One of my objectives at the Jay Maisel workshop was to shoot people…lots of them.    I stopped lots of people on the street everyday and shot their portrait and heard their stories.   I have posted a lot on here about photographing people and someone always says ‘it is easy for you, you live in Japan, people are more accepting…and if you lived in the US…’.   I didn’t have any context as I hadn’t really shot people in the US so I couldn’t say a lot.   I couldn’t imagine it was really that different in the US but I really wanted to test this theory while I was there.  I shot a lot of people when I was in Boston but really wanted to push it while in New York City.

After my week in New York City I have to say it is all about the approach.   If you try to shoot from afar or if you are uncomfortable they will be.   If you just walk up and put your camera in their face you probably won’t get a great reaction.   I found the direct and honest approach to work for me.   My typical approach was to walk up to them with a big smile and say ‘Hi, I’m Dave and I’m taking a photography workshop and you have a [great look] [cool glasses] [great style] do you mind if I take your photograph?’  At the same time I would hand them my card and say ‘I’m pretty good, if you drop me an email I am more than happy to send along a copy of the photo to you’.  Usually people would say ‘sure, what do you want me to do?’ or ‘how do you want me to pose’.   I didn’t keep track but probably 9.5 out of 10 people said sure.   A lot of people were genuinely happy that I found them interesting.   Many photographers won’t approach someone out of the fear of rejection.  I assure you the rejection rate is significantly lower than you might be thinking.

Now that you have stopped someone, now what?   A lot of people will rush to take a photograph as to not bother the person.  It’s best to make sure you are calm and just focus on getting a good picture of the person.  If it takes 60 or 90 seconds it isn’t a big deal.  You have already stopped them.   They already agreed to let you take their photo.  Now your job is to give them a great photo they will want to show their family and friends.

I stopped about 100 people or so on the street…here are my favorite 40 strangers…

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