Sunday, December 22, 2013

Following Up On Tips for Shooting Strangers - Wait For It!

Yesterday, I wrote about a post on Digital Photography School's site which gave 8 tips for photographing strangers.
One of the hardest practices for me to learn was to take my time and get the right shot, once I'd gotten over the barrier of talking to someone and getting permission to take their portrait. As I mentioned yesterday, many times I used to walk away thinking "If only I'd move a little to the right (or left)." or "I should've bracketed the exposure."
Well, I am learning to take my time and wait for the image I want. Here's a recent example. I was in San Francisco, walking around Chinatown with my Leica M6 and Summicron 50mm f2, when I saw this little girl and the woman I guessed to be her grandmother. I rather bravely walked up to them, and asked the older lady if I could take their picture. She smiled, which I took as a yes. As I put the camera to my eye, the little girl figured out what was happening and did this:
Oh, No! Not What I Wanted!, by Reed A. George
Leica M6, Summicron 50mm f2 (v.3) Lens, Kodak iso 400 Color Print Film
I felt it right on the spot - what a horrible shot I've just made. This is cheesing for the camera of the very worst type. The forced smile turned this sweet little girl's face into an image of stress and tension for me. But, I WAITED. As soon as she heard the shutter click, the little girl relaxed and gave me this:
Here's What I Saw in the First Place, by Reed A. George
Leica M6, Summicron 50mm f2 (v.3) Lens, Kodak iso 400 Color Print Film
This is what I saw in the little girl's face that drew me to photograph them in the first place.
One more note - on asking versus just shooting. Another thing that really drew me to this pair was how the older lady was looking into the face of the little girl (like in the top shot). I really wanted to catch that interaction between them, but while they were looking natural and not posing for the camera. I think you can probably see that in both pictures, on the right side, there are men watching me, rather protective of what I'm photographing. This prevented me from taking the candid that I hoped to get. So, asking directly at least got me the shot. If the situation didn't have this tension, I would have shot a candid first, and maybe then asked permission for a follow-up shot like I got.