Sep 112013
 
Leica M9, Leica M9-P, Leica 50mm Summilux, A:1.4, S:1/4000, ISO:160

Leica M9, Leica M9-P, Leica 50mm Summilux, A:1.4, S:1/4000, ISO:160

Anyone can take a photo of a stranger. Its simple, just get yourself a TELEPHOTO lens and zoom away. But most of the time, that photo has no soul at all and its boring and definitely wont win you any awards. In my classes, the first thing I teach my student is the famous saying by Ansel Adams ” YOU DONT TAKE A PHOTO YOU MAKE IT”.

And this applies when taking photo of a stranger. You need to get very close to them, and use a wide lens to cover as much inside and as well to control his/her surrounding, his expression, depth of field and the background. Basically, to achieve this, the stranger will notice, but in a nice way sort of saying

Leica M9, Leica M9-P, Leica 50mm Summilux, A:1.4, S:1/4000, ISO:160

Leica M9, Leica M9-P, Leica 50mm Summilux, A:1.4, S:1/4000, ISO:160

Yes, you got me right, you need to get familiar with that stranger, observe him, see what sort of a person he or she may be and finally take the step to talk to him/her and ask permission for a photo. This what I normally do:

1) First I make sure, the country or the village I am in dont find taking photo as offensive or goes against their culture. For example, I would never approach an Omani lady and ask for her photo, simply because our culture dont allows us to do so. Another example, some countries consider taking a photo of them is like stealing their soul. So just make sure you know the dos and dont of that country or village.

Nikon D3S, Nikon 14-24mm, A:8, S:1/40, ISO:360

Nikon D3S, Nikon 14-24mm, A:8, S:1/40, ISO:360

2) Secondly,  I look around the crowd area and identify a stranger that may be of interest, whether his/her facial expression, or attitude or anything that I believe it would be of a story tell type of photo

Nikon D3S, Nikon 85mm, A:2.2, S:1/320, ISO:200

Nikon D3S, Nikon 85mm, A:2.2, S:1/320, ISO:200

3) Once I Identify my subject, I take the time and observe his or her move and at the same time getting closer.

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm L, A:5, S:1/80, ISO:2000

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm L, A:5, S:1/80, ISO:2000

4) Eventually ask politely whether I should take  a photo of him/her. And most of the time I get what I want. And the worst that could happen he or she would refuse. But just imagined if she or he accepts, would it be worth it!.

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm L, A:7.1, S:1/160, ISO:800

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm L, A:7.1, S:1/160, ISO:800

 

Remember, you need to make your photo and not just take it. Make the effort and take the time to get that one Photo that would give you a smile in your face.

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  9 Responses to “How to take beautiful portrait of a Stranger”

  1. Do you always ask permission? I rarely do.

  2. Safiyyah

    yes if I want to get something dramatic and more of a storyline I ask for permission. But the key point here is to get as close as possible. Best street photographer dont use long focal length lens, they use either 35mm or 50mm, which means they neeed to be real close to the subject

  3. Great tips again!! Thanks a lot Salim!

  4. hi salim.. love your pictures.. portraits, landscape and photography tips from you.. nice meeting you in here.. hope u can share your knowledge with all of us

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