One goal you may have when it comes to shooting people is to grab great shots of them doing the interesting things that they normally do when no one is watching rather than just posing for the camera. We’ll try to make a short list of things you could try. The bottom line for me is that people who are consistently producing great shots of other people are successful more because of their innate personal skills and way of relating than due to any skills in the technicalities of photography.
One item you should add to your camera bag is blank model release forms that will be signed by the subject of the photograph and that will grant you permission to publish the photograph (in case you want to do that). They may not be needed in all situations but you must research this topic and all the related legalities in regard to your intended purpose. Do that before you set out to photograph strangers.
Every photographer knows this situation. You come upon a group of people and you see some interesting photo possibilities. As soon as you pull out your camera everything stops. Some people put their hands up over their face and others complain that they don’t want their picture taken looking the way they do. Some people may look like they want to punch you. The opportunity to take some great pictures is gone before you can get off one shot.
So what are the alternatives?
A telephoto lens is a possibility for public places such as beaches and city streets. You can stay at a distance from the subject and not trigger any response to the camera. Even a moderate telephoto in the range of 85mm to 110mm could do the job. A more extreme telephoto will be bulkier, may require a tripod and it will be clear from the pictures that they were taken by a telephoto lens.
Those who are skilled with image processing can pull a clear photo of one or two individuals out of a general street scene. The photographer usually knows how they intend to use the photo when they take the shot. Another method is to blend in with your intended subjects for some time and then raise the camera when people are not so guarded. Most photographers who utilize this method recommend offering to share the results with the subject when that is feasible. This will allay concerns that you are presenting them in negative way and will become the groundwork for improved results in the future.
The easiest method is to put yourself at a place where there are a lot of tourists and you see cameras everywhere you look. You won’t be noticed and you might get some people pictures that you like. You may aspire to join the Paparazzi and specialize in the quest for candid shots of famous people. There are magazines full with shots taken by this group and some were well paid for their effort. My guess is that it’s not always as profitable or as glamorous as people imagine. For this occupation you should add good medical, liability and accident insurance to your camera bag.
More about People Pictures
a. A picture with one or two individuals is usually more powerful than larger group shots.
b. Get up close but not up their nose.
c. For sports shots you’ll need a faster shutter speed so be aware of depth-of-focus issues and the possibility of introducing graininess into your picture.
d. Take pictures of the other members of a rafting party. In that situation don’t forget to do your part with the paddling and hopefully you’ll have some notice when the raft is about to flip. Pack a heavy plastic bag to help protect your camera from water.
e. You might try asking the potential subject about their hobbies and then encourage them to show you their hobby while you take pictures.
f. Same as “e” above but get the person talking about their pet(s) and you might get interesting shots of human – pet interaction.