Hello! Yo! Is everybody all right? I find a corner to hang out in and shoot for an hour or two. Then, we’ll move on to close-up portraits and you can show me what you can do best. Watch out guys! I want it all to be simple and I want to understand it all right away!
STOP! Wake up! In reality, in real daily life, people are reserved, sometimes timid, and they can have a hard time keeping their daily life fun and understandable for the uninitiated, and especially, they don’t necessarily feel like having you hanging on their heels hour after hour!
Every photographer has found himself or herself catapulted at one time or another in a universe they don’t understand or don’t know much about. In this situation, you quickly find yourself confronting some major problems:
– How to communicate?
– What position do you take so you don’t bother the subjects or miss out on the action?
– What codes apply in this place?
– How can you get people to want to give it up for the camera?
For all these questions (and there are many more) a single response tops all others: TAKE YOUR TIME.
Once you arrive on site, it is absolutely imperative to choose the right moment to establish contact and introduce yourself. If people are busy, you have to know how to wait and take your time to observe and not shoot anything for awhile. Once your protagonists are aware of your presence or you have been able to introduce yourself, the work can begin and you will have staked out the location.
There are crucial steps to take regarding noise (filming), permission (concerts), and safety distance (sport) in order to be able to stay on the spot as long as you wish.
If you don’t happen to have this information, don’t hesitate to ask, even if it means you’ll be found out as a “newbie”. That way you’ll be able to establish first contact, prove your interest in and respect for the work others are doing and create an air of trust.
In any case, the first shots taken from a distance will allow you to gauge the situation and set the stage for your series.
It’s essential to progressively close in on the action and give your protagonists the desire to share their expertise with you. You may need to get into a discussion with the entourage (for a concert) or find the best position to show off their talent (skaters).
Finally, don’t hesitate to show some of the shots to the people you have photographed. For one thing, it will help you establish relations that might lead to other series, and it can also help you better understand the action and focus on key moments.
Before you take off and head out to face other challenges, a fist bump, a sign of appreciation, or a thanks don’t cost much and will show your respect and acknowledgment.