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How Do You Ask a Stranger for a Portrait?
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How do you approach someone from a photograph? Look, I’ll be honest… it’s a loaded question that probably deserves a much more considered answer than a 500-word email. But f*ck it, you’re part of the club and I’m gonna give you some actionable insights. Or at the least, what runs through my head.
If I’m gonna ask someone for a portrait, and not just pick off shots from the distance, I need to know why. What is it about this specific person that’s compelling me to take this photo? Is it their expression? Their outfit? Their posture? Whatever it is, I need to grab that info from my subconscious, bring it to the surface, and have it ready because I’m going to let them know.
Lead with kindness
There’s no magic to it, though it may appear as such for introverts. Just be f*ckin nice about it and ask the damn question. You’re a photographer. You take photographs. You got this!
“Hello! I’m a photographer from [your city here] and I love your [that thing that caught your attention]. I’d love to take your portrait and send it to you. Is that okay?”
The key here, at least for me, is to outwardly mention what it is about that person that caught your eye. Guess what, most humans love being noticed and receive that information with joy. You approaching them is often such a deviation from their daily life that they can’t help but say yes. You have given them something and they want to return the favour.
WHAT IF THEY SAY NO?!
Look, don’t worry about the what if. Don’t let that stop you from asking. Ask the question and see what happens.
Okay, but what IF they say no?
I try to mitigate the amount of rejections by avoiding people in a hurry, on a call, or just seem very involved in another task. But whenever a stranger says no to a portrait, I’ll try to politely push one more time with some version of…
“Really? It’ll only take a few seconds and I can send you the photo. You’re gonna look great!”
And well, then you have to read the situation. Some people are more insistent than others. Some people can be massaged a bit into saying yes. Here’s the thing, if someone says no, that’s okay! That’s their right and you just gotta accept that. It doesn’t make you a terrible person. It doesn’t make you a lesser photographer. It’s just a choice. Accept it and move onto to the next priority which is… DING-DING! The next photo.
The first episode of the Church & Street show is streaming now. Follow me as I go on some photography adventures around the world and meet some remarkable people along the way.
Is that it?
I mean, that’s kinda it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. The more you travel, the richer your approach gets. There’s more flavour that I could add but simply speaking, that’s it.
I’ll come across some personalties online that try to make it seem like they have some secret method to do this. I have yet to see a secret that isn’t just asking politely.
Anyway, I’m over the word limit for this week. Hope you enjoyed this one. Let me know what you think in the comments or drop something you’d like to see me discuss about in the future.
See ya next time!