Portraiture on the Fly
I have used this self taught mental data base to quickly process information that has kept me safe, but it is also something that is now coming out in my photography. I am fast discovering that that I am a portraitist. People have always fascinated me. Now I am simply recording it.
I am gaining the audacity to simply walk up to people and ask if I can photograph them. I make it a point to dress conservatively and have my camera ready. If they look confused, I quickly explain that I am an amateur photographer, and just why I would like to photograph them, whether it is their hair, their shirt, or their poise. I haven't been refused yet.
I have usually studied the potential subject at a distance to assess their willingness and the light they happen to be standing in. I have the Nikon set to 4 fps, and if they agree to be photographed, I line them up and squeeze off a few shots. Then, I thank them and let them get back to what they were doing. If they want to converse a bit, I talk about what ever they want, and possibly continue to get a few shots. If they are willing, I get their name and give them my own. I suppose I will have to get some business cards made up now. I haven't had the moxie to ask a stranger for a repeat session in the future, but I have a feeling I will soon.
It is fairly easy to spot those people willing to be photographed. The young ones are the ones who make themselves stand out. The older ones are the people with a life lived etched on their faces. These people want to be photographed, remembered, and celebrated, but they want to be respected as well. Sometimes, I think the key is making the person comfortable and confident that they will be respected in the image.
The best places to find willing subjects is where people feel uninhibited. Festivals are excellent opportunities, as are concerts and museums, gallery openings, and live theaters (if you can get a camera inside). People tend to go to these places to be seen, they dress appropriately, are prepared, and perhaps liquored up a bit. Ultimately, they become a bit bored. The chance opportunity to be photographed intrigues them. I have even had people approach me to have their picture taken when they see me taking photographs. That was surprising indeed.