June 10, 2020

Smoking Cigarettes for Photos

Places, portraits, adventure, Photography

#getlocal for portraits

Before we get too far into this story, let me clarify, smoking is bad for your health. One should only pretend to partake in a cigarette if it's going to result in a good story.

Which reminds me...

In the spring of 2014 I traveled to China, to document the construction of a bike park outside of Beijing. Curious about the locals and everyday life, I explored the area to see what I could find, ended up pretend smoking a cigarette with a man collecting bricks. For me, this was a time in my travel and photography career when I wanted to go a bit deeper in my portrait work. It was the moment when I developed a recipe for going from the outside looking in to being in the middle of things. This transition has resulted in some amazing and funny experiences.

Check out my latest video to hear the story and find out how I "get local" for portraits.

Quick Tips for Portraits

  • Explore - Get out on foot or on a bike to explore your location. Get curious and see what piques your interest for shooting. Markets and street vendors are often people and places that really draw me in.
  • Observe - Once you've found your zone, spend some time observing the thing/person you want to shoot. This is helpful preparation for the moment you jump in to shoot.
  • Interact - Rather than leading with your camera, lead with a curiosity and a smile. More often than not, this will lead to you being in the middle of things where some compelling images are sure to happen.
  • Ask Permission - before you start shooting, ask permission. Even without speaking, or from far distances, it's possible to point to the person and then to your camera and get the thumbs-up.
  • Shoot a Collection - shoot a series of images that shows everything from the entire scene to the deconstructed details.
  • Capture the In-Between - keep shooting, especially the in-between moments when the subject(s) are relaxed and taking a break. This is an opportunity to capture the "true essence."
  • Share - while shooting, show your subject what's happening. This often leads to smiles, a few laughs, and more great photos.
  • Say Thank You - your subject has given part of themselves to you...express gratitude.