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Taking Pictures of People

Over the last few months I have been on a quest to improve my portrait taking experience. I take people photos almost all the time now. Different types of people shots mostly; not as many nature shots like I tend to do all the time. I take photos of people I know and also people I have just met.

There are three distinct ways in which people react to having their photo taken. They are:

  1. Nonverbal cues to indicate their disgust with the idea and the presumption that the photo will be bad
  2. People who just love the idea and hope secretly you’ll get a winner and remember to email it to them
  3. The type that doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that you have a camera

The first type you know: you raise your camera, and the person just sends these signals that you should forget the idea now or they’ll tear your heart out. Most of the time these people are great and fun to be around and just change suddenly when the camera comes into play. I know a couple of people like this and they’re cool. People like this usually just need to remember that it’s just a picture.

The second type of person is the type I’ll have the best time with (and get the best photos). This is the type of person that still thinks its fun even after I’ve taken 30 photos that hour of random things. Like for example, the time recently I took 50 photos at In N Out Burger while we ate dinner. That’s pretty typical for me yet my friends know it and appreciate it. Those are the types of friends you keep for a lifetime. They think it’s cool and then take your photo and send it to their friends. They ask you to send them a copy.

The third type is difficult to describe. You know them because they’re snobs and don’t even acknowledge the fact that you’ve just taken their photo. If you held down the shutter and took another eight or so frames they wouldn’t care. They only notice when you get in their face, or come back 15 minutes later with fresh batteries. This type of person doesn’t pay attention to you and works very hard to not break a smile and keep the conversation going with their friend. They make you feel “outside” of the conversation and secretly hope you’ll just go away.

Something important to remember here is the fact that people react differently depending on their familiarity with you. The first and third types of people are more likely to be acquaintances (or friends of friends). Often times you can consider this a litmus test to see if they have a chance of moving on to friend status.

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  1. This concludes a report on psychology, written by Dr. Chris Tingom (PHD, ASP, PHP). No flash photography, and please do not photocopy.

  2. I think those in category 3 are not necessarily snobs, but perhaps realize you want candid shots and thus they should act as if you weren’t there. That’s what good models do, anyway. Unless they’re “making love to the camera.”

  3. On a side note, have any of you had a chance to watch “Born Into Brothels”? It won the 77th Annual Academy Award for best documentary and is already on DVD. I would strongly suggest checking it out if you get a chance. The movie centers on a group of kids who are given cameras to take pictures of the world around them from their point of view. Some of the pictures are just amazing. My favorite was taken by Suchitra and is entitled “Girl on a Roof”, go to http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/kidsgallery/ and click on the thumbnail 3 rows down and 3 columns over. If you decide to watch the film, be forewarned that it is a very intense film yet very inspirational. Check out http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/bornintobrothels/ for some more info.