The Barista

 Posted by on May 23, 2014  Add comments
May 232014
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Having come to the decision that I want to concentrate on creating images of the people I see while travelling, I had to work out how. I knew I didn’t want to limit myself to stealthily caught images at a distance – the images I have tried to capture that way have never been satisfactory. So I did what I often do when I need to know something …. I fired up yet another tab on Firefox and did a Google search for “How to photograph strangers”.
Here are a couple of useful articles:
and I really like this one:
I only needed to read half a dozen articles for me to find a strategy that might work for me and so on Sunday I started putting it into effect when we took the train from Reading to Wargrave for a wander around the village.
My first ‘victim’ was a wedding photographer. Ok – so I wasn’t very brave with my first! He was hanging around in the street with two huge Canons and lenses hanging over his shoulders, obviously waiting for the wedding party to appear. So I explained that we used to have Canons but had traded them in on our little dinky toys – Olympus OM-D E-M5s – and asked him if I could take a photo of him with all his gear. He was happy to oblige and we talked for a wee bit until the groom and his lads came rolling out of the pub on the street corner. The image I captured was pretty useless as an image, but it was a confidence booster to have managed the approach.
My next subjects were in the Old Post Office Café. We were the only customers at the counter, so once we’d ordered our coffees and cakes I asked the two young women if I could take a few photos of them. They gushed about being inundated by similar requests all day, which they then confirmed was not entirely accurate, and were very happy to oblige. I was nervous, and didn’t do a brilliant job of it, but I do like this image. I captured a couple of images while she was working on the coffee, checked the exposure seemed to be ok, then asked her to look up at me. I think she’s lovely.
I was using my 45mm lens (effectively a 90mm in full-frame terms). Next time I’ll use my 75mm. I want to get in closer without having to cram my lens into faces. My next challenge will be to approach people in the street. I’m quite excited, and nervous.
I feel like such a beginner. Those of you who are street portrait photographers may well be yawning or wondering what all the fuss is about, but this is a challenge for me. I know I’m starting off easy – it’s going to be more of a challenge to strike up a conversation with the more interesting faces – as per the article, above, the ones I wouldn’t normally approach in my day-to-day life – and a different challenge when we leave the UK, where I can understand most of the English, if not all, and we head to non-English speaking countries.

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  6 Responses to “The Barista”

  1. Oh Vicki! I you lay down the gauntlet. This image represents so much about a journey you have begin and I so want to begin. Photographing people is hard and requires so much courage. Well done. I love this image for what it represnts in your journey but also for the way it shows this lovely young, expectant person. Her eyes are direct, happy, even sparkly and he smile so natural, reinforced by the natural lighting you have used. I like her right away and want to engage with her on a personal level. Your framing and depth of field allow us to focus on the main subject but then tell a story about what she is doing but so gently. I love Casper too!

  2. Yeah I agree with Bruce.You will find it alot easier to get strangers pictures as a female as people are more relaxed with female street photographers than male. I know this from experience.I sometimes find it easier in non English countries, you hold your camera up point to them ,use a pleading face & they either nod yes or no that simple. Good luck it can be fun, frustrating & very rewarding.

  3. Very brave! Good on you, it’s something I really struggle with too, despite reading the articles! Look forward to more like this.

  4. I did a course a few years ago where the stated aim was to take everyone outside their comfort zone. Guess what the universal method of making everyone feel uncomfortable was – making us ask strangers for portraits. Scary but very rewarding.
    If you were nervous it didnt show as you did a great job of – all that and you found somewhere in the UK that makes a decent coffee, brilliant work.

    I agree with Scott – its much easier approaching strangers when you dont speak the language

  5. Great job Vicki, I know exactly how you feel. Strangely though I find when we are travelling overseas I can strike up conversations quite easily and work towards getting a photo. Usually have a bit of a story about where we are from and how I like to capture images of the people we meet on our travels. But find it so hard back in NZ, guess I need to find another approach. Thanks for the links, will read those and see what tips I can pick up.

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