approaching people : LUSENET : Black_and_White_Photography : One Thread

I am just starting out in photography so I don't have alot of fancy equipment. All i have is a Nikon 35mm with a 50mm lens. Whenever I see someone on the street or the like and want to snap a picture I often have problems getting their permission. I'm not sure if it's that I don't look like a professional because of the lack of equipment or if it's just my approach. I try to be polite but what can you do when you see a picture you really want but the person just plain says no! Also I'm unable to just snap the picture anyways because I only have a basic 50mm lens so getting far away and taking the picture without their knowledge is not an option.

thanks, nate

-- Anonymous, May 27, 1997


People photography

One thing that I found that helps is to strike up a conversation first with the person. I found that being honest and open has opened many doors for me. If the person just doesn't want to be photographed I won't take the picture unless I am on assignment and depending if I feel it is in a photojournalistic light will I take the picture. There really is no hard and fast rules. Just be careful that if you do take their shot you need a model to publish the picture. If the picture is to be used in a newspaper say you will not need one but once again it is better to establish a rapport with your subject first if at all possible. Some of my best shots of people have been made with my 35mm 1.4.

-- Anonymous, May 28, 1997

Hi Nate,

I think that you have to put yourself in your subjects shoes. Alot of people are self-conscious in front of a camera anyways and will be very suspicious of a stranger wanting to photograph them, no matter how politely you ask. For a really good discussion on this topic have a look at an excellent thread (in this forum) started by Ibarionex entitled 'street photography'. It is located a little over half way down this page and there are a variety of opnions and techniques.

-- Anonymous, May 29, 1997

I would recommend just taking the picture. In my opinion there are only a few types of categories where a good photograph (or one that other people will be interested in looking at it - excluding family, friends and wedding photos) results from a subject being aware of the picture being taken. These categories are where the subject is one or more of the following naked, beautiful, famous, deformed, handicapped or native tribesman from an obscure primitive tribe. For good street photography I believe that the skill lies in recognizing the minute extraordinary chances that transform everyday scenes into works of art. I do not agree with the opinion that you are somehow taking something from someone when you photograph them unawares. In my opinion most good photographs result from chance expressions and arrangements of bodies and light and shade which the subjects are totally unaware of. I have lost many potentially good photographs when the people I am trying to capture see me trying to take the photo and they apologetically scurry out of the way thinking that they are spoiling the shot.

The main exception to the subject being unaware of the photograph being taken is when the subject sees you about to photograph, objects and tries to avoid or discourage you with a look but you get the shot anyway.

There are exceptions when a subject agrees to you taking the photo and an excellent photograph results. For an example see

Business Woman. Boston, MA. by Michael Manning at

(Michael Manning was kind enough to explain to me that the woman agreed to the photo being taken). So why is this a good photo, why did the photographer want to take it and why wasnt the image lost when the subject agreed to pose. Firstly there are those four blocks of textured stone which by themselves would make a pretty good urban landscape. Then there is the arrangement of the way the lady is sitting in that niche, holding the flowers, handbag and two carrier bags, this is a good composition that could not easily be lost or changed by the subject while agreement was being sought. The final element is the ladys face and here she maintains a good expression and angle of her head. This photograph would have been completely spoilt if she had decided to say cheese and give a great big grin. Micheal Manning was fortunate that he caught a good expression to complete the other elements in the photograph.

Compare this photograph with

State Fair, Syracuse, NY, 1981 by Bruce Gilden at

you just have to glance at this picture of William and Delbert Ward to know that Bruce Gilden saw the possibility of the shot and just took it. There is no way that he would have paused spoken to the two gentlemen, asked their permission, discussed details of having them sign model releases and then taken the photograph.

If you are unable to raise the camera to eye level to take the picture then just hang the camera around your neck and shoot from where it hangs.

Best regards

-- Anonymous, May 31, 1997

You'll probably find out that photographers are very onpinionated - as I am - and eventually narrow their focus (no pun intended). While I think it is good to try as many styles as possible it is also important to do what excites you personally, regardless of what others might say. Having said that I also think it's important to be socially responsible with your photography, or at least not be irresponible.

-- Anonymous, May 31, 1997

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