Are You Afraid to Ask?

We rarely get to see extraordinary people in our everyday lives. Have you had one of those moments when you saw a stranger that you really wanted to take a picture of? I am sure you have. So what did you do? Did you just photograph the person from afar without them knowing, try to talk that person into being your 30 second model or perhaps you might have tried to sneak up and take a picture? Or even worse, maybe you did not take a picture at all? I guess it has to do with our personality. If you are of shy type with a low confidence level (often a photography rookie), you might be even afraid to ask. That dreaded “No” can be quite discouraging to say the least and many of us don’t even bother to ask for that very reason.

I once asked a big tattooed guy to take his picture, because he had a very colorful outfit that looked very interesting with his tattoos. With plenty of anger on his face, his response was that he would break my camera if I even tried. Oh well, not everyone is approachable for sure! It certainly sounded very discouraging, but did it make me give up on asking? Of course not. I have asked many people since then. And I have photographed many of them, some of which later became my clients.

While doing a short photo walk with the Canon 5D Mark III in Disney Downtown, I came across an Italian guy, who danced away to tunes played by local artists. His dancing was not very good (meaning, he is not a professional dancer or anything), but the way he was dressed and he moved attracted a lot of people:

Street Dancer (1)

He had a lot of joy and he did it non-stop for a while, hopping between multiple performers:

Street Dancer (2)

When the music finally ended, I approached him and asked: “Sir, you are a phenomenal dancer. I am a professional photographer and I would love to take your photograph with my camera. Would you mind doing a couple of poses for me while I fire away? I will send you those photos via email”. He listened to me and then answered “Yes, sure!”, without hesitation.

It was a very crowded area of Disney (when is it not crowded?), so I spotted a corner near me and asked him to come with me. My first request was “could you strike a cool pose for me?”. I love asking people to do this, because most have no idea what to do. But those who like having fun do strike a really fun pose. But not him. He just stood there and stared at me, wondering what he should be doing. So without further delay, I spread my legs, crossed my hands and said “how about like this?”. This is what I got:

Street Dancer (3)

I knew that I would not have him for more than a minute, so without correcting his pose, I decided to change the pose to something different. After doing a few quick snaps, I got close and started capturing some of the amazing details he had on his clothing:

Street Dancer (4)

Street Dancer (8)

Why did I think he was Italian? Check out his cool Ferrari hat:

Street Dancer (6)

And yellow shoes to match the colors:

Street Dancer (5)

I also asked him where he was from and he proudly said “Italia! Can’t you tell from my clothes?”

Street Dancer (7)

Don’t be afraid to ask. There are so many different opportunities around you every day. Don’t miss them all out just because you do not feel comfortable doing it! There will be lots of “No”s in your life, but the “Yes”es can be quite rewarding.

All photographs were captured with the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM lens.


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Murph

    Y’know Nasim, I was just thinking about this the other day as I was at a BIG bike rally here in Germany, there were a LOT of Outlaw bikers there, so I wanted to take their picture, so I figured ‘what the hell’ I went up and asked a few of them, ‘hey, ok if I take a couple of shots’?. I got the ‘ I’ll break your camera response’ from one of them, but the rest were cool with it, especially the top guy.

    Good article,

    Regards from Holland ( where I am until July )

    Irish Murph.

  2. Fantastic article, really echoes things I have been wondering about recently…

  3. 3
    ) Shiroy

    Thanks Mansurov.. This has always been a question in mind when approaching strangers for photographing.

  4. Hey Nasim! Totally agree with you. Last year I also went and asked a guy on the street (in Rotterdam, The Netherlands). The only reason I dared to was because I was part of one of the world wide photo walks (originally by Scott Kelby). But in retrospect I realized that you don’t need to be on a photo walk to do it. And I was surprised by the friendliness with which the old sailor complied. This is one of the results:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26498881@N06/6211993981/

  5. 5
    ) Heidi

    My problem here in Japan is that if you ask they generally say yes, but you always get the two handed peace sign. And now, because my kids go to Japanese school, my kids do this too. That is if I am lucky enough to get them to let me take their picture! usually I have to resort to begging and bribing. It’s humbling. They are 13,12 and 8. maybe, a tutorial for another time?! Love your posts!
    Heidi

  6. 6
    ) Iqbal

    Nasim,
    I just checked the exif data of pictures above, and the majority were taken with hi ISO settings. The noise level looks pretty well controlled. How is it compared to the D700, in a glance?
    And why chose the center-weighted metering mode + 0.33eV?
    Any problem with the evaluative one?
    Just curious :)

  7. 7
    ) DW Photos

    Nice article. I know the feeling you’re talking about all too well and more often than not I try to sneak technique instead of just asking. Here’s an example of a guy who was just too interesting not to want to photograph but the trolley was noisy and instead of asking I placed the camera on my lap and started shooting from the hip!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/76634787@N08/6874746338/in/photostream

  8. 8
    ) christophe

    i know that guy….i used to talk to him all the time at the Millenia Mall in Orlando!! he is really a cool guy and funny as hell!!!!

    • Are you serious? :) LOL, the world is small for sure! So he drives a couple of Ferraris huh?

      • 10
        ) christophe

        i remember a few years back…he had a all white Ed hardy outfit ( that ‘s all he was buying at the time)..so me and my friends had some talks with him, and he told us about his cars…
        i don’t know if you really had time to talk to him…but he is really nice :)

        • Haha, very nice! No, I didn’t talk to him, because it was very crowded and loud around us :) The world is small!

  9. This has happened to me so much recently. I’m currently just using a little compact camera while I save up for a DSLR, and it doesn’t seem as acceptable to go up to someone if you’re only using a small camera sadly, as you don’t come across as a ‘photographer’ as such. I’ve just started a little blog with my photos, perhaps you could take a look? :) http://willsnewman.tumblr.com/

    • 15
      ) Michael Hawk

      William the photos on your blog are outstanding. All the more so considering the camera you are using. It’s good proof that it’s the photographer, not the camera that creates wonderful photographs. Good on you!

  10. 13
    ) Che Ibarra

    I am not afraid to ask anyone to take their photo. It’s my personality and nature. I stick my camera in everywhere. ” I just approach them and ask them: That is a cool look, or I dig your hat, shoes, etc can I photograph it” (of course before I even asked I had already fired some shots from the hip). Once I asked someone if I could photograph his dressed up pudge dog. He ask me if I was a professional photographer. I said No, but I do read Nasim Mansurov’s articles….so he said oh ok and agreed :)

  11. 14
    ) Autumn

    Nasim,

    Great Article! What a small world! I actually met this guy a couple of months ago in Downtown Disney while I was there and he was awesome! I was actually online trying to find a way I could purchase the outfit he had on as a Christmas gift and I couldn’t find it anywhere. He had on a Ferrari shirt similar to the one above and the hat and shorts as well. A google image search brought me to you page. Your article above mentioned you have an email for him…do you think you could reach out to him and ask how i can get the shirt or provide me with an email? I would greatly appreciate it! Much Thanks!

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