Photographing strangers

Photographing strangers

There is a tendency in most of us to have a fear of the unknown. I have never had a negative experience in asking a stranger to make his or her image. Ever. And yet, I still have trepidation to ask, fearing to intrude or inconvenience someone.

Most people are happy to oblige and enjoy the experience. I need to get over it because I have let some amazing subjects disappear.

Meet Billy, the stranger

Billy at the bar having coffee … and eventually a deep conversation with me.

Even though I felt uncomfortable asking this gentleman to make a photo, I asked. He agreed. The most wonderful part of the experience went way beyond his image. It was the conversation that ensued following the photo. The ice was broken and we talked of deep subjects for half an hour. I learned so much from Billy in that chat that would have passed by the wayside had I not made the first contact.

A camera can be an outstanding icebreaker when approaching strangers. I shall be using it more often.

The original capture

Five stop bracket shot at ISO 25,600. Shot with the Lumix G9 and the 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Leica lens.

Onward, to photographing the scene. Light in the bar was dismal. Not wanting to disturb the rest of the patrons I cranked up the ISO to 25,600 on the Lumix G9. Not a problem. Ever since Lumix removed the anti-alias filter from in front of the sensor the digital noise has been less of a factor in capturing photos. Noise is now more organic and film-like. I embrace it in more and more of my art photography.


Layers Palette for ‘Billy.’

Two of the five images were blended using a Mask in Adobe Photoshop. Two Curves layers along with a Soft Light layer and a texture were added to tame the contrast and bring detail and attention where I wanted. Silver Efex Pro 2 was used to convert and massage the final black and white image.

Ask strangers for permission!

I highly recommend having your camera with you on a regular basis. When you see an interesting subject, politely engage. You never know where it might lead.

Yours in creative photography, Bob