Photography 101 (How to take a strangers photo).


It was a beautiful late winter day here on the West side of New Jersey. While walking along the Delaware river I did not see as many people out and about as I had expected to see. I happened upon this young man and his friends. And you know what happens when you get within 20 feet of me and I have camera in hand… Of course I’m gonna go for a face shot. This man seemed to be a great person to take a photo of. What caught my eye was the fact that he was dressed in a lot of nice green color. More than likely because he is Irish and Saint Patrick’s day is close. Or he just likes green. Either way it caught my eye.

Not everyone wants there photo taken: So I always follow these steps.

  • Be cordial and greet with a hi, hello, what’s up. Something appropriate for the situation.
  • Let the camera be seen before you approach. This automatically sets their mind as to what you do.
  • Depending on the camera/lens size this could be the ice breaker as it was with the gentleman above. If they start to admire the camera, it is an almost given that if you ask to take a photo of them they will say yes.
  • But many times I will talk about anything but my camera. And usually not about generic topics like weather. That can be boring and it is as if you are just talking to… well just talk. You want what you say to be genuine. That is probably the biggest key to the whole situation. Be genuine.
  • And if the person is not receptive, just say “ok, well you have a nice day” and move along.
  • Asking: “Is it ok if I take a good shot of you?” Something like that usually works for me.
  • As soon as I have taken a few shots (always get more than one) I have my card ready to go in their hand and I tell them to email me and I’ll send them what I just shot.

So Why?: I say why not. I am a photographer, I take photos of everything. But capturing images of people is a lot of fun and very rewarding on several different levels. Here is my breakdown.

It sharpens your “people” skills. I can not say that enough. I don’t care what your profession is, but if it involves people… well you need good people skills. What better way then making a “cold” contact and getting a good photo of them. Some would say a waste of time, others are “guy with a camera” looking for a cheap shot of a pretty female.

But I have found it is a great way to do more than just get a photo of someone. Being a working photographer, this gives me a chance to do several things.

  • The challenge of taking a “good” photo of someone right there on the spot. What’s the lighting like, camera settings, no light diffusion, no assistant, no gray card. Just you, the camera and the subject.
  • By giving them the your business card you have just networked. They are going to know you. Hopefully you are leaving them with a good impression.
  • Now follow through with the good impression by sending them a good photo. Now you have made a great impression.
  • You have to edit that photo. This keeps my editing skills sharp. Know how to make Facebook cover photos to the correct size. Don’t go overboard with the edit, just a nice standard edit with something a little special added that they would not do themselves.
  • It is not who they are… but rather who they know. You have probably heard that one before, but it is so true to the point that this can sometimes be so much bigger then you could ever imagine.

I lost my fear of people a long time ago while working with the public over the years so “yes” it is easy for me to approach people camera or not. But I remember a time when I was uncomfortable just saying “hi” or really anything. But like anything the more you do it the better you become at dealing with people and that is something in my opinion that can hold a lot of people back from advancing in whatever it is you do.

Just remember, be genuine, not fake. Don’t over sell yourself just act as if your a “photographer” and people automatically expect that you’ll ask to take their photo, and more than likely be happy about it.

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