Tuesday’s tip. Ask nicely.

Thinking about what to write about for todays photography tip, I decided to talk about something that is a new experience for me.  There is a well bandied about quotation by the great war photographer Robert Capa that goes something like if the people in your photographs don’t look big enough then get closer.  Now that it seems is easier said than done so how do you go about it?  There are many methods for photographing people unawares, stealth approaches and perhaps I will discuss them another day.  Today I want to talk about the direct approach.

I saw these guys in the street in Oxford last week and asked them if I could photograph them, they didn’t even hesitate!

Recently I have found myself in a situation where there is a person or a group of people that I want to photograph, I don’t want to miss the oppurtunity and I cannot photograph them unobserved.  Or it seems to me that I will get a better image if I ask their permission.  When I started photographing in the street I was terrified of being noticed, I felt like a bit of a voyeur, a bit of an intruder.  Nowadays I don’t feel so self conscious and I know there is nothing wrong with being curious about people in the street and I don’t feel there is anything wrong with photographing them either.  So one day I took the plunge and asked this very nice lady in  Dublin if I could photograph her and her dog.  She said yes!  since then I have asked lots of people and not once have I been refused.  The day somebody declines I will not be offended, I will say thank you very politely and move on to next person.

May with her dog Teddy Boy outside St Stephens Green, Dublin.

So my tip for today, my challenge to you, is to pluck up the courage, build a bridge, be polite, pay a stranger a compliment and ask them if you can take their picture.  If they decline don’t take offense or take it personally just say thank you and look for someone else.  Its such a great feeling when you actually do it that if you do it once you’ll probably find you will do it again and again.  Now I am thinking of doing a series of street portraits.  If you try it do let me know how you get on!  Maybe I will set up a board on Pinterest where we can share our images??

A juggler in Oxford.  I wanted to photograph him but figured it would be better to ask.


About briancooney123

HOW I GOT HERE Of course, I wasn’t always a full time photographer. I spent a lot of time in the corporate world. I had a job which paid well, but just didn’t excite me. I remember the day when I had had enough. Enough of selling myself short, enough of dreaming too small, enough of doing what others expected of me. I had put away my dreams and told myself I would get back to them later, but somehow there always seemed to be something else that had to get done first. A friend of mine had recommended I take the NLP Business Practitioners course, and although I was really busy, I decided to do it. During that time, I began to imagine the different paths my life could take from here. While I had a hazy picture of what this other life might look like, I had a clear picture of where my current life was going if I didn’t change. It was a scary moment, a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff deciding whether to jump into the great unknown or stay on the cliff, safe but trapped. I jumped. The transition to the life I wanted was challenging The transition to the life I wanted was challenging but I would never go back. After that day I resolved to do what I love, to follow my bliss.  Picking up a camera after several years away, I found that many things had changed, the digital age had arrived. In the intervening years, I was too busy to pay any attention to my photography, and occasionally when I took something I really liked, I would think “how do some photographs seem so captivating and others leave me completely cold?” I knew this is what I was meant to do Somehow though, I knew this is what I was meant to do. I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about being a photographer. I took many, many courses and I read every book I could get my hands on, I still do. Since then, I have dedicated myself to helping other creative photographers achieve the results they want. And what a journey it has been. Last year I qualified as a coach. My main area of interest is creativity and helping others to express their vision. WHAT I BELIEVE Along the way, I’ve learnt that there are no rules. Experiment, explore, play. My advice is to make your art from your heart, not for the praise or the money.  Lighten up. It’s important to take your photography seriously, but it's a mistake to take yourself too seriously. Finally, you get what you want when you never, ever give up so enjoy every minute of it and just do it!
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9 Responses to Tuesday’s tip. Ask nicely.

  1. millar123 says:

    I’m gonna set myself a ‘100 Strangers’ Project when I’ve finished my 365 one, well that’s the plan, If I can get up the courage to walk up and ask the stranger!

    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comment. My advice is go for it. If people decline thank them nicely and ask the next person. It’s no reflection on you if they say no, that’s other people stuff. I’m also thinking of a series of strangers photos. If your in Dublin let me know and we can meet up and try it together someday? I’m moving back to Ireland later this month!

      • millar123 says:

        Thanks Brian! – I know the worst thing that can happen is that they can say no, but try telling my psche that – hehe! I’ll just have to bite the bullet soon. That would be great, though don’t know when I’l be in Dublin next – hopefully soon as I love it , when I’m next in town, I’ll give you a bell! For now, good luck – and look forward to seeing what you do next!

  2. Lois says:

    Interesting – it is a dilemma, isn’t it?! I’ll remember your suggestion next time I’m out with my camera! I love the picture of May!

    • Thanks for your comment Lois. I used to find it a dilemma because I felt I could not ask someone could I photograph them. If you think about it though when you see someone that you want to photograph there is usually something you like about them, about they way they look. Now when I ask I compliment them on what ever it is. Even if they don’t allow me to photograph them they still enjoy the compliment and hopefully leave with a smile on their face!

      • Lois says:

        So true – if I put myself in their place, if anyone wanted to photograph me I would be pleased! I think most people like to be appreciated, which is what taking a photo is all about, isn’t it?

  3. Lorna says:

    Well done, was your courage due to Charisma Bootcamp by any chance? Great photos.

  4. Thank you for this direct post. I love it; it’s a self-reflective approach but without being unnecessarily complicated. The positive responses you’ve been getting kind of show that everybody seems to enjoy photography, those photographed, too, not just the photographer. I love the photo of May with her dog. I write a blog about life with dogs, and I like taking photos of dogs but often wonder whether that is being intrusive. Sometimes I feel like I need to ask the dog, not just the owner. And then the next question is, when you have a photo you really like, whether to just publish it, as on one’s blog, or whether to ask the people in it, first.

    • Angie, thank you for your comment. Well I guess we all have those little dilemas when we are photographing other people or other dogs. What an interesting subject you blog on. Life with dogs, they are such great creatures. They are so unselfish in their love and loyalty.

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