You have probably been in a street environment where there’s an opportunity to take a candid portrait and you know that calling attention to the camera will spoil the moment. What to do? Many factors come into it; the country you’re in, the purpose of your photograph, whether you think the person objects to having their photo taken. It depends very much on the circumstances–but the bottom line is to have respect for the subject.
Magnum photographer Carolyn Drake relates, “It depends on the circumstances. There is a pleasure in disappearing behind the camera on a crowded city street, and sometimes making the picture before the conversation makes for a more surprising picture. But if there’s someone I want to pose or spend time with, or who for some other reason it seems to make sense to ask, then I will. It’s a judgement call.”
In my experience, I have had success in engaging with the person, and asking, “May I take your photo?” Then I may look for more candid moments as I take some photos. Spending a little time with people and engaging with them may lead to more authentic portraits.
Photo tip: Try making the subject’s environment part of the portrait. These details can help form a narrative about the person.