfere with how you work. Try to blend in the crowd and just use a simple prime lens. You can even click pictures in public spaces, pretending that you are simply picturing the background and not the people. What is seen by the camera eye is obviously something else, but you don’t have to show people that they are being deliberately photographed. This trick works for many shy photographers.

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