Monday, March 23, 2009

On portraits of friends and strangers [Guest Post]

Here is another post in a series of guest writers designed to improve the quality of this site.

Jeff Kirlin is a "A nosey, over-enthusiastic, curious, adventurous Photowhore...... Will whore for comments, photocredits, faint praise, loose change or what-have-you." kind of guy.

Lastly, he writes "Everything I call my own I stole from you."

You can find Jeff on Facebook, his blog, flickr, and Paddy Murphy's.

People don't mind letting you take their photo if they think it's reasonable that someone would want to take their photo. For example I have a series called People at Work. People at Work do not mind you taking their photo. People at Play do not mind you taking their photo. People at home? People shopping and trying on clothes? People at rest? A little more reluctant.

Sneak a photo, ask permission, take a photo. You have 2 photos! Or at the very least, one. Yeah, you know what I'm saying.

People like how they look in Black and White and always so "Oooh!, Black and White!" as if it's new. So shoot it out of the camera so they can see it. You don't have a colored version. So what. They are right, They are uglier in color. When converting a color to Black and White, or if able to set a filter for your camera, choose red, the skin will glow bright white. Ummm..if you are photographing white people.

People think you are a better photographer if 'the background is blurry' and will like the photo better so shoot in as wide a f/stop as you can.

Never ever ever just take one photo. And try not to show them the ones when they are half blinking, or won't shut up and have oddly pursed lips.

Do not shoot strangers with super wide angle lenses, or fisheyes. You will give them Pinocchio noses. Save that for friends.

There is a direct correlation between a person's willingness to let you photograph them and how much more superior your camera is than theirs. If you have a little point and shoot that is less good than theirs, not so easy. A bag full of cameras bodies and lenses that you don't even know how to use, a little easier.

There is almost an INVERSE relationship between how well someone knows me and how likely they are to let me photograph them. Complete strangers with a decent explanation are FAR easier than close friends. Wankers.

I have an easier time photographing someone if I am using some oddball thing like my Lensbaby 3G which looks like a Lunar Lander on the front of the camera or my TtV device which looks like an upside down neoprene periscope because of the 'What is that thing?' factor.

Go and find the nastiest, most likely stranger to terribly abuse you for asking to take their photo because after that, they are ALL easier. (It's harder to find someone like that than you might expect, and USUALLY will come when you DON'T expect it.)

ALWAYS ALWAYS have an answer when a stranger asks why you want to take their photo. Lie if you must but don't pause. I also find having a business card with info on it helps. I've handed out hundreds. I've heard back less than 10 times. It's like a Get out of Jail Free card.

If you are at an event, credentials will cut down exponentially the amount of time you have to spend explaining what the hell you are doing.

After you take some nice looking photos of people and they get seen you won't BELIEVE the people who will seek you out to do some for them and why.

Let people present themselves as they like even if it's not what you want. Let them smile while looking at the camera or let them look off heroically into the distance. (like this shot he took when we had lunch together)

Me in Maine (photo by Jkirlin)

(And besides after you take that one, THEN you can ask them to do you evil bidding ) Whatever. They don't work for you. After all, you are stealing their souls.