They were all strangers at some point — Mickey who makes a good living impersonating Ben Franklin; Rocky who was part of a 24-hour vigil outside the White House; Andrew who was on a coffee bike crawl around the city; and about 30 random people I encountered.
I’m one-third of the way through my 100 Strangers project, which seemed like a good time to talk about the whole street portrait genre.
If you’ve ever wondered about street portraits, I’ll share what I’ve learned so far. You’ll learn:
- How I decide who to approach;
- How I get them to relax quickly;
- The two questions that get my subjects to open up;
- The tools I use to capture and create my posts;
- Who is off limits vs. who is fair game.
Listen to the podcast
ABOUT 100 STRANGERS
The 100 Strangers project is a learning group for people who want to improve the social and technical skills needed for taking portraits of strangers and telling their stories. The method is learning by doing.
The challenge: Take 100 photographs of at least 100 people you don't know. Approach a person or group of people and ask for permission to both take a photo of them and to post it to this group. Get to know your subjects. Take their pictures. Tell their stories.
Why street portraits vs. street photography?
- I make a connection
- I get a better story
Who do I approach?
- Someone who looks interesting
- Looks like there might be a story
- The project itself breaks barriers
Approach to make a connection
- The story usually follows
- Use friendly energy and confidence
Flatter and appeal to our vanity
- Use sincere compliments around your story topic
- What drew you to this subject?
Start with these two questions. You get the action and the motivation.
- What are you doing?
Listen and follow your curiosity
- Go where the story takes you
- Ask follow-up questions
Direct and collaborate for the best shot
- Have your photo ideas before approaching
- Direct the shoot. Your subjects expect it.
- Pay attention to body language
- Try their ideas, too
Take audio notes later (or written)
Should you ask for contact info?
- I don't, but it depends on how you will use the photo.
- Will you ever need to get a release? That's a good reason to have contact info.
Name your project. It goes over better with your strangers.
- Humans of wherever
- People in this City with Alvin Mitchell
- We are all strangers with Greg Schmigel
- Jim Darling - 100 Strangers
Who is off limits vs fair game
- My first priority is to tell their story
- Show respect and follow the golden rule
- I photograph people who 'choose' to be there
- Performers are fair game, homeless people get a pass
- Unless...they have interesting stories