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Tips for first shoot of strangers

trevburley

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Bognor Regis, UK
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I am challenging myself to do a project showing the people of my town and their passions on a TFP basis. I know my camera inside out and my posing skills are ok but not great (yet). Working with people who are strangers is a skill I haven't really tested yet (hence the challenge to myself).

I have 6 volunteers who are all strangers and have consented to have their photos taken over the next month or so and I want to ensure I give them a good lasting impression. Model Release forms are in place and for the 2 shoots involving children their mothers will be in the shot and consenting on the child's behalf.

I do have ideas of what I want to get out of each shoot and I plan to share this with each person prior to shooting but I want them to feel at ease during the shoot. Any tips on how I can relax them and make this a fun experience?


EDIT: ADDED FOR CLARITY
To shed some more light on things, the shoots are as follows:

1. Shoot with Mother, 17yr old daughter and 2yr old.
2. Shoot with Mother and her little boy
3. Yoga poses shoot with one individual
4. Guitarist shoot on the rocks with one individual and his instruments
5. Shoot with a man and his 1968 Vespa potentially moving into his radio station for some DJ shoots
6. A group Archery shoot with a club

With the family and archery shots I will be directing at some points to get things moving and then switching to a more journalistic approach. The radio DJ shoot will probably have to be lit, but I will make that call when I arrive. The rest of the shoots will be posed and all will be natural light but I may experiment with some flash added for the guitarist and vespa shoot.


Many Thanks - Trev
 
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Bring posing reference images if you can, as this always makes things easier both for you and them. Meet with them maybe a day or two before the shoot and go over what they should expect and how they can be prepared, and also just to get to know them. Bring bottled water to the shoot for them, as it's just friendly and considerate. Also think about bringing snacks, because hungry strangers can be cranky (ask about food allergies first). Just a few things I try to do when I can.
 
Excellent points from Dan. If you have specific clothing requirements/expectations, ensure you are clear about them (and be prepared for them NOT to be met). Scout your locations in advance at the time of day you will be shooting (if out of doors) so that you know the light & shadows and have a back-up plan in case the first location isn't available. Nothing like having a shoot all planned in a park (w/ city permission) only to arrive and find a huge gang of kids having a party there...

One critical point is: DO NOT HIDE BEHIND YOUR CAMERA. When you're talking to the talent, lower the camera, engage them, make jokes if appropriate. Also, avoid touching, but if you need to, ask permission in advance!
 
Both Tired Iron and Dan Ostergren have given excellent advice and I just want to reinforce these points they made.

it's just friendly and considerate

DO NOT HIDE BEHIND YOUR CAMERA. When you're talking to the talent, lower the camera, engage them, make jokes if appropriate. Also, avoid touching, but if you need to, ask permission in advance!

The best way to not get frozen faces is to be a person and friendly. Don't crouch behind your camera on a tripod and look at them through the viewfinder. Be friendly, be nice, be a person.

These children spoke Burmese, I speak only English. The little girl was 'helping me' get a picture of her older sister who was shy.

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It sounds as you you have given this much thought. I suggest a storyboard. You most likely have preconceived visualizations in your mind of the shots you desire for each person. Create a storyboard outline to hone your preconceptions. You didn't discuss any details of the shoot(s), we don't know if you're staging the shots or shooting more in a journalistic mode of recording/documenting their passions. If their passion(s) include a craft of some type, get closeups. If it is woodworking or sewing, as an example, get macro tight on the hands as they craft away. If the situation presents itself, a close-up of old and young hands crafting together is always good.

If you are staging the shots and selecting locations and such, if you're bringing lights and acting like a director, then follow Dan's advice on food and getting to know them.

If you are following them around and documenting their daily routine(s) with available light, do not bring food, do not be chatty (yes, engage them and be friendly but do not dominate the conversation), try to fade into the background and after a while the subjects, hopefully, will pretty much forget that you are there. Shoot single frame (as quiet as possible) and in the beginning shoot, (if you can), a bit longer, then as they get comfortable and begin to ignore you, start shooting wider and getting closer. Call in advance and discuss with them their expectations and your exceptions. Minimize all environmental manipulations and subject directions. with documentation photography, often the subjects don't understand what you're doing and why. Most subjects expect to be directed into positions and told to smile then the flash goes off. In the beginning, sometimes it is helpful to relax the subject, to show them some of the images off the LCD.

My Rant-
In the USA, if you are not going to commercialize the images, no model releases are necessary. If a model release is required, then all of your subjects require a model release, not just children alone. Children have no greater right to privacy than an adult. I know things are different in other countries.

My Retort to My Rant-
If possible and you are so inclined, always get a model release. Better safe than sorry.

Good Luck and Good Shooting
 
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Thanks guys, and Gary A, I have a model release for all subjects, not just the children.

Really like the advice I'm receiving from all of you. To shed some more light on things, the shoots are as follows:

1. Shoot with Mother, 17yr old daughter and 2yr old.
2. Shoot with Mother and her little boy
3. Yoga poses shoot with one individual
4. Guitarist shoot on the rocks with one individual and his instruments
5. Shoot with a man and his 1968 Vespa potentially moving into his radio station for some DJ shoots
6. A group Archery shoot with a club

With the family and archery shots I will be directing at some points to get things moving and then switching to a more journalistic approach. The radio DJ shoot will probably have to be lit, but I will make that call when I arrive. The rest of the shoots will be posed and all will be natural light but I may experiment with some flash added for the guitarist and vespa shoot.

Thanks again, I will add this to my OP.

Trev
 
That looks like it's getting into being a lot of work, with shoots that are business/commercial beside the portraits. It's one thing to do photos in trade that are for someone's personal use such as portraits. But at least two of these are businesses - this is going to provide photos they can potentially use for promotion and marketing.

That's where it gets into licensing usage, and for commercial use it really should be paid work with a contract. Otherwise this is going to give them a lot of usage for free; when a business does marketing they are using the photos to help bring in business and contribute to their profit/money making. Look at American Society of Media Photographers - Homepage or PPA to learn how to license usage.

I think commercial shoots get into more work going out to their different locations once to scout it and talk to the client and figure out what you're going to do, then going back for the shoots... especially the radio station - the guy wants pictures of his Vespa which is most likely for personal use (although maybe he'd want to use those photos to promote an event at the station): then going in to take interior shots of the DJ etc. for business purposes. Probably at least you need to get something in writing.
 
These shoots are all designed to beef out my portfolio and start getting some word of mouth circulating and with the exception of close family they will be the only commercial shoots I do which I don't charge for if I decide to turn this into a business.

The legal documents concerning compensation and image use all stipulate that any use of my images should be credited to myself and there will be a logo on each one.

I understand what you are saying however but the experience and advertising is invaluable to me right now.

Trev

Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
 
Clearly, if you have another body (camera), bring that.

3. Yoga poses shoot with one individual

Shooting while in a yoga postion may be difficult.
When looking to see if there was an equipment list in your profile, I saw you come from Bognor Regis. I remember that name from reading about Butlin's and because the town name figures in some novels I've read.
 
Haha, I am the least flexible person on the planet so I think I will have to get my subject to do the yoga instead ;)

Bognor is a great place to live with lots of prominent figures doing a lot for the community. Love it here :)

Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
 

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