How To Photograph Strangers

Approaching strangers on the street and asking them if you can photograph them for your portfolio can be very intimidating for most photographers. Jimmy Hickey, however, almost has the task down to a science and he’s here to share some of his experience with us in the form of a whole slew of helpful hints. Check out the video he made to share his process and results with us:

According to Hickey, you should breakdown your photoshoot into four key segments: the idea, the approach, the creation, and the closing. First things first, you should always have the photograph you want to take envisioned before you even approach your subject. Remember, you are asking someone to give you a piece of their time, when doing so, always try to use it as efficiently as possible.

photographing strangers

When approaching your potential subject it’s important to be friendly and confident at the same time. Without being pushy, explain to them what you are doing and why you want to take their photograph. With practice, you’ll be able to come up with a good opening line that you can use all the time.

stranger photo

“With the right approach very few people will deny you.”

Once your subject agrees to be photographed talk to them, ask them questions about their life. People will tend to relax and become more comfortable with you when they are talking about themselves.

how to photograph strangers

One last bit of advice: don’t be afraid to give direction within reason. More often than not you’re subject will be more than willing to comply, if not relieved.

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15 responses to “How To Photograph Strangers”

  1. suhaaz says:

    Cool article.. Simple but meaningful

  2. WillIam Selviz says:

    Amazing talk (: it answered most of my questions. However he didn’t mention model release. This is pivotal since you never know who will want to buy these and will ask you for this paper.

  3. John Wayland says:

    THANKS!!! BTW, I love your pencil/pen holder :-)

  4. Theresa says:

    Lots of great information. Thank you for taking your time to help other aspiring photographers. I am defiantly going to use your techniques. I especially love the photos of people you have where the subject is looking directly into the camera…You really can capture the essence of someone. Thanks again for the enlightened learning today :)

  5. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I see people I think I want to shoot and you gave great tips fo the approach.


  6. Carolyn says:

    Great have inspired me. Thank you!

    Sorry I have to bring this up but the word that you use “conversate” does not sound correct don’t you mean to say converse? I have never heard that word and it sounds so wrong. But then maybe I am wrong. I will look it up.

  7. Carlos says:

    Very helpful article.
    Thanks Hickey for your time and for sharing your experience.

  8. Jen says:

    Interesting video, but I agree w/William – no discussion about model releases. I think that’s a critical part of photographing strangers, unless you are truly never going to do anything with the photos. Why take a chance?

  9. Khaled says:

    I am taking photos of strangers for a beach party any additional tip?

  10. Anna Barber says:

    He goes on and on about talking to his subjects but never mentions getting a signed model release. Isn’t that a requirement if you are going to EXHIBIT and potentially SELL any of the images you take ??? Am I wrong ?

  11. Jimmy Hickey says:

    Hey everyone, happy you found this video informative! I did completely forget to mention the model release situation, and it is always a good idea to get one. I use Easy Release for the ipad and it works great.

    @ Carolyn, my diction for the word “conversate” comes from the late Biggie Smalls, and is used as a tribute to one of the greatest rappers of all time.

  12. Thanks for adding the model release info, I was wondering about that as well . . . . although I think you can use these pix in both your own portfolio and gallery shows without one, but better safe than sorry.
    A very useful helpful video, has helped inspire me to dive in where I’ve been hesitant to tread and capture some of the great faces I come across so often . . . .

  13. Lois Bryan says:

    I like that Jimmy Hickey is talking about asking people’s permission rather than just sneaking up on ’em!! Well written and good advice!!

  14. Tessa says:

    What about model releases…. How willing are strangers to give you a model release and how do you approach the issue?

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