on taking photos of strangers

[oh, long post alert! but you may find it interesting though! grab a lemonade, sit back and relax, please!]

attention all photographers, this might be interesting for you. or even for those who are not photographers, but are interested in understanding some things! now, let me start with one common opinion, photographers are only wedding photographers because they didn’t succeed on any other kind of photography. most people make that weird silence when someone says “i’m a wedding photographer!” or just answer with an “oh…” i know that some of my friends that are not actually into these things or don’t follow my work that closely may think “she’s shooting weddings now, poor little thing!”

a year ago or something i was introduced to a really stylish guy that was friends with a friend of mine. this stylish guy worked for a communication agency and for what i heard he has worked with really popular tv shows in portugal. my friend told me in front of this guy “oh you should show him your blog and your work!”. so i grabbed his mac and opened my blog terrified of what might be his opinion. i also told him that i was a photographer, though back then i think my voice was really low when i got to that part, because i was still shy about that fancy sentence “i am a photographer!” he looked at what i did and asked “what kind of photography do you do?” and i had no idea what to say! how would i know? until last september i took photos of things! that was basically it! things i saw on the street, the street itself, vespas, old cars, flowers, lisbon… but there wasn’t one word that i could think of that would be enough to answer his question. until he scrolled down on the blog, saw some photos and asked “oh it’s editorial?” and i said “yeah that’s it!”. and now i realize that editorial was not my word!

fast forward all these months and the fact is that since then i have been shooting children, newborns, pregnant women, friends having fun at bachelorette parties and weddings, or what i call lifestyle photography. and i still do my other undefined-kind-of-photography, which is basically having my camera with me most of the times and just take the chance at taking a nice picture of this city or wherever i am. is it considered travel photography when it’s my own city? i wonder…

and all this takes me to that point on the topic taking photos to strangers and being a wedding photographer. first of all being a wedding photographer is amazingly hard! first the pressure of doing things fast, you need to know what you’re doing, you need to think fast, you need to react to sunlight, shade, wind, harsh light, low light, distractions in the background, moments that won’t be happening again (“oh i’m sorry i didn’t catch you both coming out from the church, can you do that again?”), people calling you here and there for some pictures, bride and groom expecting you to tell them how to pose in 23 different ways, and then play in your head all those camera, lens and flash requirements, so that you can make the right decisions in the right moment! it’s really hard!

so don’t you go cringe your face on me with your “oh…” when i say i also shoot weddings! it’s not that kind of conventional, boring, and somehow a bit fake wedding photography, it’s the other kind of wedding photography. the one that makes you smile when you see the photos, the one that makes you shed a tear maybe (i haven’t had a bride saying this to me, but i find hugely emotional – ok, maybe corny too!, and would love that one bride could say that to me!), the kind of wedding photography that takes you to the day that seems such a blur just the day after it, the one that gives you back the details, the looks, the smiles, the hugs and kisses. but it’s hard, because it’s not that point-and-shoot the usual poses and guests and then selling them by dinner time. it’s the one that takes weeks to be finished!

and the other part is also taking pictures of strangers. that is also a bit hard, i must confess. it’s becoming less harder and as i’ve been shooting relatively small weddings, it’s become easier every time i have to do it! people know who you are, what you’re there for, and will remain doing what they’re doing (because that’s what i want) or even look at you and smile (also a favourite!). this also takes me to my final point, the reason i started this topic after all! taking photos to complete strangers on the street, approaching them asking them for permission to take their photo. that is my challenge in these next months and 2013. i’m not the kind of person who makes a list of wishes for the new year, but i want to have this project. it pushes you to a limit of unknown and challenge to: first) approach a stranger on the street; second) take his/her picture and third) let him/her know what you’re going to do, hand him/her a business card or something. i keep finding interesting people on the street and i wish all these times i had the nerve to do this. well, when i bought my zoom lens i thought i could start practicing, at least from far, which is also hard as i always think that a sign will pop over my head saying “yes, i’m this far but my huge lens is taking your picture!”.

anyway these were the first ones! i have more to come, this time no zoom lens and with people looking at me straight in the eye and smiling. it was amazing! i almost felt some adrenaline all over my body! i think it might be addictive! really anxious to share those with you! have a great weekend!

note: this is a part of the august break, which means that i’ll be blogging on a lighter mode, no usual features, just pictures and a few words! remember that on the last week the blog will shut down for a new look! looking forward to it!


  1. First of all, I also don’t know how to define your photography, but I know the common patter of them which is emotion! All your photos, either from a wedding, pets, lifestyle photography they all seem to tell a story and I truly love that. It’s not easy to achieve a certain “brand” and be recognized for your work, but you did that! You’ve worked a lot to get where you are today, it’s not just point and shoot, it’s passion mixed with several hours learning how to do better. And guess what, you always seem to get better when that seems almost impossible to achieve :)
    Also, I do believe you’re very good with words. Not only I love your photos but I also love the way you write and what you write too.
    As for the strangers, I always fancied to have the nerve to do that. Sometimes I find people sitting in front of me and I’m thinking how I wish I could photograph them, but I keep quiet and feel shy or feel that I’m invading their privacy. But I’m sure you’ll do that!
    I remember that I found a photographer that was asking permission to photograph strangers and was also interested in knowing a little bit of their story. Something like this:

    Good luck dear Twiggs, this is quite a challenge, but you’ll do just fine. Everyone likes you, from a first sight you already look very friendly :)

    • hello lilly! thank you so much for your lovely comment! you are always such a supporter!!! i’ll be able to do it, i know… but it’s really hard sometimes! thank you for the link btw, i’ll need to check that in detail this week! i thought about something like that, but without the one-per-day pressure! i know that wouldn’t work for me!

  2. Pingback: new work // strangers portraits - A Place for Twiggs | Photography, Design, Travel & Food

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