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Food For Digital Thought: Never Talk To Strangers?

The pyramids in Cairo, Egypt.

The pyramids in Cairo, Egypt.

I don’t know about you, but when my four kids were young, I stressed upon them (just about every day) to never talk to strangers…no matter what!!! I suppose it’s good all around advice, and you certainly can’t go wrong taking this advice, but you sure can miss out on some great portraits, especially when you’re traveling out of the country you’re living in.

I know that in my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet for a lot of my fellow photographers walking up to a complete stranger and asking to take his or her portrait is “above and beyond the call of duty”. I’ve actually written a post called “getting over the hump” where I address this common issue. I can assure you that once you can get over the hump, a brand new world can and will open up for you.

What I mean is that taking pictures of churches, monuments, parks, city streets, famous bridges, etc., or any number of photo ops a location can offer is fun, and it’s always nice to go back home with pictures of the outside of lets say Notre Dame, or The Vatican, or a famous temple in the Orient, but I’m here to tell you that you’re missing out if you don’t capture the cultural and sometimes physical differences of the people in these countries as well by showing a diversity of the people themselves. Then, and only then will your family slideshow take on a new meaning…a meaning that just might keep Uncle Jack awake until the cake and coffee comes that he was promised in the first place.

I’ve always figured that people around the world are friendly and all someone can say is no, but if you approach it the right way, more than likely they’ll say OK. So you ask, what’s the right way to approach a stranger? Well for one thing don’t walk up with a camera in your hand and point it into someone’s face. That’s just about the last thing you should do. Be discreet, keep the camera over your shoulder but behind you so as not to be intimidating.

I try to engage a person in a conversation (my camera still hidden from view). Or, I’ll be shooting something close by and ask if they would be in my photograph, making it seem as though they were not the subject. Once I’ve broken through that initial introductions, it becomes easier to make them the center of interest…as in a portrait. Btw, I always ask for their e-mail address and offer to send them a copy.

For me, traveling to different countries with a camera in my hand is just about the most exciting and rewarding thing I could ever think of doing. I personally love to talk to people and take their pictures. I enjoy the one-to-one relationship even though it lasts for only a few minutes, and when I go back home I relive that brief encounter. It will always remain a wonderful memory no matter how much time goes by. I need only to bring them up on my computer from time to time and it’s just like stepping back in time. It’s a feeling one should not miss out on.

Here’s a few portraits taken from seas to shining sea:


Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2014 workshop schedule. I have a few places left at The Maine Media Workshop starting this coming July 27th. It’s the granddaddy of them all, and a wonderful campus filled with energy and photography talk everywhere. It’s the week of the Lobster Festival in Rockland just down the road and the State Fair in Bangor. A great week to forget everything and immerse yourself in photography. I also have three places left for my coordinated trip with Epic Photo Tours in Myanmar next February. a fabulous country rich in photo opportunities. Come shoot with me.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.


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    { 4 comments… add one }
    • bob May 28, 2014, 12:39 pm

      Joe, how In the world do you get these colors? They look like the old film colors like William eggleston and steven shore and others used to get? Is there a special photoshop action or plugin you use?

      • Joe June 1, 2015, 11:15 am


        It’s knowing where to stand in relation to the light source…when to stand there, and how long you have to shoot while standing there.


    • Geoff June 1, 2015, 8:26 am

      I remember some of these photos from our Stretching Your Frame of Mind classes. Such great shots! Makes me want to try shooting people again.


      • Joe June 1, 2015, 11:16 am

        Just do it Geoff!!!


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