To keep it real:
It’s not always so easy. In the small fishing town of Hopkins, Belize, even though there was no language barrier, I found making portraits of the locals much more challenging than in Bali.
However, the same lessons were revealed. Approach someone with a smile, compliment them, show respect, and ask politely to take their photograph. Many people in Belize, mostly men, declined. As a photographer who is visualizing a killer shot, it is hard to walk away, but it is more important to show the upmost respect.
2) Zoom with your Feet (Change your vantage point and work quickly!)
Once you’ve made a genuine connection and you have your subject’s permission, “zoom” by moving your feet, rather than just the focal length of your lens. Think about how it feels when someone points a camera at you – perhaps you are a closet supermodel, but I assume most us get a little sweaty palm action as the self-consciousness creeps in.
Therefore, for the following series of images, I began by kindly approaching this lovely woman as she washed her dishes. Realizing I was stepping into a stranger’s personal space, with immense respect, I complimented her on the color of her beautiful home, her adorable kids, and how the light was just perfect.
When she obliged to my request to take a few photographs, I started by stepping back to document the entire scene with a wide vantage point. Then, I moved in closer for a full-length photo of her daughter, as I sensed she was open to my camera. Finally, as I interacted and sensed her comfort, I took a close-up portrait, which fit my original vision. As a token of gratitude, I showered her with compliments as I showed her the images I had captured.
Know your camera, be quick, and continue to connect with a smile as you shoot. This intentional approach not only allows your subject to ease into having their portrait taken, but it also gives you a diverse collection of images from a variety of vantage points.