Approaching People As A Photographer

Zachary Cobb

I was enjoying a drink with friends Friday evening when a photographer came up to us with a small advertisement for the ‘party pics’ section of a nightlife website asking if we wouldn’t mind having our photo taken. Without much hesitation we all agreed and ended up with a fun shot that ended up on their website. I got to thinking about my dealings with getting photos of img_2774strangers for photography gigs.

The spectrum of reactions you get when you ask people to be in a picture are amazing. A lot of people are off put, even angry. Judging from those first reactions one would think the question was ‘May I kick you in the neck repeatedly?’ instead of ‘Would you like to get together for a photo?’

Part of getting into an area of photography dealing with humans is learning how to approach people. It isn’t always too bad, there are a lot of people that love having their photo snapped and jump at the chance but often you run into skepticism. It comes up a lot, even when I am involved in working events where the person knows there is a photographer covering everything and I am not some random person that feeds off of awkward moments with strangers.

Here are a few tips when photographing people you don’t know.

Be Genuine.

This is something that is important in any area of your business. Look and act like something that is worthy of trust. You don’t need a ridiculous shtick to draw people in looking likeMatthew Lesko. Have a business card and be honest about who you are what you are doing.

Be Empathetic.

These people don’t know you, and in some cases they don’t know what you are using these photos for. Address some of those obvious concerns that people justifiably have and you will have a more comfortable subject.

reUnderstand It Won’t Always Work.

Part of being a photographer in this area is dealing with awkward situations. There is no way to avoid this, being mentally prepared for these situations goes a long way. From this encounter you will either have a good story or a good shot. Hopefully it is the latter but there are instances comedy gold came from random conversations that come up from gigs where people were not interested in having their photo taken.

If All Else Fails Give Candy!

Fred Johnson has a great blog post with a video of him and Amit Gupta of Photojojo fame conjuring a plan to give candy for candid photos. People love freebies. It draws them in.

At the end of the day, what is the worst that can happen?

Ok, don’t think too hard about the answer to that just go out and get some great work. People are waiting for you to take their photo and they don’t even know it.


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