Photographing 100 Strangers

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There are oftentimes when one just seems to run out of ideas when writing, when creating art work and in photography, what to photograph. There are many projects that a willing photograph can accept as a challenge and start a project around.

There are also many subjects if one just simply takes the time to look around and do a little thinking as well as adding a little bit of creativity.

One of these projects is to photograph people. You can photograph those you know, your family members, paid models, kids, adults, the old, the young, and everyone in between.

Among these a project which is noteworthy because of its scope of subjects is to photograph complete strangers. However this is easier said than done. One may think that all you have to do is grab your camera and go around taking pictures of just anyone on the streets.

Keep in mind that people are naturally wary and more so if you are taking their pictures for no apparent reason. Some can even become quite angry.

If you are willing to take the time, one of the first things that you need to realize that the project will take time. You will probably be able to take a photograph of one out of ten people you ask. And you need to not only ask for permission but you should also carry with you copies of a standard model's release.

A good tip; giving anyone who allows you to take their photo your email is better than asking them for theirs. If they email you with a request for a copy, then at least this serves to back you up in the event that once you use the pictures and they change their minds, you have a request and an acknowledgement of having had permission to photograph them at the time. Nevertheless, try to obtain a signed model's release and give them some small cards with your email address.

This project can be both a photography project and a study of humanity at the same time. The finished product is extremely adapted for submitting to most photography stock houses, greeting card producers, and for many other purposes.

You should get used to rejection along the way too. I remember when I did such a project. I went to a local shopping mall and thought "this will take me about two hours" I finally did get to photograph 100 complete strangers but it took me three whole days.

Finally on the third day I was tired and did not want to extend more than I had to , so I used a sneaky trick told to me by a college professor of all people. I pretended to be doing a photography project for my college photography course. Off course it helped that I had my University of Miami ID with me.

People finally started to give in and allowed me to take their pictures. Although I do not suggest that you do this, at the time I had grown desperate.

You can go in several directions; couples, grandparents, friends, parents, siblings etc. but a project featuring an image of one person at time is better suited for this theme.

Be thoughtful about what you do with the images. You can do a project for many campaigns and for most photography publications, but you are using images of real people and compromising their trust is not worth it. Use the images for something that you would allow others to do if you were the one letting your photograph be taken by a perfect stranger.

If you take an image, and have not processed it yet into a printed medium or submitted it in any way, and someone asks you not to use it, then by all means do not use it.

Be gracious and if asked for copies, which a lot of people will, then giving them will put you in good standing with them and may open the doors for future projects and repeat business.


This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. | Source

© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 4 comments

rambansal profile image

rambansal 3 years ago from India

Legally speaking, you have a right to photograph people and things on public places but not in their private premises. But, taking permission before taking a photograph is civility.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

rambansal: Thank you


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Luis, thank you for the information on photographing people. I do carry a permission slip/release for such purposes. I like your suggestion to remember how you would want to be treated/photographed -- the Golden Rule is always a good guide.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

teaches12345: thank you

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