When it comes to taking images of strangers on the streets, many aspiring Street Photographers tend to be afraid of approaching people. This was also a huge problem for me and it still is, because one of the biggest fears of humans is being rejected by other people. It´s like asking a girl you like to go out with you. What if she says no? Well, but what happens if you don´t ever ask her?
Same when it comes to Street Photography. Why are you afraid of asking interesting strangers to make a portrait of them? If they say no – why do you care? You will very likely not see this person again. And if you see him or her again, maybe they changed your mind?
So what happens if you don´t ask? You will say for one, or two times „OK, next time I will overcome my fears and ask“… After one or two hours of not asking you will go home, frustrated and sad.
So, just ask. Here are my Top 7 recommendations for reducing the chance of getting a „No“:
1. Smile. Always smile
Leave your grumpy face at home. Before going out with your camera, stand in front of a mirror and smile for at least 1 minute at yourself in the mirror. Give yourself the most beautiful smile. With this short preparation you should be ready to remember this smile for your photography objects: Smile before asking for permission – smile while asking for permission – smile while shooting and saying „Bye, thanks“ – this will ensure that people will give you the most honest smile – because you give them your most honest smile, too.
2. Take a close look at the people you´re interested in
There are a few types of people where the chance of getting a rejection or where you can get in serious trouble are increased:
- Drunken people
- People with mental disorders
- People who are visibly in a hurry
Avoid these 3 groups of people.
3. Don´t come too straight head-on
People tend to be scared if somebody walks just head-on to them. Try to approach strangers from the left or the right side, walking not too fast. This is less aggressive and increases your chances to get a „Yes“.
4. Leave your 28-200mm lens at home
The smaller the camera, the bigger the chance of getting a approval. You don´t need a DSLR for street portraits, take a small compact camera or even your Iphone. When photographing with a small camera people won´t think you are a professional photographer earning money with the portraits you take of them.
5. Talk. If you do not speak the language, talk with your eyes, arms, hands
You need a rapport to the person you want to take a photo of. If you can speak the local language, just compliment and talk to them for at least 10-20 seconds: Say, that you like their hair/clothes, talk about the rain or the hot weather. Don´t stop during he „photo shooting“ – this will help people feeling more confident and getting better images.
If you do not speak the language, just use facial expressions and gesture. Also remember No.1: Always smile!
6. Answer their questions honestly
When somebody asks you how you will use their photo, answer honestly – and if somebody don´t wants to see their photo on the Internet, don´t put it on the Internet.
7. If somebody yells at you, stay calm
If somebody gets aggressive for some reason, for example beacuase you didn´t ask for permission and the person don´t want their picture taken, say sorry. Offer to delete the photo. Always act friendly and deescalating. Stay streetsmart and safe. No photo in the world is worth it getting hurt.
Do you have any other tip how to not act like a creep as a Street Photographer? I´m looking forward to your thoughts!