How to Photograph a Complete Stranger

"Don't talk to strangers!" How many times did you hear that as a child? Now that you're all grown up - and traveling the world - you'll want to take a totally different track. Chatting with locals gives you insight into their world and culture. But how do you push through the awkwardness that arises when asking to photograph a stranger? These five tips will make the process easier.

How to Photograph a Complete Stranger
How to Photograph a StrangerJon Whittle

1. Smile

It sounds so simple, but a smile is the best gateway to forming a new relationship - even if your foreign language skills are limited.

2. Act Interested

Any photograph will be enhanced if you possess a natural curiosity about the subject. If you see someone you find interesting, invest time in learning about that person. Ask questions; find out what makes them tick. This approach gets your subject more comfortable with you and the camera, which results in a much more honest, memorable picture.

3. Practice First

If you're having a tough time reaching out to a complete stranger, try your approach with those more accustomed to getting their picture taken - such as an employee on a cruise ship or in a hotel. Guides are great people to practice with: Not only are they used to being photographed, but you can also enlist their help to snap locals while on the tour.

4. Show Your Photos

Keep the photo session rolling by showing your subject the shots you're taking. I've often had reluctant subjects come alive once they've seen the photo I've just snapped. This goes double for children. It's not uncommon to start photographing on child and once his or her friends see the results, you'll be surrounded by willing subjects!

5. Know Your Camera

You've likely only got a few minutes to shoot your subject before that person needs to get back to his or her day - and you don't want to spend half that time fumbling with your controls. Learn to see the light and judge possible backgrounds and positions before you even approach someone.