Going against everything your mother ever taught you as a child, being a photographer means that sometimes you need to approach and talk to strangers. Having proper social and people skills are important parts of being a photographer that are oft overlooked. Even as a landscape photographer, you must – though not as often – deal with people. As a portrait photographer, it helps to have the social awareness to know the proper and least creepy way to approach a stranger and ask to take their photograph.
As a female photographer, I think I might have it a little easier than male photographers when approaching strangers and asking for a photograph. I can approach almost anyone and will probably be viewed as unassuming and harmless, whereas a male photographer may have a more difficult time doing so. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. In the following video, an episode in their “These Guys I Know” series, Miguel Quiles and Jeff Rojas share three tips on how to approach a stranger and ask them to take their portrait.
All three tips are great, but I think the tip on knowing the right situation to approach someone is key and too often not considered. Sometimes, in the mall, I’ll grab my phone just to avoid being accosted by a salesperson from the center kiosks, but many times they don’t get the hint and will approach me even though I’ve made it very obvious that I am busy, not only because I am on my phone but by my body language. When you’re approaching strangers to ask for a portrait, look at their body language first and then assess the situation.
Walking up to someone who is currently yelling at their boyfriend is probably not a good time to ask. Obviously, that is something your common sense should’ve told you intrinsically, but nevertheless, as a photographer, study up on the subtle nuances of body language. It is a skill that will suit you well in.