I’ve been asked a few times how I approach photographing strangers, and thought I’d share the formula that I’ve been using and have had success with.
When I first became interested in photographing strangers I wouldn’t
approach them and ask for their photo, but instead I’d try and take it
without them knowing. I quickly realized how uncomfortable that made me
feel, and how it would make them feel if they realized what I was doing.
I see photos that have been taken of strangers with crooked framing
and just no real connection with the subject and it’s not appealing to me. I’m not here to say that you must do it the way I suggest or else it makes it a bad photograph. If you prefer to not interact with someone then that’s totally fine and is what you’re comfortable with.
In this day of mobile devices and people becoming more detached from one another I wanted to
figure out how I could approach a stranger and make that human connection and photograph them. Once I figured it out and realized that most people are open to being photographed it wasn’t terribly difficult to accomplish.
I’ve always been somewhat shy, so approaching a stranger and making that initial connection was pretty difficult. However, while watching a documentary series by Louis Theroux on hypnotism I learned a formula (used in the video to pick up on women) on how to approach a stranger and strike up conversation called CIQ.
CIQ stands for Compliment, Introduce, and Question. When photographing strangers I am drawn to unique people who stand out to me and have unique style.
The way that I use CIQ is by approaching the person, Complimenting an article of clothing or their overall style, Introducing myself and what I’m doing, and then asking the Question of if they wouldn’t mind me making a photograph of them. More often than not this works and at the end I exchange info with them so that I can send them a print once it’s made.
I hope this helps you get the courage to approach others and make that human connection if that’s what you’re interested in doing. It feels good to have genuine conversations with people and I think it’s something that everyone should be making an effort to do. By no means am I an expert at this yet as I still miss opportunities where I’m not in the place to approach someone, but keep at it and you’ll eventually get comfortable with it!