The message The ultimate guide to photographing people for the shy photographer first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Kevin Landwer-Johan.
Avoid taking pictures of people
My father had a nice Zeiss camera. The type with bellows that is folded into a compact unit. 120 films were needed. I used this camera to photograph my brother's tape and played an outdoor performance when I was 17. These 12 shots filled my first film roll.
Photography became my passion. With a camera in my hand, I was excited and taught me to see the world around me in new ways. I visualized and compiled photos in my imagination, even if I didn't have my camera with me.
I photographed old rusty things, beaches, skies, mountains and flowers, among other subjects – but never people.
People were far beyond my comfort zone – especially strangers.
Dealing with that uncomfortable feeling
"I don't want to impose others."
This is the most common reason I hear from photographers about why they don't photograph people.
Overcoming the fear of imposing and establishing the butterflies in your stomach is possible. Targeted effort is required, but the results are worth it.
The purpose of this ultimate guide is to teach you practical methods for photographing people, no matter how shy you are.
Photography is so much more than choosing the best lens and camera settings. Connecting to your subject is vital, especially when photographing people. If this is a challenge for you, deep digging is essential – deep in your feelings of fear that invade your mind when you want to make a portrait.
Focus on the positive. Focus on what you have attracted. Why do you want to make that person's portrait? Before you even approach someone or place your camera in your eye, you must remove your doubts. Establish your thoughts and be positive about what you do. By training your mind to think like this, you will eventually be able to control the feelings of self-doubt and fear of imposition.
Learn to recognize your negative thoughts that disrupt your intentions. Jump on it quickly. The more consistent you can do this, the more successful you will be.
Entertain only your positive thoughts. As you do this, your actions become automatic and relaxed. You will find that it is not stressful to approach and photograph people.
The more you do something, the easier it becomes.
Practice training your mind to replace the fear of imposition with positive thoughts. Think about a pleasant interaction with your subject. Strengthen your first ideas about why you chose to photograph them. Fill your mind with the intention to succeed.
Make sure you focus on the photo that you intend to take. Zone on your composition, exposure, exposure and timing. If you do this, the rest of the world will disappear for a while. Be in your own creative space in your mind and heart, and nothing else will matter.
This may sound a bit abstract and not what you're used to reading in a photography article, but I assure you that if you concentrate your mind and practice these techniques, you'll become a better photographer.
Start with your camera
Knowing how to use your camera with confidence is your first step. If you are not familiar with the use of your camera, you will probably not like to photograph people.
Use your camera every day. Make it a habit to take at least one or two photos a day. You will find that it is addictive in the very best ways. Having a creative release is good for your soul. Your creative imagination will develop as you use it. The more you practice, the more your artistic style will arise.
Frequent contact is the key. Hold your camera in your hands at least once a day. You will become intimate with it. Your fingers and thumbs feel the shapes of the dials and buttons. You will develop your subconscious memory from where there is every control. As you've learned quickly enough where the on / off switch is, you can quickly find all the essential controls of the camera.
Choose a time each day to use your camera. I'm sure if you think about it, you'll be fit to be creative within ten or twenty minutes. Perhaps when you travel to work or school, during your lunch break or before dinner. By making the same time every day, you can form this good habit. Routine, especially in the beginning, is useful. I know that if you work on this, you have a good foundation to build on at the end of the first month. You have developed a positive new habit. You will also see the quality of your photography improve.
The subject is not that relevant initially. Don't even think about photographing people. Your goal in taking pictures every day is to learn to love your camera and use it with confidence.
Experiment. Imagine. Express what you see. This will be a natural time of learning and growth. Sometimes you feel frustrated because you are unable to make the image that is in your head. This is the time to learn more about operating your camera so that you can let it do what you want. Use different focal lengths of the lens. Choose different angles and composition techniques.
Combining some photography research often leads to faster growth. There are so many books, magazines, websites and courses that you can learn from. Find a way of learning that you feel comfortable with and that will study a bit and often.
Focus on your topic now
Building skills with the help of your camera will often prepare you to photograph people. You have to be comfortable and make sure you have the right settings.
A common mistake is that you focus more on your camera than on your subject. It is easy to be distracted by your camera, especially for shy people. Not having a conversation with someone when you want to take their portrait leads to a disconnection. This is often noticeable in the resulting portrait.
You don't want the person to look at the top of your head while staring at your camera while making adjustments.
Set your camera as much as possible before working on your subject. Then you give them your attention without distraction. Don't make an excuse for not communicating with your camera. It is not there to protect you against the world. Use it as a bridge to help you make contact with your topics.
How to overcome your uncertainties
"One of the easiest ways to overcome shyness is to become a photographer." – David Hurn, photographer
Years ago I heard an interview with a photographer that they thought shy people are the best portrait photographers. This was because the resulting photo will be more about the subject than about the photographer. As a shy person who loved photography, this interested me. It challenged me.
The British photographer David Hurn talks about being shy in this interview with the magazine Huck.
"I'm incredibly shy. Photography is best for shy people because you have something to hide. The problem with shy people is that you don't want to be rejected. So your security is that you go inside yourself. But with a camera you have a excuse to be somewhere, so if you walk down the street and look at a whole load of people, tattooed or something like that, with a camera, you can walk in and suddenly say: ' I take some pictures ' s If you show genuine interest in what people do, I have never known anyone who said no. People love being interested in them. The camera gives you that excuse for to be there, it breaks that barrier. '
Why do you think David Hurn never let anyone say no to him? I believe it is because of his approach. He has determination and a gentle manner.
He knows what he wants to achieve and the photos that he wants to take. He focuses on his goal and uses the camera as his reason to step into people's situations and into their lives. He is sure of what he wants, and he works with focused confidence to do it.
Having a goal will push you further, faster, into everything you want to achieve in life. It is no different for photography. If you have a well-defined goal for what you want to achieve, this can become a reality. If you drive without direction, it takes a long time to achieve something.
take your time
Taking your time is not a bad thing. If you are worried, you will miss the photo, which means that you have not started your preparation quickly enough. Every genre of photography requires patience and anticipation. The better you know your camera, the faster you can set it up and have it ready under all circumstances. Take the time to learn the manual mode. This not only gives you more control over your exposures, but it also helps you see life at a different pace.
It is true that automatic settings on your camera can help you take photos faster. You may record the action, but not the mood. Slow down and take note of more than your camera settings. This is how you learn to capture atmosphere.
Don't think you always have to be fast with your camera. This can be a distraction from the real experience of photography.
Some of the best street photography seem to have happened in an instant, but this is rarely the case. Planning and preparation. Choose from light and location. Waiting. These qualities play a role in more great street photos than pure speed. Those fleeting moments when all elements in the viewfinder are aligned are expected.
Your camera helps you overcome your reluctance
Your camera is your bridge to the other side of embarrassment. This allows you to bridge the distance between your intention to photograph someone and the actual portrait. It not only takes the photo, but it also connects you to your subject.
It is very difficult for many people to talk to a stranger for no reason. Holding a camera is a great reason to talk to someone. Your camera is the solution to your problem of not wanting to approach people. When you realize this and learn to use your camera as a bridge, you will cross over to a whole new world of wonderful, creative experiences.
Photographing people when your mind is focused on them, not your camera, transforms the experience.
My camera takes me to the other side, away from my uncertain thoughts and in a conversation with the person. It is a reason for me to be where I am and to start conversations.
Use your camera as a means to introduce yourself and start an interesting discussion. Don't hide behind your camera, mess around with the controls. Be prepared and daring. Your camera will fulfill your purpose.
Express your intention to take a photo with sufficient confidence. This will open the way for you. Focus on your topic and their response to you.
When you approach someone in a confident manner, it will be clear. If you are not sure about yourself, your topic often reflects this behavior back to you.
Confident communication with your subjects is important. It is just as necessary as having faith in the technical aspects of photography.
Choose who you want to photograph based on how receptive they are
Taking the streets to photograph strangers for the first time is a daunting prospect. It is not something that many people find particularly easy. Don't start there. Start by photographing someone you know who appreciates what you do.
Friends or family members can be your best option. Someone you know and who enjoys being photographed. People who like to see their image are always the easiest to make portraits. They are relaxed in front of the camera and give you rather expressive feedback on your photos.
If you are looking for someone who you can photograph on different occasions, you will learn. You will make more contact with them every time you meet for a photo session. As your self-confidence grows with your camera, you will find that it becomes more natural to make contact with people.
Take your camera to social gatherings – birthdays and other parties. Weddings, graduations, parties, church barbecues or the pub. Whatever social activities you do. Over time you will get more feeling for the people who are easy to photograph.
Take your time. To start. Stay determined and practice as often as you can. Repetition builds up your camera and your communication skills.
While practicing, pay attention to how you make contact and the type of response that people give you. Learn to read and understand the social dynamics that your camera controls. Of course, people will respond to you differently than if you were just having a conversation. Developing your perception of people's responses to your camera will help you when you are shooting strangers.
Communicating your desire to photograph someone in an appropriate way is absolutely necessary. This is a point of failure for many people. I shrink when I hear photographers talking inappropriate to the people who photograph them. Your portrait depends so much on the relationship you have with your subject. Even if that relationship only lasts a minute or two.
Being pleasant is vital to becoming a good people photographer – especially if you want to become a wedding and portrait photographer. The way you communicate, the way you act and even your body language are important. Your customers notice these things. If they feel comfortable, they respond well. Their body language and facial expressions will reflect this back to you.
The way you communicate depends on your state of mind. If you are concerned about the camera settings and the lighting, you will probably not communicate as well. Put the technical thoughts aside before you start with the people you want to photograph.
People love it when you show an interest in who they are and what they like to do. Real curiosity is of course among photographers, and it is best to develop this as much as possible. Let this aspect of your embarrassment work for you. Being sharp, but a little reserved will make you much more loved by people than being brave.
Develop your camera skills with a project
Once you are committed to a photography project, you have a theme or concept to work on. By sticking to your chosen subject and building a collection of photos, you can follow your development. If you choose to photograph a people project, you can also build your confidence.
Working on a long-term project, you will experiment more with your camera and photography techniques. Push the limits and explore camera settings that you don't use often. This allows you to take a more diverse and interesting series of photos.
While compiling a collection of images, you can view and compare them. This identifies the skills you need to work on. It will also encourage you to see the areas where you are improving.
Over time, you build a significant collection of photos, both good and bad. Especially bad. Don't fool yourself for this. It happens to every photographer. The more bad photos you take, the more good you will take. If you view your photos over a longer period, you can chart your progress.
Hold everything. Do not delete images in the camera. The key is organized. If you dump them all in a folder on your computer, this doesn't help. You cannot distinguish the nature of your progress.
Every time you work on your project, load the photos onto your computer and separate the top 10% -20% from the photos – the ones that you are most happy with. Then separate into another folder that you recognize as potential and on which you want to work. If you make notes yourself during this process, you will stay on course and it will be more economical.
Reviewing and comparing your photos in this way can be challenging. You must acknowledge the weaknesses. Your photos show this. If you have a more experienced photographer, someone who can guide you through this process will be a huge advantage. They will be able to point out aspects of your work that you may not be able to see clearly.
Develop your relational skills
As you spend time with the same people, the relationship develops. By entering into a photography project with the same people, you build a closer relationship. This is true if you are photographing a family member or people at your local market.
Building relationships takes time. With a photography project you have to make time to make it effective. Returning to photograph the same people and / or the same location, a familiarity will arise.
On the street
Stand on the same busy street corner and photograph enough people, and you begin to build a kind of relationship. You will become familiar with the feeling of the place.
Learn to anticipate what happens and see the rhythm. If you choose the same time of day when the light is good, you will see the same people come by during their daily routines. They can start to notice you. If they see you often enough, they will probably not pay attention to you unless you want it.
All you have to do, if you catch the eye with someone who is a little familiar to you, is smile. They will probably give you one back. The next time they see you, they can show interest and inform what you are doing.
Connecting with people on the street becomes more natural when they often see you with your camera. Some will show no interest, but many will. The locals, regulars, people who often visit the same location are the most obvious to connect with.
These are the ones with which you can build a relationship. Tell them that you are working on a photo project that documents your local neighborhood (or whatever your theme is). This will make them loved because people like to feel included. We are designed to communicate with each other.
Even if you are a shy person, you can learn to use your camera as a bridge to reach your goal.
With a friend or family member
If you photograph a friend or family member as a project, you also develop your relationship with them. However, they respond to you first and how you interact will subtly change each time you come together.
Show them some of your photos on your phone. They are more confident when they can see the photos you've already taken. Don't talk too long about what you do; you want to focus on them.
It is best to set your camera as much as possible before you meet the person. If that is not possible, ask them to give you a few minutes to set up. If you do this, you have the space to create good light and a good background and to make the necessary camera tweaks.
Once you are satisfied with the light, the background and your camera settings, it is time to pay the most attention to your subject. Straighten their clothing or have them repaired (unless it is already perfect). By giving them this attention, they will feel better about themselves and build their trust in you.
If it's someone you don't know well, ask them open questions about themselves. Get to know them a bit more. Make sure you start talking to them.
If they are outgoing, they will be happy to talk about themselves.
If they are introverted people, you can help them get started and they will feel more comfortable.
Focus on asking questions that a simple yes or no will not answer. Watch what they tell you. Do not look down at your camera. Focus on their story. Show that you are interested.
Compliment what they wear or something else to the way they look. Try to build a positive atmosphere, especially if you feel that they feel uncomfortable. Many people do not feel confident when they are being photographed. It is an important part of your work to help them relax. The better they feel, the more attractive they will look in the photos you take.
Initially, they can also be shy and feel uncomfortable in front of your camera. Don't worry about this. Take some photos & focus on the connection with them. If you ruin it and don't get decent images, use this as a lesson. Show them. Show them what you do right and wrong.
Include them in your project, make it into a team. The more they feel part of what you do, the better your photos become. If you messed up your settings, show them the photos & explain a bit about what happened. Then take the same series of photos again.
Learning to communicate in such a way that you help people enjoy the process of photography will benefit you and your subjects. Everyone enjoys looking good themselves. Their feeling must precede their appearance in your photos. If they don't feel good about themselves, they probably won't appreciate the photos you take about it.
Sometimes your subject is too uncomfortable. You will not be able to take a flattering photo because of their tension. Show them the photos. Explain that the tension on their face can be seen and when they relax, they will like the photos you take.
People usually don't look nervous when they look at themselves in the bathroom mirror every morning. So when they see photos of themselves that look tense, it is very unnatural for them. They do not see the image as a good resemblance to who they are.
Working like that and showing off less than your best photos can be challenging, but it will help you grow.
Photograph at social gatherings
Take your camera to birthday parties, after-work drinks, sports events of your child or any other place where people socialize. This offers wonderful opportunities for photography of people. If you can mix with the same people regularly, they will get used to being there with your camera.
For many people this seems like a huge challenge. Think positively about it. Approach the situation and people with a constructive attitude and with reasonable expectations. You will probably notice that people will enjoy what you do, especially when you start sharing your photos with them.
Be determined to process your feelings of discomfort. Your first experience with taking photos during a social gathering can be very difficult. The majority of your inconvenience will be in your mind. If you give up after your first attempt, you will have no success. The more often you are present with your camera, the more confident you become and the better photos you take.
Become a volunteer photographer
Are you going to church, a temple or a mosque? Are you or your children a member of a sports club? Do you help with a local animal shelter or participate in community events? All of these offer a fantastic opportunity to offer your services as a photographer.
Every group or organization likes good photos. Profiling yourself as a voluntary photographer can be a great experience. Here your camera is really your bridge.
Providing photos for a group or organization can be one of the best ways to build your confidence. Your commitment is greater because other people trust you.
Making clear that you are still learning is important. As long as they know this, you have the opportunity to improve over time. In the future you will take beautiful pictures for the community you sign up for.
Projects for travel portraits
I teach a lot of people who mainly take photos when they travel. They participate in our workshops and many are too timid to photograph people. Or they prefer to go back well and take candid photos with a long lens.
Don't worry if you can't speak the language. This can often be to your advantage. Use your camera as a bridge. When people see the smile on your face and even a small gesture with your camera, they will know your intention. Hopefully they will return your smile. This is permission to photograph them.
Non-verbal communication such as this requires that you look at facial expression and body language. Some cultures can smile and ' no ' mean. As long as you are perceptive and polite, you will be fine.
The candid option
Certain situations are best photographed without communicating with a person. Spontaneous photography definitely has its place.
Choosing to go backwards with a long lens on your camera and to take candid images is fine if the conditions are right. The photos ' s you take with this technique usually do not allow a connection between subject and photographer.
Disturb people engaged in conversation or their work breaking the natural flow of life. A candid photo is more appropriate than interrupting.
Artists and craftsmen at work are subjects that are best left to their creative endeavors. They are focused and passionate about what they do. Fast recognition and recognition that they feel comfortable when taking pictures are the best. A nod and a smile from you and their smile in return will not interrupt their workflow or concentration. As long as you don't disturb them, you can capture intriguing portraits of them.
Choosing to work frank must be a conscious decision, because it will produce the best photos. Choosing to sneak images of people because you are too shy to communicate is never the best option.
Those are not really candid photos
Sometimes you end up in situations where you want candid photos, but it's just not possible. If people know that you are there with your camera, it cannot really happen frankly. Taking natural-looking photos of people in these circumstances is a challenge, but not impossible.
When you are "the" photographer
Weddings, portraits and similar situations do not allow true candid photos. You must be able to communicate well and organize candid images.
Most people like natural looking photos. The skill is to control the circumstances so that you get the results you want. This means that you must know what you want and be able to clearly relate your ideas to the people you are photographing.
It's easy with couples. Just let them talk to each other. Encourage them to forget that you are there and then offer them a conversation starter. Ask them to remember the first time they met or when they introduced each other. If you want to lighten the mood and capture some laughter and a smile, ask them something nice.
Once you have them talking, you no longer hold the photos ' s. You will have to take a lot of photos. What happens is more unpredictable, so you need the amount to get photos of sufficient quality.
Je gooit de meeste ervan weg, maar degene die je bewaart, zijn ontspannen, natuurlijk en levendig. Ik gebruikte deze techniek wanneer ik bruiloften fotografeerde. Het hielp de meest interessante, niet-geposeerde foto's te produceren.
Ik zou een langere lens gebruiken, vaak mijn 180 mm, dus ik kon een beetje op afstand blijven, maar niet te ver weg. Op die manier kon ik nog steeds met het paar praten, maar ver genoeg terug zijn om niet in hun persoonlijke ruimte te zijn.
Een andere huwelijkstechniek die ik gebruikte voor semi-openhartige portretten was om de bruidegom achter me te laten staan en opzij te zetten. Terwijl ik de bruid fotografeerde, liet ik ze naar elkaar kijken en een gesprek voeren. Als de bruidegom ergens vastzat om dingen te zeggen, zou ik suggesties doen, vaak een beetje onbeleefd. Dit werkte goed om leuke, ontspannen gezichtsuitdrukkingen te krijgen. Dan zou ik de bruid en bruidegom verwisselen en hem fotograferen terwijl ze hun gesprek voortzetten.
Individuele portretten fotograferen is een grotere uitdaging, omdat je niet zo gemakkelijk de aandacht van jezelf kunt trekken. Als je iemand anders bij je hebt, een assistent of een vriend, kun je deze als afleiding gebruiken. Voordat je begint, laat ze weten dat ze een rol kunnen spelen als je wat meer openhartige foto's wilt. Coach ze een beetje zodat ze voorbereid zijn. Wanneer je klaar bent, richt je de aandacht en het gesprek van je onderwerp op je helper.
Alleen werken is wanneer uw communicatieve vaardigheden het belangrijkst zijn. Je vermogen om te converseren en tegelijkertijd foto's te maken wordt op de proef gesteld. Je moet volledige concentratie geven aan zowel je onderwerp als wat je met je camera doet.
The practice is again the key in learning how to build your communication skill so you can get candid-looking portraits. It takes time and effort. As you try certain techniques and figure out what works and what doesn’t, you will develop your communication skill set. You will become more confident and effective.
Semi-candid street photography
Semi-candid street photos can be made successfully with a short lens and the right technique. You don’t need to keep your distance and remain in the shadows. Get close, be observant, relaxed, and normal.
People at our local markets know me now. They sell me vegetables, and many of them know I will take their photo some days. They might shy away, or they might pose.
I like to create a mixture of candid and posed photos when I am doing street photography. However, being conspicuous means, I have to employ certain techniques so that I am not the center of attention. Often there are not many other foreigners at the markets, so I stand out.
Often I will engage with someone I want to photograph. Generally, they will stop what they are doing, smile, and pose. This is what they perceive I want. I will take their picture anyway. I’ll make sure it’s well exposed, sharp and flattering. Then I will show them on my camera monitor. Most often they are happy, and we’ll chat a little before I move on.
Once I have moved on, I will wait a short time and then head back near to where they are. They will think my focus is elsewhere because I already have their photo.
Hopefully, they will not pay any attention to me. This is when I get the photos I really want.
Over the years, I have listened to and read of many photojournalists who aspire to be as invisible as possible. It can be a valuable skill to develop. You can learn to do it without actually having to hide your camera or stay a long way back from the action.
Remember, your camera is the solution, not the problem. With your camera in hand, you have a purpose for being where you are and a reason to communicate with people.
You are not only taking a photograph but giving an interesting experience. If you are able to share your photos, then you are truly giving something of value to your subject.
Presenting prints to the people you photograph helps shape the way they see you. A set of small-sized prints is inexpensive and will be appreciated by most. If you capture a photo that’s worthy of enlarging this will have even more of an impact. The cost of an enlargement is insignificant compared to the joy it will bring your subject.
Collecting someone’s email or social media connection will also allow you to give back in a meaningful way. Some people may value this even more than prints because they can share a digital file.
Smile and say ‘hello’
I often walk the same way at the markets when teaching our photography workshops. I’d been noticing this one older man. His face was interesting, but he seemed shy and would not make eye contact with me. He had a small stand selling traditional northern Thai sticky rice. I decided I would smile and say hello to him each time I passed with the hope he would become familiar with me.
I did this for a while, and one day when my wife was helping me teach a workshop, I told her what I had been doing. As we approached him, she smiled and asked if we could make his portrait. She had the charm! He placed his hands on the big bowl of sticky rice, pushed his shoulders back, and smiled warmly for us. We made some lovely portraits of him.
Not long after this, I had another lovely encounter with a woman who was selling sticky rice at the same stall. Each time we visited the markets, we’d have a lovely conversation with this woman. She was friendly and relaxed, quite happy to be photographed. Having not seen the man at the stall for a few months, one day I asked her about him.
Her face dropped, and her eyes looked so sad. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I felt so terrible. The man was her husband. She told me that he’d passed away suddenly. Then a glimmer of hope appeared in her eyes, and she asked me if I’d made his portrait. I assured her I had and would bring her a print.
Normally when we print photos to give out, we get regular size prints. For this lady, we had an enlargement made and had it framed. She was very grateful. The next time I passed by she told me she had hung the portrait of her husband above her bed.
The moral of the story is, you never know how much you might bless someone by being bold enough to make their portrait. Think of what you do in a positive light. Sure, you will come across some people who do not want their photograph taken. As you practice building your confidence, your success rate will increase.
The post The Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for the Shy Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.