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Talking to Strangers : How I Got the Shot

We took a trip to L.A. after spending a week in Las Vegas for Photoshop World. We spent most of our days recording a new podcast series and working on lighting tutorials. To say we were exhausted is an understatement.

On our last day in L.A., we decided to take a break and photograph a sunset on Zuma beach; the same beach Baywatch was filmed at. I was too tired to bring a tripod – a mistake I would later regret. The always prepared Nick, our producer, had his tripod and was the only one shooting. This article isn’t about camera settings, (check out quick silhouette) it’s about talking to strangers, which lead to how I … err, Nick ... got the shot.

The Scene

The sunset was beautiful! Not having a camera, I was forced to use my cell phone. Nick was clicking away capturing HDR shots and having a blast. I was disappointed in myself for being too lazy to bring a tripod. While Nick was shooting, I saw three people having a fun taking photos of the sunset and of each other.

I smiled as I approached a young, beautiful girl. When she smiled back, I knew I could ask her to pose for us with her friends. I asked her if she could help my friend by posing for a silhouette on the life guard stand. She smiled bright and started to pose for Nick. While she was posing, I talked to the other two, a guy and a girl. I asked if they were together and they told me how they knew each other. I asked the male friend to pose with the girl. He smiled and took his position.

I took a quick cell phone shot to show them what the image will look like. They were excited and asked if I could send them the image. I gave them my business card and sent the cell image to the male for him to give to the girls. We struck up a conversation. Ashley, the first girl I met, was visiting from Virginia. Her friend JC lived in L.A. near her cousin. Ashley is a former Miss Montana. I told her I felt comfortable approaching her not because she was beautiful, I couldn’t see her from the distance I was at, but because she has such a joyful spirit. Ashley asked if she could add me on Facebook. When she added me she laughed and said you know Will King too, a mutual photography friend based out of Virginia. Ashely said she will be in Miami at the end of September shooting for a swimsuit company. Miami isn’t too far from our home base of Melbourne. I’m sure our paths will cross again!

Let’s dissect what happen

There are some lessons here to breakdown:

  1. Connect with a Smile. I approached the group smiling as I said hello. The first person to return a warm smile back was Ashley, so she was my contact person.
  2. Ask for Help. I asked for help posing for a silhouette. Nothing too crazy. Most people love helping.
  3. Get everyone Involved. I included the group while Ashley was posing for Nick, which made everyone feel involved.
  4. Find Common Ground. I asked how they knew each other and they told me their story. Ashely said she lives in Virginia. I told her my son goes to college in Maryland and we transported his car using the auto train which stopped in Virginia.
  5. Establish Your Identity. I showed them the cell phone image and handed them my business card. This showed I was for real. I told them to send me an email and I will send them the image. They asked if I could send the image to their cell phone.
  6. Respect Boundaries. I sent the guy, not the girls, the image and asked if he could send the image to the girls. This showed respect and honestly, it’s safer. A strange guy asking for a young girls number, in my option, could come off creepy.
  7. Don’t Push. Ashley felt comfortable to ask if she could add me to her Facebook friends. Had I asked, it could have come off as creepy. Remember, I asked for favor in the beginning. If I kept asking for things, she may have felt uncomfortable.
  8. Everybody Knows Somebody. Finding a mutual friend on Facebook helped. If Ashley and I decided to shoot in Miami, we will feel comfortable with each other.
  9. Be Honest. I told Ashley why I chose them. It wasn’t her beauty but her joy for life that drew me to her and her friends. If they were rude, obnoxious or the opposite, very shy, I wouldn’t have approached them.

What do you do if they say no?

Not everyone is friendly. If you prescreen strangers ahead of time, they are mostly likely to say yes. If they say no, just smile and say ok, thanks.

The next time you are out shooting, take a chance and talk to a stranger. Who knows, maybe you will make a new friend!

For more “How I Got the Shot” articles, click here

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