Saturday, October 3, 2009

Clicking People Portraits

It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.
~Paul Strand

I've had many people ask me how I engage the people I photograph and get them to relax in front of the camera, and really open up to me. They want to know if it’s difficult for me to approach absolute strangers and what I do or say to them to get them to agree to be photographed. And they want to know how I respond when a crowd starts to gather around me while I’m photographing someone.

The Boy in the Orange Shirt

To be honest, I never really gave it much thought until so many people began asking me how I did it. I think my big “secret” (which really isn’t much of a secret at all) is that I love people. I’ve always been very friendly and outgoing and I’ve always loved interacting with just about everybody, especially when I travel. And for me, the best way to convey this joy is by simply being friendly and smiling around the people I am interested in clicking. Smiling is the one universal symbol that everyone understands. And when they see me smiling, they automatically smile back. Try it sometimes. Smiling never fails to disarm and engage strangers.

The Little Banjara Girl

I believe that friendliness and interest in people comes through in my candid portrait work.

Badnaith - The Chikki Wala

Some things to remember however, is generally ask people if you can click them. Even if you don’t speak their language, there are simple ways to make your intentions known. Plus it invites them in and allows them to become an integral part of the whole photographic process. It also removes any tension that might develop if you click someone without their permission and they become offended by the intrusion. The last thing you want is a group of angry locals chasing you down the beach threatening to beat the crap out of you for photographing their grandmother when she asked you not to.

Eyes of Fire

To get more intimate shots, I always use my 17mm-85mm lens, instead of a long telephoto lens. I’m not a big fan of ‘sniper’ shots at the best of times – when you are so far removed from your subject that the people you are photographing don’t even know that they are being clicked. What I like is being up close and personal.

The Little Boy With Owl Eyes

I’ve also developed my technique of ‘shooting from the hip’, whereas I never hold the camera up to my face, but literally fire from hip level, which, for a small person, is at their eye-level or below. What this eliminates are the typical small-person-looking-up-at-the-camera shots and, while you are clicking that way, you can continue to engage your subject, which I think gives you a more natural, informal portraits.

Feeding Time at the Taj

Little Girl and Child at the Train Station


Friday, July 31, 2009

Kids at Versova Beach

To shoot poignant pictures we only need follow the path of our enthusiasm . I believe that this feeling is the universe's way of telling us that we are doing the right thing. The viewing public will always disagree over the intrinsic merits of a particular photograph, but no one can deny the enthusiasm that originally inspired us to capture and offer that image to others.
- Timothy Allen

"Kids at Versova Beach" was taken on the afternoon of 17 April 2008, on Versova Beach in Mumbai India, with a Canon EOS 30D at 160th of a second at f9. The ISO was set to 400.

My wife and I had been down at the beach to watch the sunset. All around us the kids from the beach slums were frolicking in the sand and water and having a great time.

The minute I pulled out my camera and started to click them, they all went nuts. They absolutely loved having their photos taken. They posed in groups and as individuals. Within 10 minutes, there must have been 20 or 30 kids surrounding us. We all had a great time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.
~Paul Strand

They caught me.
I was zooming in on them and they saw me.

We had just arrived at the Karol Bagh Metro Station in Delhi and raced down the stairs to catch an auto back to the hotel.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted these two incredibly tiny, raggedly dressed and filthy dirty street urchins hiding behind a cement pillar watching us. As we walked past them, they both zoomed across to the next pillar, fantastically comic-like, like you would see on an episode of Bugs Bunny. And each time I looked over at them, they laughingly hid behind the pillar and all I could see was their huge eyes peering out from behind the yellow painted column of cement.

That was when I pulled out my camera and began clicking them.

When they got over their initial shyness, I offered them each 10 rupees to photograph them and Henna offered them her can of Diet Coke. They were more happy with the Coke than anything else and hung around for about 30 seconds before racing off in search of another adventure.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Rice Planter...

I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before.
~Robert Mapplethorpe

This photo was taken on the afternoon of 13 August 2005, on the island of Bali in Indonesia. We were just coming down from visiting a Hindu Temple on the side of one of the Island's two volcanoes when the driver quickly rounded us up and into the van.

A storm was brewing above the volcano's peaks and it appeared he was in a rush to get down off the mountain side before the rains began. The road was narrow and treacherous, winding back and forth the entire way down, and our driver was driving far too fast for the road conditions. All of us sat wide-eyed and white-knuckled in the back of the van praying we weren't going to hurl off into space and crash down into the steamy jungle below.

On two wheels, we screeched around one curve when, through the side window, I caught a fleeting glimpse of the rice paddy below. Faint with fear and more terrified then I ever remember being, I yelled at the driver to stop. I explained to him that I wanted to take a photo of the vista just off to our left. Since there was no place to pull off the side of the road, he told me I had only 30 seconds to shoot as there were cars coming quickly behind us. I jumped out and shot 3 quick photos before climbing back in the van.
This is one of them.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

From Between The Stone Feet Of Shiva

I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.
~Mary Ellen Mark

This one I stole.

I must confess that I stole her soul without asking in this shot. Normally I always ask people when I'm traveling if it's OK to photograph them.
But for this particular shot, I didn't have the chance.

Her father had asked her to stand between the feet of the massive statue above her and helped her climb up. I was off to one side photographing the big statue on the other side of roughly carved door to her left and didn't even notice her until her father called for her to step down.
It was at that precise moment, as she was a split second away from climbing down off the stone plinth, that she shot a gaze towards me. It was then that I clicked her image.
This is the only image I took of her.

Elephanta Caves, near Mumbai, India, May 8 2008