“Rather than catching people unaware, they show the face they want to show. Unposed, caught unaware, they might reveal ambiguous expressions, brows creased in vague internal contemplation, illegible, perhaps meaningless. Why not allow the subject the possibility of revealing his attitude toward life, his neighbor, even the photographer?” – William Klein
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Interact with your subjects
There is a myth of the “detached” and “objective” photographer. Many photographers think they can be stealthy, and not “influence” the scene.
However what makes photographs interesting is how you can influence the scene. How your presence changes the people. How people react to you. And what side of themselves your subject decide to show.
William Klein was famous for being a director on the streets. Rather than shooting candid photos, he would put himself into his photos. He would provoke his subjects by saying certain words or phrases.
For example, in his most “Kid with gun” photograph, he told the kid, “Look tough!” This caused the kid to point his gun ferociously into Klein’s face. But doesn’t this mean the photograph is “inauthentic” because Klein provoked the boy? Absolutely not. The boy decided to show his inner self.
Rather than trying to be the “fly on the wall” photographer — insert yourself into your images. Engage with your subjects. Learn about their lives and dreams.
Take photographs while your subject talks, or when they react to you. Before you start clicking, wait for eye contact, a hand-gesture, or a certain expression.
- Excerpt from MASTERS
Why put yourself in the picture?
I think a good picture requires for you to put yourself, or your own soul in the picture.
What better way to do that, than to interact with your subjects?
This is why I like to shoot “street portraits”— it gives me the chance to interact with my subjects, hear their life story, and also make a compelling portrait of them:
Interact if you want to
If you don’t like interacting with strangers, don’t feel forced to do so. Only do it if you are genuinely interested in the life of your subject.
But at the same time, don’t feel that you “aren’t allowed” to interact with your subjects, like what a lot of street photographers say.
You can interact with your subjects however you like.
How to interact with your subject
- Ask open-ended questions, not simple yes or no questions.
- Make small talk, in order to ask deeper life questions. Ask about the weather, then ask them about their life dreams or goals.
- Ask them “What is your life story?”
- Give your subjects “tactful flattery” — compliment them without going overboard. For example, tell them: “I love your look! How would you describe your personal style?”
- Show genuine interest in them — don’t look at your phone, and listen attentively.
The best way to interact with people, regardless of their background, ethnicity, or culture —
A smile is a universal way to interact with your subject, which will bring out the best in them.
Learn how to interact with your subjects at ERIC KIM WORKSHOP >
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