3 Tips for Photographing Strangers

Rating: 4.33 based on 3 Ratings
Taya Ivanova
  By Taya Ivanova
3 Tips for Photographing Strangers www.sleeklens.com

With the rising success of communities like Humans of New York, photographers from all over the world have been motivated to go out and take photos of strangers. This motivation has led to countless of inspiring projects featuring people of all kinds. It has allowed curious viewers to embrace different cultures, find out more about the triumphs and struggles of others, and understand themselves better. All of this came into being through one genre: street photography.

Regardless of its success, street photography has its cons. For understandable reasons, we often associate strangers with danger and discomfort. Like the fear of rejection, this association may stop us from approaching those we don’t know. It may encourage us to avoid this genre completely.

By avoiding interactions with the outside world, we lose creative opportunities. By losing creative opportunities, we stunt our artistic growth and prevent ourselves from thriving as photographers. We can do the opposite with the help of a few conscious decisions like accepting (and expecting) rejection, knowing why we love portraiture and learning how to control light. The tips below will help you understand -and improve in – all of these important areas of photography.

Understand the Art of Rejection

To succeed, you need to develop a mindset that looks at rejection as a simple preference, not an offense. Keep these things in mind when someone refuses to model for you:

  • Most people don’t want to look bad in photographs. A lot of people don’t want to be photographed at all. Their unwillingness to stand in front of your camera isn’t a reflection of your artistic (or social) skills.
  • No matter how many rejections you get, there will be people who won’t mind modeling for you. The more you persist, the more chances you’ll get.
  • Harsh reactions may simply mean that someone has had a bad day. Don’t take other people’s moods personally, especially if they don’t know you. Instead, try to respond in a way that might lift their spirits.

Give Reasons

When you meet strangers, let them know why you want to take their photo. Keep it short, sweet, and understandable. Are you working on a 100 Strangers project, or did you simply find their look inspiring? Show them your portfolio so that they have a better idea of your style. If possible, give them your business card so that they can have access to the photos you take of them. This will give them more room to trust you and your creative vision.

If you truly care about photographing people (and I know you do), it will be easy for you to appear genuine. With the help of your honesty, you’ll be able to get more yeses from strangers of all types. It’s easier to say yes to something meaningful, after all.

Learn How to Work With Light

When a stranger will agree to pose for you, you’ll probably feel both exhilarated and afraid. You’ll also forget the importance of lighting and your camera settings. To avoid panic-driven situations like this, prepare yourself for acceptance. What kind of lighting will you look for when a stranger says yes to you? What kind of instructions will you give?

If you’re not good at managing light, practice with people you know (including yourself). Being able to make the most of any lighting situation will take you very far. It will also help you take fantastic photos of strangers, regardless of the time of day. If you’d like to find out more about lighting, check out these articles:

Angle, Compression, and Lighting: Becoming a More Capable Photographer

The importance of lighting and why you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with it


Taking photos of people you don’t know will be uncomfortable and frightening at times. Finding the right lighting and communicating properly will be a challenge. But remember that every mistake, with the help of persistence and openness to failure, will lead to a triumph. Every fear will be conquered, one stranger at a time.

Rating: 4.33 based on 3 Ratings
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Taya Ivanova
I'm an admirer of nature, a photographer, and a curious reader. Writing about photography and helping others improve is a growing passion of mine. My constant wish is to inspire others to be creatively fearless and endlessly curious. "Always dream bigger is my advice to you, because you can have whatever your heart desires" - Ashley Graham

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