Techniques to Capture Impactful Environmental Portraits of Strangers

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Photo shoots don’t always involve planning. Sometimes inspiration strikes on a whim. Eric Kim, a street photographer based in Los Angeles, used a GoPro mounted on top of his Ricoh GRD V compact camera to document and share an impromptu environmental portrait session with a stranger. Kim was visiting New York and was inspired, after eating a meal at Kane’s’ Diner, to photograph one of the waiters:

In the video, we get a chance to see a photographer at work as he establishes rapport with the waiter and asks to take his photograph. As the shoot goes on, the waiter, Angelo, becomes more relaxed, and Kim becomes more confident, asking his subject to move around the environment and to loosen up. By using a smaller, less intimidating camera, chatting with his subject, and waiting for Angelo’s true personality to shine through, Kim was able to capture natural portraits that appear to have been planned ahead of time.

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An unplanned photo session doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t take a posed portrait. Kim’s video and the resulting images show that, though candid street photography has its place, approaching a stranger to ask to take a portrait can open up wonderful opportunities for photographers. Taking environmental portraits can create personal connections in a world that so often feels disconnected and anonymous.

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