Overcoming Your Fear Of Photographing Strangers
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Overcoming Your Fear Of Photographing Strangers

Overcoming Your Fear Of Photographing Strangers, carla coulson, paris film noir, paris portrait, paris photographer, black and white photography, Black and white photography, photography workshop, italian photography workshop, travel photography workshop, travel photography workshop italy, portraiture, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur, photographer, photographers life, italy, photography workshop puglia, beginners travel photography workshop, photography

Copyright of Carla Coulson

Dear Photographer,

This is one of my favourite subjects I love teaching in my workshops as most people feel awkward about approaching people on the streets to photograph them.

Through experience, trial and error I have had the pleasure to understand the psychology of approaching perfect strangers to ask them for a pic and the wonderful joy we receive by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.

When we go up to a person and ask them whether we can take a photo of them, we are putting ourselves in a vulnerable situation and not many of us are comfortable with feeling vulnerable.

What do we risk? We risk someone say ‘no’, laughing at us, getting angry with us or dismissing us. These emotions can be devastating. So often to avoid these emotions we see people in beautiful situations that we would love to photograph but we don’t do anything about them.

Overcoming Your Fear Of Photographing Strangers, carla coulson, paris film noir, paris portrait, paris photographer, black and white photography, Black and white photography, photography workshop, italian photography workshop, travel photography workshop, travel photography workshop italy, portraiture, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur, photographer, photographers life, italy, photography workshop puglia, beginners travel photography workshop, photography

Overcoming Your Fear Of Photographing Strangers, carla coulson, paris film noir, paris portrait, paris photographer, black and white photography, Black and white photography, photography workshop, italian photography workshop, travel photography workshop, travel photography workshop italy, portraiture, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur, photographer, photographers life, italy, photography workshop puglia, beginners travel photography workshop, photography

Know there is a chance of a ‘no’ but also know there is a big chance of a ‘yes’. Of all the no’s I have had, I have had 10 times as many yes’s.

Going out of our comfort zones draws attention to ourselves and many of us don’t want to be seen. We would prefer to take photos of sunsets and empty landscapes to avoid confronting ourselves with strong emotions or a possible no. We decide the risk isn’t worth it but when we risk nothing that’s what we end up with.

One of the greatest things to overcome when wanting to take photos with emotions and a human component is to let go.

Letting go of what ‘others may think’ is the first step towards having the courage to step out of your comfort zone.

Often we are projecting our own thoughts on what the other person may be thinking and this blocks us from ever asking. So allow them the right to answer before we self-sabotage the situation with what we think they are going to say.

Most people feel like they are ‘taking’ when then they ask a stranger to pose for a photo but I have learnt we are also ‘giving’, often a gift so rare we couldn’t even imagine it.

Here are some of the beautiful things that the strangers I have photographed have told me because I asked to take a photo of them.

  • Flattered that I asked
  • Happy – they can hardly believe someone wants a picture of them
  • Never had a photo of themselves before so in a way you are creating history for them
  • No-one has ever noticed them before and I made them feel special
  • I made their day
  • I gave them chance to tell their story
  • They feel beautiful
  • I gave them a chance to stop and chat or dance

Overcoming Your Fear Of Photographing Strangers, carla coulson, paris film noir, paris portrait, paris photographer, black and white photography, Black and white photography, photography workshop, italian photography workshop, travel photography workshop, travel photography workshop italy, portraiture, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur, photographer, photographers life, italy, photography workshop puglia, beginners travel photography workshop, photography

Overcoming Your Fear Of Photographing Strangers, carla coulson, paris film noir, paris portrait, paris photographer, black and white photography, Black and white photography, photography workshop, italian photography workshop, travel photography workshop, travel photography workshop italy, portraiture, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur, photographer, photographers life, italy, photography workshop puglia, beginners travel photography workshop, photography

Copyright of Carla Coulson

What Does The Photographer Get Out Of It?

  • A great photo
  • Joy
  • Human Connection
  • A Surprise
  • A possible friend or sometimes a life-long friend
  • Encouragement for the next time
  • Fun
  • Learning something about themselves

From years of putting myself in a vulnerable situation I have learnt that 95% of the time when I go out of my comfort zone I am rewarded not only with a beautiful pic but with human connection. The greatest gift of all.

Being vulnerable is about living your life wholeheartedly and when you live your life wholeheartedly life rewards you and I feel like this has been one of the secrets to my happiness and success, I was willing to risk my vulnerability day in and day out.

Taking great emotional photos is about getting out of your head (right brain), your practical, analytical side and getting into your heart (left brain).

It’s about opening your heart, knowing your technical skills backwards so to that you react just with your instinct, intuition and your heart when that moment arises. You no longer need TO THINK, YOU YOU JUST NEED TO FEEL AND CLICK.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Eliot

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PS: If you would like to overcome your fear of taking photos of strangers I will be teaching this in my workshop in Puglia in June 2017. If you want to see a beautiful part of the world and open your heart, I’d love to have you. There are just 2 places left! All details HERE

Check out my Portrait Lightroom Presets here.

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7 Comments
  • I love this post Carla, you have really encouraged me as I love to capture those kinds of moments- but dread the asking! My favorite image in the post is the one of the potter in his studio- I just love it xx

    November 8, 2016 at 8:50 am
  • Hi Carla

    Your photos of people are the photos I love the most, in fact it’s rare to see images you make without people in them which is how I think I fell in love with your photography initially.

    You love people and it shows. People respond to you as you treat them and it reflects in your photographs. I recently had the opportunity to photograph some very special people from a culture I knew very little about, and the moments I spent photographing and just being with these people were the shining moments of my time on their land. And while I took a polaroid camera so I could give them some pics on location I had no luck with it and it kept dying on me! However now I am home again I have had so much fun getting a bunch of prints made and in fact they are on their way to them as I write. I think one can give back so much by taking beautiful photos of people, and its a privilege to be able to do this. Thank you for this beautiful post and your beautiful as always pics. Love Millie xx

    November 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm
  • Catherine Cummings

    Hello Carla,

    How do you handle the legalities of snapping a stranger’s picture? If you wait to ask permission, sometimes the moment is gone. Is there a difference between countries? I wish I could l just feel and click, I think my photos would be much better! Thank you for your advice. C

    November 8, 2016 at 4:51 pm
  • for anyone new to shooting strangers on the streets, one of the best places to start is by joining up to the Flickr Group called “100 Strangers”. This group has been active for many years (yes, long before Humans of NY) and the premise is on learning to master your portraiture skills by approaching strangers on the street and asking their permission to make their portrait right there and then. It takes courage to do this but the group has many members who will support you along the way as well as lots of tips and tricks on getting started. One word of warning though… it’s very addictive once you get the hang of it. I’ve been doing this for 5 years now and have met some amazing people with incredible stories to tell and made some stunning portraits along the way. This project is truly food for the soul.

    November 15, 2016 at 9:27 am