This is the fifth part of a series on On Assignment.
The keys to successfully photographing people? Respect, Enthusiasm and Fun. In that order.
Respect: You don’t just walk up to a stranger — no matter their nationality or circumstances — and stick a camera in their face. That’s no way to treat anyone, much less wind up with a strong image. Instead, when first meeting potential subjects, keep your camera in the bag and take some time to talk, with an interpreter if necessary. This lets them get to know you a bit and grasp what you’re up to.
Enthusiasm: Express interest in your subject and excitement about taking their picture. This can’t be faked. Honest energy and enthusiasm usually prove contagious. And this sends an important underlying message: that you will do your dead-level best to depict them in a pleasing and positive way.
Fun: During the shoot be sure to let your subjects know how well they’re doing. Take time to pause, hit the camera’s playback button and show them a few shots. They’ll love it! And the resulting confidence boost will pay off in spades when they’re back in front of the camera.
I met 13-year-old Hoang Mai Ly (left) and her 15-year-old sister, Hoang Anh Ly, while visiting their parents’ farm in Vietnam. After photographing the family, I looked for a place to take some sister shots. Posing people stiffly shoulder to shoulder is an absolute last resort. I needed a prop. At last we found an inviting tree, where I did my best to follow the above advice.
Location: Gia Lam Village, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Client: Heifer International
Click for an enlargement
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