My First Stranger.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop hosted by the talented Lou O’Bedlam. Although I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, I was getting inspired. Not only was I getting inspired to take more picutres, I was getting inspired to focus on stepping out of my comfort zone and going after my dreams.

Lou talked about recently teaching his nephew how to ask a girl out. His advice was simple: “Just ask her”. His nephew replied, “But then what would I say?”. “Woah!, that’s phase 2, don’t worry about that. Focus on phase 1: Asking her”.

The analogy was straight forward enough and was advice for us as photographers if we want to take pictures of the strangers we meet in the street. The worst that can happen is they can say no.

I took my camera to work today determined I would simply take pictures of all the interesting people I met. Throughout the day I saw several ideal candidates. But I can’t ask her, she has headphones on. She’s walking too fast, must be in a rush. The light’s not right. He doesn’t look friendly. She’s too tall, I’d have to climb something to get the right angle, but she’ll think I’m just trying to take a picture of her boobs… My brain found an excuse in an instant for all of them. The truth was that I was a big scared wimp.

I went out again, on my own this evening to walk around the harbour specifically to see if I could pluck up the courage to ask someone if I could take their portrait. All too soon, my opportunities were missed and the sun had set so I headed home dragging my heels. On the way however I saw a girl with an amazing look and I went for it so spontaneously that I surprised myself.


She looks startled. I mean, very startled. It’s quite late and there are only one or two other people around. I panic a little and start to blurt out my words at record pace (the opposite of Lou’s advice):

“Erm, I know this is a bit random, but you have a really pretty and interesting face, do you mind if  take your picture?”

She’s still startled, perhaps so much so she can’t think of a better answer:

“Um, yeah, ok”

What? She said yes. Christ, now I’m gonna have to take this thing, where’s the light? It’s about 9:45pm and getting dark. I don’t want to use flash. I slap the camera on aperture priority to f/1.8 and cross my fingers.


Blurry, damn.

I glance up and can see she wants to leave. She heard a click and I only asked for a photo. I can’t remember what I then said, some mumbling nonsense about grain and ISO settings probably. I quickly knock the ISO up to 800.


I eyeball the screen, blurry? Probably. Good enough? Yes!

“Thanks so much for letting me take them. I can see I’m freaking you out a bit so I’m just gonna go the long way home over this way so you don’t think I’m following you. Er.. thanks again.”

I start to scuttle off, feeling awful for scaring the poor girl then hear a feint “Cheers”. Maybe she’s just a little shocked, but flattered. I wanted to give her my card so she could at least choose to email me if she wanted to see the photos but I forgot. I didn’t even tell her my name, or ask her hers. The whole thing was a nightmare display of clumsy social awkwardness that would make any observer cringe. Did I step out of my comfort zone? Yes. Did I learn about 50 things in as many seconds? Yes. None of that matters, that’s just perfecting phase 2. I’ll work on that tomorrow…