Street Portraits – How to Ask Strangers for a Portrait?

Street Portraits – How to Ask Strangers for a Portrait?

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One most asked question to me is how to ask a stranger for a portrait while trying to capture some street portraits. Moreover, I must admit that the answer is not that simple. In fact, most of the people I know have been in this situation and have gradually worked towards managing it to our advantage. 

Today after having been in photography for more than a decade, I know one thing for sure that asking a stranger for a portrait not as difficult as we make it to be. In this article, we will share some tips to manage your anxieties of asking a stranger for a portrait.

CALM DOWN

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Its normal to be anxious and nervous initially. The fear of being rejected play heavy in your mind. First thing first, try to calm down and relax. You will not land behind bars if someone says no to you taking their portrait. Take a coffee, listen to your favorite music, take shots other than stranger portraits to help you get into the mood. Do whatever but get rid of that anxiety before you go out to take street portraits.

SMILE & START A CONVERSATION

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The biggest mistake people do is to pick up the camera and shoot. The truth is, no one likes to be taken for granted. Ask yourself a question – How will I react if I found out that some random person has clicked my image without my permission? If you will feel bad and get angry, then why do you feel that the stranger whom you are clicking will behave differently? 

Smile. That will help you break the ice and will comfort your nerves. Then, start a conversation. A simple “Hello” works wonders. Ask their name; show some interest in them. Soon you will realize that how easy it was to ask them for their picture. 

SELECT THE RIGHT TIME

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If you are going to take the street portraits, select the right time to go there. Going there in rush hour when they are super busy will not help your cause. When they are busy, they will not have time to pose for you or even to talk to you. Go there in their downtime. Chances are high they will oblige you if you approach them the right way.

DO IT WITH RIGHT INTENT

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This might sound little awkward, but you must have the right intent and purpose to click their portraits. Given current scenario where almost every other person claims to be a photographer, people are getting wary of random person clicking their portraits. The fear of being clicked by someone not having right intent is real. Someone could be a voyeur, a predator and it’s your responsibility to not give that feeling when you are out there creating your art. 

I always ask myself few questions and this is what you can do as well:

  • Why am I taking their portrait?
  • What is so special about the person or his/her face?
  • Is it one of many random portraits or will form a part of the series?

These questions have always helped my get more focused and it always helps. 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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I actually starts with understanding and accepting the fact that we are all human beings. And as human beings we have our right to privacy. Always, ask and be ready to get “No” as an answer. Most of the times they are more afraid; and by starting a conversation you are trying to allay their fears. While these tips are time tested by me and many others, just reading them will not help; implementing them every single time you are out there will help.

Do let us know if these tips helped you and share some portraits you shot in the comments below. 

All images courtesy Jassi Oberai

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