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Are you in or are you out?

Auctioneer, make your bid

Auctioneer, make your bid

As part of a new project I’m taking a lot of photos of people. It’s not something I’m comfortable with and so while I watch the people who I hope to be my subjects I’m also watching and learning a good deal about myself.

This project requires me to be close to the people I’m photographing, not allowing me to stand back and catch them with a longer lens. For the best results I need to put them at ease with my being there with a camera. Not an easy thing to do when I’m not at ease with the situation either.

During a photo review process this particular image from a small estate auction I attended spoke to me. In my mind the auctioneer is pointing to me and asking, “Are you in or are you out?” That’s a question I’ve got to answer. If I hang back without making a bid, taking a chance for that really great photo, then I’ll never win. I’ve let opportunities pass by before because of my own feelings of awkwardness.

There’s a need to become more relaxed in these close-up situations, overcome my own shyness and put the people I wish to photograph more at ease. It’s certainly not an easy task for me and I wish I knew a more elegant solution but the only way I know to accomplish this to keeping pushing beyond my comfort zone, hoping it does eventually become a more comfortable process.

Anyone got a secret to this they want to share? :-)

21 Comments on Are you in or are you out?

  1. No secrets, unfortunately. Sometimes I can overcome the social inhibitions and take the shots I want, and sometimes I can’t. I think it does get easier with practice – or at least, I hope so!

    • I don’t expect to get to the point that I don’t feel a little stressed out but I’d certainly like to lower that stress point from where it is now.

  2. I think you answered your own question Earl — keep pushing beyond your comfort zone. Good thoughts.

    • PJ, thanks, I was hoping someone had an easier way. ;-) Sabrina comments below on an interesting way to approach it, replace fear with curiosity. It may actually help!

  3. No thoughts or inspiration here. I suck at this.

  4. I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s always uncomfortable even scary, at least for me. The best piece of advice I can give you is something Ray told me. Replace fear with curiosity and it changes everything. I think it’s working for me.

    • Sabrina, I sincerely appreciate you sharing this. Putting it in that frame does seem to make it more approachable/doable. That Ray is a smart guy isn’t he? I’d enjoy meeting him sometime. :-)

  5. We do try and keep within our comfort zones, for anything. There have been times when I can approach people and other times I freeze up and walk away without the shot. I’ve also had those times when I encountered the people but never took a photo. I just needed the encounter. I do like Ray’s suggestion also. It curiously makes sense. Show us more, my friend.

    • Monte, yeah, it’s easy to stay where we’re comfortable. It’s only recently I’ve been pushing more outside my comfort zone. Photography gives me reason to push but I believe there are benefits for me well beyond photography.

  6. Excellent, Earl. I think that if you keep at it, you’ll find it rewarding. You’ll probably strike up a number of conversations. I can understand your reticence. Having met you, I know that you’re of a quiet temperament.

    I still get those jitters on the street, sometimes I can press through, other times not. I applaud you for even trying. It takes a lot of courage to move out of your comfort zone. Two thumbs up to you, my friend!!!

    • Paul, thanks! I’ve filling the role of “unofficial” photographer as well as IT at my new job so it’s a wonderful opportunity to push through my own discomfort. It’s really hard sometimes.

  7. Oh yeah, also a wing man helps. I’d be happy to fly with you! :)

  8. I am not a ‘stranger’ person and have a very hard time pushing thru to just walk up and ask. However the ‘terminal curiosity’ I suffer from tends to override the resistance in most cases. It is that just wanting to know who and what that makes any fear go to the background. I have to admit that I often forget to get the image I get so involved in finding out something. Lots of ways to suppress the fear or shyness and most of them work but the best is a genuine care and wanting to find out something about them. Good post Earl

    • Ray, I think approaching it from another angle, say curiosity, is a wonderful tip for skirting some of the awkwardness I believe most of us feel. I’ve often felt I’m intruding when I approach someone but I’ve been trying to be more genuine and connect on some level before the shutter snaps. It’s often as simple as telling them in basic terms why I want to make a photo…because I find something special or unique about them or what they are doing. Who doesn’t like to hear that? Thanks!

  9. I think this is why I stick to leaves and rocks. :-)

    • Mark, I may well return to leaves and rocks but at the moment it’s people I’m being asked to photograph and it’s certainly an interesting experience for me. :-)

  10. Earl,

    I feel the same way as you. I have taken candids of people, whether it be adults or kids. Sometimes I strike up a conversation and show an interest in what they are doing, to engage them, and then I raise the camera and shoot, followed by more conversation and interest.
    If i linger around and take photos “around” people, I can easily point it at them and take the shot. I have several photos of people, but I usually keep them to myself and not post them online. I have done many youth sports photos, and I’ve even shared them with the parents, to engage with them. Next time, I will just become part of the scene and be “known” to them. Being a Youth Mentor also allows me better access to take photos of people, especically kids at play or involved in sports, etc. I love to capture kids expressions.
    Even though I’ve done it many times, there is still that little knot in your stomach when you want the shot, but fear holds you back. Invlove yourself with your subjects, show and hold up the camera about half way, let them get used to seeing it and it will become more natural for them also.


    • Alan, yeah, I’m finding making some type of connection with the person your photographing is key to getting both parties (them and me) to relax.

  11. Nice one here and an excellent project. This is an area I am also very uncomfortable with. eeeek

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