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09/17/2006 10:42:05 PM · #1
Hey Everyone,

First let me say that I have never seen so much talent in my life! I am addicted to this site and I am learning sooooooo much.

Here's my question: I really want to go downtown (Portland, OR) and take candid portraits of people on the streets. But I don't know how to (or whether to) approach people.

For instance, the very elderly with their beautiful weathered faces...
Is it okay to just walk up to them and say, "may I take your photo?" You guys tell me what to do and I'll do it... (as soon as I get my real camera)

Thanks!

Kelly
09/17/2006 10:45:02 PM · #2
You really have three options:

1) Get a really long lens and shoot from a distance, effective but somewhat creepy :-)
2) Ask politely if you may shoot thier photo and accept their answer.
3) Learn to shoot from the hip without being too conspicuous.
09/17/2006 10:46:51 PM · #3
Originally posted by fotomann_forever:

You really have three options:

1) Get a really long lens and shoot from a distance, effective but somewhat creepy :-)
2) Ask politely if you may shoot thier photo and accept their answer.
3) Learn to shoot from the hip without being too conspicuous.
What he said. If those fail, offer them money.
09/17/2006 10:50:26 PM · #4
I usually trade cigarettes for pictures. Works like a charm (and probably would in Portland too...)
I've also found that women have an easier time of gaining people's permission.

Message edited by author 2006-09-17 22:51:04.
09/17/2006 11:01:32 PM · #5
Surely a serious and valuable subject to discuss but the title may be one of the best on DPC in quite some time. Ahh, Shooting Street People. Sounds like an Art Roflmao How-To. Then again, he'd probably do the Burning Villages version.

Anyway, I hope you have some success but remind you to be respectful of the wishes of the subjects if you choose to engage them. If you shoot from a distance without asking then you risk taking advantage and as I understand from a friend some homeless people find having their photograph taken offensive or invasive even if they're in a public setting. Not respecting these wishes may end up costing you more in terms of people that they know who might be willing to pose for equally compelling and intimate images. Looking forward to seeing some of this work.
09/17/2006 11:13:41 PM · #6
you should ask Joey Lawrence..he seems to have a knack for shooting street people..
09/18/2006 10:22:05 AM · #7
IMO it's always nicest to ask people if you can take their photograph first but sometimes you don't get what you are looking for. I have offered money on occasion, usually three dollars and sometimes up to twenty.

Funny story. I once offered a bag lady $20 for a shot and just after I finished getting my camera settings, I looked up just as she whooshed off in a taxi cab. No shot! LOL

Lately, I prefer using a long lens. I feel you can better capture their state of mind but it all depends on what you are after...

This guys smiling eyes tell a lot
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It could only have been posed to truly capture or let him share his soft side. I gave him 3 dollars and all the change in my pocket ($5.00 combined). I wish I gave him more. It's one of my favorite shots.

This shot, money couldn't buy and required a long lens. Even though I wasn't shooting when she saw me, she'd noticed the camera and gave me a very cold stare.
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Message edited by author 2006-09-18 16:20:03.
09/18/2006 10:32:57 AM · #8
Asking them to take a photograph is ofcourse a way of doing it, but you will get a different picture. Now they know they are the subject and that you are interested in them. And we all know that if someone is interested in us we want to look at our best. They start to make eyecontact so now the photographer's presence is noticed by the person who looks later at that photograph. This can be a good thing, but sometimes you don't want that. What works for me is a tele lense (70-200 is just fine) Now I can capture them in the moment. It's also nice to have that great bokeh when making portraits.
It depends on what kind of picture you're looking for; Intereaction, observation...?

The closer you get to the subject, mostly the better the pictures will be. This I think is even more true when using a wide angle lense. You can have great shots using a wide angle on people. But most of the times that is simply standing in front of them when they do not suspect it and pressing the shutter.
Afterwards it is polite to ask if they are ok with the picture.

Tom.

Message edited by author 2006-09-18 10:34:22.
09/18/2006 10:56:59 AM · #9
I agree with Kevin BUT the world isn't so neatly packaged. It's difficult to tell the whole/real story without serious images to back up the facts.

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I doubt Eddie Adams asked the guy being shot if he could take that photo but he still took the shot. It's important to add that that image is credited with turning around US sentiments to the war. That's a heavy example but it makes a point.

About that image.

Message edited by author 2006-09-18 11:14:53.
09/18/2006 11:14:00 AM · #10
I also am drawn to the down trodden in society as subjects. But I have a healthy dose of caution. Clearly from Pawdrix shots, he has some truths to tell on this exercise, as does Joey. Joeys street peep pics are beautiful.

I just had to add this, tho. Be careful...You never know the whole story. Aside from insulting someone, meth addicts, crack heads, well, they aren't the most predictable , reasonable lot of folks. I was attacked by a tranny prostitute just a short time ago and that was because I had my phone out, can you imagine what he would have done had he seen my camera!!

That said, be sure you post your first attempts, I would love to see them!
Good Luck
09/18/2006 11:22:54 AM · #11
Originally posted by Rae-Ann:

I just had to add this, tho. Be careful...You never know the whole story. Aside from insulting someone, meth addicts, crack heads, well, they aren't the most predictable , reasonable lot of folks. I was attacked by a tranny prostitute just a short time ago and that was because I had my phone out, can you imagine what he would have done had he seen my camera!!


Of course be smart and be very careful. If it doesn't feel right, maybe you should rethink the situation. I've gotten into some trouble a few times but I find that exhilerating and all part of the exercise. Don't think yourself out of a great shot all the same. Some risk is required to get good stuff. If you always play it safe you'll get pretty mundane street candids.

Tranny Prostitute? Yikes!
09/18/2006 11:23:41 AM · #12
Hey Kelly, let me know when you're ready and I'll go with you. I work in downtown Portland, two blocks away from Pioneer Courthouse Square.
09/18/2006 11:38:59 AM · #13
one thing you need to consider is WHY do you want to take these photos...

if you can answer that to yourself honestly, you will find a way to do it, and do it well.

i've shot from a distance, i've shot from the hip, and i've shot before and after engaging my subjects. i've pretty much thrown away every image of the indigent that i've taken from a distance or from the hip. why? because the images serve no purpose, at least not to me. i have no connection with the subjects, and they do not represent art. for the most part, they all represent drive-by pixelizations, captured without much thought or sensitivity.

i recently shot a round-table meeting, hosted by a fairly large philanthropic organization. the meeting dealt with preparing for some upcoming grant-writing seminars whose purpose is to help smaller organizations get more funding for programs aimed at eradicating poverty. a local business leader put out the question, "how do you connect the people in the suburbs with the problems in the city? how do you raise their consciousness to a point of action?" of course, i thought, "through compelling photographs!"

but, what makes a compelling photograph? to me, it's one where you are able to pull the soul of your subject through the lens. as i've looked back through my 'street' images, the ones that are most compelling to me are the ones where i had some sense of connection with me subject. the ones that have the least affect on me are the ones i just grabbed without taking the time to find a connection.

just my 02.

here are two of what i consider my best street candids...
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Message edited by author 2006-09-18 11:40:13.
09/18/2006 12:11:42 PM · #14
Originally posted by pawdrix:

I agree with Kevin BUT the world isn't so neatly packaged. It's difficult to tell the whole/real story without serious images to back up the facts.

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I doubt Eddie Adams asked the guy being shot if he could take that photo but he still took the shot. It's important to add that that image is credited with turning around US sentiments to the war. That's a heavy example but it makes a point.

About that image.


Taking this picture as a war correspondent is a lot different than taking a telephoto shot of a homeless person without their knowledge. It bothers me every time I see challenge photos of homeless people looking like they're surprised that someone is taking a picture of them. It just strikes me as someone taking advantage of an underprivileged person for their own purposes. I'm not accusing anyone of doing this, but that's why I don't take this kind of photo.

It also seems like offering people cigarettes for photos is even worse than just taking the picture without their consent. If it were legal, would it also be okay to offer crack or heroin?
09/18/2006 03:14:26 PM · #15
Originally posted by PhilipDyer:


Taking this picture as a war correspondent is a lot different than taking a telephoto shot of a homeless person without their knowledge. It bothers me every time I see challenge photos of homeless people looking like they're surprised that someone is taking a picture of them. It just strikes me as someone taking advantage of an underprivileged person for their own purposes. I'm not accusing anyone of doing this, but that's why I don't take this kind of photo.

It also seems like offering people cigarettes for photos is even worse than just taking the picture without their consent. If it were legal, would it also be okay to offer crack or heroin?


If you're hoping to tell some sort of story, I see no difference. If you're gratuitously snapping the down and out because you know it will catch some "oooh's and ahh's" then I'd agree, it's sorta sleezy.

Cigarettes struck me as being strange currency as well but it is legal as opposed to crack and heroin, so it seems like good tender to me. Better than a snort of whiskey...I suppose?
09/18/2006 03:41:05 PM · #16
Originally posted by pawdrix:


Cigarettes struck me as being strange currency as well but it is legal as opposed to crack and heroin, so it seems like good tender to me. Better than a snort of whiskey...I suppose?


It's not about currency. It's an ice breaker and a way to strike up conversation.
09/18/2006 03:45:35 PM · #17
Originally posted by skiprow:

one thing you need to consider is WHY do you want to take these photos...

if you can answer that to yourself honestly, you will find a way to do it, and do it well.

i've shot from a distance, i've shot from the hip, and i've shot before and after engaging my subjects. i've pretty much thrown away every image of the indigent that i've taken from a distance or from the hip. why? because the images serve no purpose, at least not to me. i have no connection with the subjects, and they do not represent art. for the most part, they all represent drive-by pixelizations, captured without much thought or sensitivity.


Agreed. We're shooting people, not birds. We don't want our photography to drift into the realm of exploitation.

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09/18/2006 04:19:12 PM · #18
I think the most important advice in this thread is Skiprow's.
09/18/2006 04:29:31 PM · #19
Originally posted by LERtastic:

I think the most important advice in this thread is Skiprow's.


agreed
09/18/2006 05:36:13 PM · #20
I "stalked" this gentleman off and on for a day before he came walking by me which allowed me to strike up a conversation. I explained what I was doing and asked if I could take his picture... which he agreed. I think I gave him $10.

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Then he asked me to send him a copy of the picture to his P.O. box! Instead, I found him a couple of weeks later and gave him a copy and some more money.

But I agree with Skip in that I find myself wondering how a person gets to this point. But I haven't been able to discuss this with them... yet.
09/18/2006 05:37:39 PM · #21
Pretend you're invisible. Until someone gets mad at you and starts approaching you in an angry manner...then you can run.
09/18/2006 05:44:32 PM · #22
Originally posted by deapee:

Pretend you're invisible. Until someone gets mad at you and starts approaching you in an angry manner...then you can run.


:-P Hopefully not screaming like a little girl... LOL
09/18/2006 05:54:04 PM · #23
heh nah I wouldn't run, but just suggesting that the OP run if she's approached by a strange, angry individual.
09/18/2006 06:37:30 PM · #24
Note the shooter was encourged to be the shooter

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09/18/2006 07:52:24 PM · #25
When I worked for the student newspaper in at a university in Richmond, VA we had a photographer that would trade food or money to street people in exchange for photos. It worked very well and he got to know some of them fairly well, even sharing a meal with them from time to time.

A hamburger will get you a long way on a cold day. :-)
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