Photography Tips – Engage With Your Subject

My favourite subjects to shoot are people, with my camera of course! Big events are a great opportunity to get in lots of practice. I use adobe lightroom and photoshop to edit my images and often use OnOne software for more dramatic quick effects. If you need Photoshop Training you’ll find some of the best courses in the UK in Brighton at Silicon Beach Training.

1. Smile at your subject.

smile at people

smile at people

When you smile at people they are much more receptive. I know it sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget when you are concentrating hard to get that shot just right. If you like street photography, like me, chances are you take pictures of people with and without asking. Either way a smile makes all the difference.

2. Talk to people to get their trust.

talk to your subject

don’t be afraid to ask permission

Don’t be afraid to ask permission, you will be amazed at how few people say no, and if they do, just smile and say OK. I took the shot above at a local fete. This lady took a little persuading. First she sent her hard looking son to check me out and tell me not to take pictures of the teddies on the next stall. I saw the black eyes and must admit even I was a bit wary of asking, and at first she said with her steely black eyes “What for?”. “Just for me I said” smiling as I spied the ‘beware of rebounding balls’ sign behind her (what an opportunity) “just look at the way the trees are casting shadows on the tent, and you look so great” Her frown disappeared and, and I got an “Oh OK then” and bingo!

I have asked tattooed men drunk on Brighton sea front with pit bull terriers before now, and they just say “How do you want me darling'”.

Not a people person? Try our dog photography tips instead!

I took a picture of this man at the Brighton Fringe festival, firstly without him knowing, he was dressed in a black hoodie at the time. He noticed me, as people tend to do when you have a Canon EOS 1ds (built like a brick), and a flash stuck on top,  stuck to your face. Having got his attention I asked if he would mind moving a little so I could get the refection of him in the shiny bus. He replied “I’ll take my clothes off for you darlin’ if you like” “OK”, I replied, “that would be good”, and was instantly rewarded with his brilliant tattoos – result!

The back lighting in this image gave me a little trouble, I wanted more detail in the sky so I took three different exposures out of lightroom and imported them as layers in Photoshop. I then used masks to show the best exposure for each part of the image. I wrote a post about this technique if you want to learn more about this.

tattooed man

You’ll be amazed how obliging people can be

3. Make them Laugh

Laughter establishes trust and creates an istant connection with people. I know you won’t always want a happy portrait, but make them laugh and they will be putty in your hands. I took this image at Brighton Pride, I’m so glad I made this guy laugh!

make them laugh

make them laugh

4. Be Bold and Brave

I saw this lady approaching the Brighton Zombie Walk gathering. I thought wow, I must get those puppies and really close up. I walked over to her and said “WOW tose are just amazing, can I take of picture of them. My lens in really wide and I want them to fill the frame, so I’ll have to put the camera right here”, putting the camera practically touching the beauties. Of course sometimes I think it helps being a woman.

zombie woman

Never be afraid to ask to get the shot you want, they can always say no, what have you got to loose

Be brave and just ask. I remember a time when I did’t have the courage to ask strangers to pose for me. The more you do it the easier it gets. Just go out on a mission and force yourself to do it, trust me it just gets easier and easier. Start with a big event where there are lots of photographers and people all dressed up and happy, most of them are actually really pleased you picked them out!

5. Ask people to move to get the composition you want

Sometimes I even take people a little down the road for a shot. At Brighton Pride this year it had been raining and although everyone was avoiding the puddles for obvious reasons, there were some great opportunities to be had with reflections. This young lad was more than happy to stand in a puddle for his picture.

puddle refection brighton pride

Ask people to move to get your composition

6. Sometimes don’t ask just shoot!

There are times when if you stop and ask the moment is lost. If that’s the case just shoot. If you want to take great street photographs then just be bold, smile and go around shooting. Don’t hesitate just capture the moment.

smokey sausages

Sometimes don’t wait just shoot


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Heather Buckley


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5 Comments

Rakesh Jagtiani says:

Well that was informative, but here in New Delhi, where I live, it’s a bit harder to get people to say yes. In spite of the smile and such! Great Pics, by the way!

Veronica Barrington says:

Thank you for the insightful article. Great tips and the stories behind the shots are so helpful. Inspiring.

Heather says:

Thank you Rakesh for taking the time to comment, yes there are always cultural differences world wide that will affect what is acceptable and what is not. You could try shooting from the hip, something I do quite a lot, maybe I’ll write my next post about that, or maybe you should just come to England and start chatting!

Heather says:

Pleased to be of service Veronica, you’ve inspired me to write some more!

Jackie Marsh says:

You have inspired me, I love taking portraits of children, which of course is not easy in public without asking permission, but I love the clarity and sharpness of your work along with the composition, will just have to keep practicing, cant wait for your next issue. many thanks

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