Approaching people on the street is daunting enough. Asking said person, if you can take their photo is a whole new story. But it needn't cause you to break out in a sweat, itch, make your heart feel like it beats out of your chest, get scared and then walk away. And then feel disappointed you didn't get the photo you saw.
My top tips for taking street portraits.
1. Should you take the photo?
Of course, there are situations where walking away is the best option. If you feel unsafe, if the person is negative to the idea or if you would feel disrespectful for taking the photograph. Always put yourself in their shoes - how would you feel? We are all human, even though, especially when travelling, the people we meet look so interesting and different.
2. Mind your manners. Ask before taking.
Even if you don't speak the language, asking to take a photograph is universal. Show your camera and nod your head while holding it up closer to your face and pointing at them. They will answer, nod or wildly shake their hands and cover their face. Whatever they do, you will get your answer. If they decline, put your camera straight down. Smile politely and say thank you. Move on. Don't try to take their photograph without permission - it's just not nice.
3. Slow it down
If you can, spend some time with them before asking to take their photograph. It will not only make a better photograph and memory, but it will also add something extra to the personal experience for both of you. Give and take. Play with the children, share a drink or snack. Chat (either verbally or with your hands) about something. Care about them and their story.
4. Look at the light
Don't be afraid to move the person if it's convenient and going to get a much better photograph. If they are sitting right at the back of their shop, you could ask them to move to the front where the window light is gently falling. If they are in the bright midday sun with dark pits as eyes, ask them to move into the shade or turn their back to the sun.
5. Get in close
Don't be afraid to step in. By filling the frame with your subject, you can see everything about them. The way they hold themselves, their clothing, their skin, their eyes. The stories that can be told through the details. There will be no question as to what you want the viewer to look at in your photograph.
6. Or step back (with caution)
First - always look where you are going. Don't do what I do and step back into holes or trip over things. By safely stepping back you can get the location into the photograph. If the location is part of the story you are telling it adds dimension and life to the photograph. Take the fisherman photograph - if I zoomed in to show his face only, I would see a weathered and handsome man but have no idea who he is. By showing the boats, we can see he is a fisherman. A very proud fisherman with his boat.
Go out and have fun. Breathe. And don't be afraid. If you treat people with kindness and respect, the worst thing that can happen is you get a 'no'. If that is the case, take a mental picture and move on.