Le puedo tomar una foto? – Can I take a picture of you? I can’t count how many times I have asked this question during my recent trip to South America… People often ask how I take street portraits, do I ask for permission? do I tip for posing? During the years I have established a set of my personal rules which I follow when I do Street Portrait Photography.
The first rule. I always consider myself on other side of a camera, picturing a stranger photographer who wants to take a picture of me. I act in a way that I would want to be treated in that kind of situation.
The rule number two, I respect the privacy. If I see that a person doesn’t want his/her photo taken, I stop, show that I understand/ apologize and move on, skipping the photo.
The rule number three. A friendly approach. When I ask for permission, I start with a smile, look at the eyes, and explain why I want to take the photo. In most cases I photograph a person because she/he looks beautiful or special to me – Te ves hermosa (“you look beautiful” in Spanish). After a few shots I show photos I took. This breaks the ice and gives me an opportunity for a new set. I say “Let me take these photos in a better way” and ask to change a pose, to smile, etc. On the markets I may buy a product first, take a photo of a product, and then ask for permission to take a photo of a seller. After a “photo session” I leave my business card and offer to email pictures if a person is interested in having them.
The rule number four. I am comfortable with tipping/paying people for modeling. When I travel I have coins or small bills in a pocket for tipping. A tip amount depends on the particular country. Normally, it is in a range of $1-$5 (USD). The highest tip I have ever paid on travel was 5 euros in Munich, Germany. The highest in Peru was 5 soles ($2).
The rule number five. If photographing children, I ask for permission from a parent if one is around. I tip a “child-model” with the same rate as an adult and, additionally, with a treat. I always travel with “little gifts for kids” – bubble gums, mints, and candies.
The rule number six. No Street Portraits of military and police men… just in case :)
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