Tomer Jacobson is a rising star in Israel’s photographic scene. He is the sole Hebrew translator of the Strobist Lighting 101 booklet and if you can read Hebrew you should definitely check out his blog.
In the following post he shares his experience with walking about with a camera in the shady parts of Tel-Aviv.
This is something I did a long while ago and been wanting to redo ever since.
Walk the streets, wearing my camera and lighting gear, and looking for the occasional model. Folks that in their normal state would not walk into a studio, interesting faces whom we walk by each day and never think about taking their portrait
When you walk around looking for such models, you suddenly realize that they are everywhere. And surprisingly, approaching them with the right attitude and positive energies yields high approval-to-be-photographed rate.
It took my friend Max and I just 3 hours of wandering the old central bus station in Tel-Aviv to discover just that.
Simply Start Walking
Yes, it really is that simple. If you have a choice, it is better to hang around interesting places with interesting people, you’ll bump into more potential models this way.
Israel’s central bus station definitely proved as a crowded and interesting location. It is filled with thousands of people from dozens of countries from all over the world, resting after a days’ work. [Israel’s central bus station is a neighborhood where foreign workers live and hang out, very colorful by day, sometimes shady at night. UT]
Both me and my aching back heartedly recommend to travel light. If you shoot natural light you need little more than a camera and a portrait lens. If you shoot Strobist style, stick to a flash a stand and one modifier.
OK, you’re on the right street with your eyes open. Suddenly you see tens of people just waiting for you and your camera to say “hi”. Here is the million dollar question: how do you approach them?
As a general rule, I only take pictures after getting approval, and I find the following tips greatly increase the chances of getting one:
- Approach people who don’t seem to be in a hurry, I would even say bored. What do you know, a couple of photographers with lighting gear weirdos may even look as an appealing way to pass time.
- Talk about pictures later. Start off by chatting about you, about then, express interest in what they are doing and who they are. Any icebreaking chat will be good here.
- Look confident, the privilege goes both ways
- Have a business card with your details ready, this can sometimes sooth suspensions.
- Show photos like the ones that you want to take, this serves both a way to let them know what you expect and to show that you’re legit. You don’t need to carry your 11×14 big one, just a few 4×6.
- Depending on the situation, consider offering a small payment as a token of appreciation of their time, offer them prints and digital copies if applicable.
- Have an easy-to-understand (possibly non-commercial) model release you can hand, explain why you need it. It is a good idea to have the form have the model’s email on that form.
Now here comes the cool part. There is no way you can even begin to predict what the outcome of this day may be. It can be a portrait of a homeless guy, a cool south-African dude, A pretty lady who’s been living here for a while or a young Chinese guy who just got here. You never know.
But you do know this, invest the time and energies and you’re bound to have an interesting experience.