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Getting Over the Fear of Taking Images of Strangers

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

Learning all the technical aspects of photography is an important part of becoming a good photographer, being in the right place at the right time is another important part as well. There is also finding out what kind of images it is you love to take. Is it landscapes, macro, architecture or travel subjects? All are incredibly rewarding to create, and to be honest, landscapes are the images I love to capture as well. With that said there are times I do like to challenge myself and take myself away from the images I normally take and put myself in a situation I am not 100% comfortable in. This “Techniques From the Techs” article is about just that, moving out of your comfort zone in the search of rewarding images.

For me and for many people, capturing images of people we do not know can be a challenge, it is incredibly hard to walk up to a complete stranger and say “Hey, can I take some pictures of you?”. Most of us just feel very uncomfortable doing this. My first step in getting over this feeling is going to a location I am familiar with or enjoy being in. In the case of these images I went to Bowery Station in Apalachicola, which is a great live music venue with incredible musicians. Slim Fatz, a local musician was playing there the first time I walked in and I quickly found myself wanting to photograph his performance. A Delta Blues singer with the voice of Tom Waits but in a much smaller frame.

Even though I was enjoying Slim’s music and really wanting to capture images of him, I still had a few problems. First, I did not have my camera with me (bad move on my part), and secondly, I was still pretty hesitant to approach him about coming back another time to photograph him… Even though I was in a place I liked, that fear of asking a stranger was creeping back in. Why does this happen, I do not know, but it does. When It takes over, It can really prevent you from capturing some really great images. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time, I was determined to set up a shoot for a future date. I just told myself, get over it, all he can say is no… If I don’t ask in the first place I won’t have the opportunity to capture images anyway.

I started my quest to set up a shoot with slim by talking to the bartender to find out a little more info about him, this helped me get an idea of what kind of person he is and also know what kind of questions to ask him when we spoke. When Slim finished his set I was ready, I waited till after a few people went up to him to talk then as they left I stepped up and introduced myself. I told him that I really like his style of delta blues and his rendition of “Over the Rainbow” with a blues flair was incredible. Turned out he is incredibly approachable person and very easy to talk. Next thing I know I’m explaining to him that I’m a photographer and asking if I could photograph him during a future performance. In the end we ended up working out a deal with the owner of the club to shoot his performance and also do a formal portrait session the next day.

The Images from this article are all from the portrait session day, we ended up spending about 2 hours, Slim playing some songs and telling some incredible stories about his life. To wrap it up, If I didn’t get past my fear of approaching new people I would never had the opportunity to capture some of my favorite images but more importantly meeting Slim and getting to know him. So, take the first step and just ask, you never know what will happen until you do.

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