The most recent trip I took was the first where I made a real effort to capture “straight” portraits. In Thailand I found it pretty easy to convince people to pause for a moment for a photo. Usually I tried to make eye contact first, smile, and then gesture with my camera. It probably helps that the beloved King of Thailand is a camera nut too.
It did take me way out of my comfort zone, though. Usually I capture people candidly, if I photograph people at all. A friend recently described my work as “quite cold and detached. Even when you photograph people, there’s a bit of quiet sadness.”
I’m actually quite happy with that description, even though I’m a pretty warm and friendly person. Hell, I even have a comedy podcast!
I don’t think I’ve really answered your question, though. Here’s what it comes down to: if you’re going to shoot people surreptitiously I’d suggest shooting from the hip. I always travel with the same glass and I know exactly how to frame my shots without lifting the camera from my lap. If you’re going to take a composed, straight portrait get permission first. It is totally legal to photograph people in public places, but the line between public and private property is getting blurrier by the year, and most people on the sidewalk won’t care about the laws if they don’t appreciate you pointing your lens at them.
And finally, if you’re going to license your work you’ll probably need a signed release from anybody appearing in your photos, and you might even need the signature of the property-owners of any buildings you shoot inside of, but it is legal to shoot private property from public property.
Thank you so much! I was really honoured to be invited onto Attention Surplus, each week those guys put out a great episode. If you look really closely at some of the gear photos I’ve posted you can see the odd mark or scratch, but you’re right - maybe I should really shine the spotlight on my most used and abused equipment. You might cringe.
By the way, I also appear pretty regularly on the photo-themed Full Frame podcast. We rarely get as personal and abstract as my interview on Attention Surplus but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Again, thank you so much. It’s enough of an honour that so many people take the time to enjoy my photos, and it means even more that you would take the time to listen to my thoughts.