Shooting the strangers is one of the great thrills a street or travel photographer would look forward to. The faces which are uncommon, provoking a sudden response within you, unique and sharp features inside the face, wonderful expressions which brings out the character of the human being. Be it a loud laughter or a subtle smile or an arrogance, it all counts for a great portrait. You may meet them at Himalayas or inside a bus, in a busy market place or just outside your door. When you meet the character, the face which you know would make a brilliant portrait. How to shoot them and project them in a photograph for which they would be proud of.

Here in this tutorial, I have chose 4 distinct and rapid steps. A Wonderful Preparation for you and the subject to come in terms & then produce a stunning portrait.

Good Old Days - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Mahesh B

A Warm Introduction

Start with a smile, speak to them about you, wish them a good day. Smile with a reason for goodwill, make them sense you are one among them. Do not bother them, if they still feel uncomfortable because of you, blame your luck  and quietly move away. After all you are there to photograph a happy picture to portray them in the most ethical way possible.

Omo Valley, Ethiopia - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Eric Lafforgue

YoKEE - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : CoolbieRe

The Psychological Edge

Once you sense he/she is comfortable in front of your lens, take the rhythm of clicking the shutter coinciding with their every movement. Remember, difference between a masterpiece and a mediocre portrait can be a small wrinkle, a subtle strain in the facial muscle. A deep glow in the eyes, a wide smile. Just like a snake charmer, a little you relax you may lose it altogether. Meditate, take a deep breath hold on to the basics, you may just have shot a soulful portrait.

Water - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Siddharthan Raman

Boy in Train - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Kazi Sudipto


Words, signs, action do anything to communicate with them. To let out the character, to make the portrait more interesting to fill the frame with more drama and essence of a human being. Make them feel you are a friend a person who is just there like anybody else. Make them forget you got a camera in hand. Or if necessary explain them it is just a camera, it takes pictures, good pictures. Remember the law of relativity, every action of yours will definitely have an equal and even stronger, an opposite yet the reaction you wanted from the person before the lens. Make sure you capture the opportunity you just created.

Boom - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Viola damiani

Kids Playing Soccer - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Tom Szustek


Just try this, you have met a good old friend of your school days. The instant smile of comfort, yes the one which does not require language. A Smile can start well before your words, it breaks the questions. People may ask you why would you require his/her photograph. Just give a gentle smile and remember clicking the shutter, giving a smile and having them in a zone of comfort must all be in equal proportions. You will love it, they will love it too.

Ladakhi Shepherd - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Fotobiscotto

Boy Smile - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Ashok Saravanan

Plan B

Ok erase everything you just read from the previous categories. Be agile like a cheetah going after a fawn. The Moves before a checkmate, plan your positions and follow your instincts because there will be no words spoken, no signs shown, no smiles exchanged it is just going to be the shutter sound all around. This is definitely the toughest in this lot, but imagine a grand mixture of soul peeking moment plus the decisive moment. But make sure you respect their privacy and please follow professional ethics for a photographer.

Girl - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Elizabeth Haust

Woman Looking - Shooting the Strangers
Photo Credit : Emmanuel Smague

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