Tips on how to ask strangers to be photographed
Updated: Feb 17, 2019
On Saturday, I have done some experiences on how I can ask strangers to be photographed and how they can pose naturally.
My plan was to find somewhere that constantly have foot traffic and had different demographic walked by. I have chosen a foot bridge called Olympic Bridge at Causeway Bay. The location has schools, hotel, restaurants and residential. With these given mix, I believed I could get different types of people walked by.
Firstly, I asked every stranger walked by to let me take a photo of them. 99% of the time I was turned down. They either thought I was weird or they were in a hurry. After I have failed for over 15 times, I paused and observed people that walked by.
Here was my first attempt to ask someone to be photographed.
Many people just kept walking while I was talking.
After I tried few times, I realised I need to scout people that are interested in looking at what I was doing and did not look shy. My first success is a couple that were holding a Gopro. My first instinct was "he likes photography or videography as well". My successes in approaching strangers were recorded in below video.
What had happened was I went up to the couple and asked if they are interested to be photographed. I passed my business card to them and told them I was on an assignment taking photos of people on this staircase. I was so excited that they said yes and asked me where they should stand. I gave them options of either standing at the centre or on the stairs. When they were standing, they seemed like they didn't know what to do. So I told them " why don't you kiss each other". They didn't kiss, but I got a sweet couple shot for them. After I took a few pictures of them. I said thank you and told them if they were interested to have the photo back, I was more than happy to send them the photo.
Here are few of my favourite shots:
Long story short, my approach to all these strangers was the same. I presented my business card to show my professionalism. Then, I energetically asked their permission for me to take photos for them. Once permission is granted, I started talking to them to let them feel comfortable.
Last but not least, the important trick to take picture of their natural moment is to observe them and ask them do something. They were not professional models/talents, so capturing their moments when they were in action is the best to get their best expression.
For example, for the second picture, the young handsome boy was holding drumsticks, so I asked if he plays drums and I asked which band he likes. When I took a picture of him, I literally just asked him to pretend playing drums.
Although at the beginning I failed tens of times, but after I got the first couple in, the rest became easy. I even found it quite fun and achievement of getting them to agree to be photographed and posed naturally that all my shots became special moments of them.