I was raised to believe that the “nail-that-sticks-up-gets-hammered-down.” My default mode is to stand in the background and blend in with the crowd. In part, its led me to being a photographer. I tended be the observer of the group, letting others be the center of attention. But it’s also hindered me as a photojournalist. I’ve always been a bit shy in approaching people, and people is what newspaper photography is all about.
When I first started at The Record 25 years ago, I watched veteran photographer the late Dave Evans shoot a simple mugshot in the studio. He found some common ground with his subject and held a conversation to put him at ease. I doubt that his subject barely knew he was being photographed. The shoot didn’t last too long, but what Dave did impressed me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to overcome that introvertedness, but still it’s more work for me to do so than for others for whom it comes naturally.
(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @19mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/ 11 with Nikon SB-800 strobes. ISO: 100)
The other day when I shot the pictures of a set of Barbie dolls for the previous post, I took them out a local park so that I could get the nice clouds in the background. I set up two light stands with Nikon SB-800 strobes and umbrellas. My 11-year-old son came with me to help out, but was afraid that he had to actually touch the dolls. I assured him that all he had to do was to keep the stands from blowing over in the wind and he was good with it.
(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/ 8 with Nikon SB-800 strobes. ISO: 100)
I set up the Barbies on the edge of a pedestrian/bike path. To get a shot of them I had to lay down on the grass. My son gave me a heads up when he saw some people approach our position. I told him it was OK and not to worry. They passed by, giving a few curious glances, but I mostly ignored them and continued photographing. During dinner later that day, I told my 13-year-old daughter (soon to be 14) what I did and she was horrified. She was sure that some of her friends or their parents must have seen me. I told her that only a couple of people were actually close enough to see what I was doing.
To be almost any kind of photographer, you can’t be shy. Sometimes that’s what keeps some people from getting some great pictures. From scrambling to an unusual spot to shoot a nice landscape to making people comfortable with you and your camera, getting the shots that you want sometimes takes a little audacity. That doesn’t mean you have to be rude or intrusive, but you can’t be too concerned with what other people think. You just have to get out there and do it with confidence.