129 — How to Photograph Strangers

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #129 talks about how to pho­to­graph strangers in pub­lic so that your images are stronger and more inter­est­ing. I offer up 4 easy tips on how to make this process eas­ier so that your shots have more punch at the end. These pho­tographs were mostly taken over a period of 1 week. In the pod­cast I dis­cuss the dif­fer­ences between when the sub­ject is aware and unaware of the photographer’s presence.

Thanks to The Cam­era Store (The largest cam­era store in Cal­gary, Alberta, Canada)  for spon­sor­ing the Photography.ca podcast.

Click the player at the end of this post to lis­ten to (or down­load) the 11ish minute podcast.

Tens of thousands of cyclists lining up to start the Tour de L'isle. All it took was me waving my hand, and cyclists did the same. There is much more engagement than if I had not waved my hand and all the cyclists were looking in random directions.

Tens of thou­sands of cyclists lin­ing up to start the Tour de L’isle. All it took was me wav­ing my hand, and cyclists did the same. There is much more engage­ment than if I had not waved my hand and all the cyclists were look­ing in ran­dom direc­tions. I was not an offi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher for the event. I had the same access as every­one else.


I shot Raphael Aubry from the band Waiting Game at the Montreal Jazzfest. I had the same access as everyone else. I just waited patiently for this moment of eye contact while I was framing the scene.

I shot Raphael Aubry from the band Wait­ing Game at the Mon­treal Jaz­zfest. I had the same access as every­one else. I just waited patiently for this moment of eye con­tact while I was fram­ing the scene.


Every Sunday in Montreal, thousands of people gather at Mont-Royale for drumming, dancing etc. This image has no eye contact, but a strong gesture which for me, carries the image.

Every Sun­day in Mon­treal, thou­sands of peo­ple gather at Mont-Royale for drum­ming, danc­ing etc. This image has no eye con­tact, but a strong ges­ture which for me, car­ries the image.


I asked 5-6 people walking down the street if I could take their portrait. 100% of them said yes.Take a deep breath if you feel shy about this, people are flattered and tend to agree.

Just as a test for a group of adults i was giv­ing a course to, I asked 5–6 peo­ple walk­ing down the street if I could take their por­trait. 100% of them said yes. Take a deep breath if you feel shy about this, peo­ple are flat­tered and tend to agree over 90% of the time when I sim­ply ask them for permission.


The boy in this image never knew he was being photographed. The second I saw him engage in this behaviour I saw a story.

The boy in this image never knew he was being pho­tographed. The sec­ond I saw him engage in this behav­iour I saw a story. (click to enlarge this image)


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Although ALL com­ments are appre­ci­ated, com­ment­ing directly in this blog is pre­ferred. Many thanks to Nuno C., Bare­foot and Christo­pher Steven B. for their com­ments from the last pod­cast. Thanks as well for the emails and wel­come to all the new mem­bers of the bul­letin board.

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You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player.

Thanks for lis­ten­ing and keep on shooting!


Photographing Strangers — Teaser (podcast to follow)

Many pho­tog­ra­phers love to pho­to­graph peo­ple in the street but they are shy to put their cam­eras in front of people’s faces to take a portrait.

For our next pod­cast I set up a pho­tog­ra­phy exper­i­ment with com­plete strangers and I’ll share it (and other tips for pho­tograph­ing com­plete strangers) with you within a week. I give tips for cases when the sub­ject is aware of you, and tips for when sub­jects are unaware that they are being photographed.

For now, if you are feel­ing brave try break­ing your com­fort level; approach com­plete strangers and pho­to­graph them. Tips and the actual pod­cast to fol­low next week.

Stranger meditating in Parc La Fontaine in Montreal, QC.

Stranger med­i­tat­ing in Parc La Fontaine in Mon­treal, QC.

I Waited 30 Minutes in Line to See Chihuly — 6 Days Left

Dale Chi­huly is an Amer­i­can glass blow­ing artist/genius/innovator. I went to see his show at The Mon­treal Museum of Fine Arts last week and waited 30 min­utes in line because his pop­u­lar show is com­ing to an end and I’ve been busy for the last few months. The show ends offi­cially on Octo­ber 27th.


One of my great­est pet peeves on planet earth is wait­ing in line. Give me the best restau­rant in Paris, New York or Mon­treal and if I have to wait more than a few min­utes, I’d rather pick up a falafel or pizza slice and eat it on the go. Don’t get me wrong, I love good food, but my hate for line-waiting wins over nearly 100% of the time. Need­less to say, when I went to the museum last week and saw a line of about forty peo­ple I was not happy.  My wife and I sur­veyed the line. She knows me (and my bad whiny behav­ior) with lines…so she quickly told me that it was ‘my call’ and that we could leave imme­di­ately with­out con­se­quence. As we (mostly me) were mak­ing this deci­sion, the line sud­denly started to move rather quickly and a forty per­son wait turned to a thirty per­son wait. I bitched a bit but we sucked it up and waited in line.

Here’s my review. Words or pic­tures can’t do this show jus­tice and I only stayed at the show 60 min. It’s a 10/10 mas­ter­piece that needs to be expe­ri­enced. Period. So long as you are not colour blind, all I can say is go see it. It’s worth a 30 minute wait. It’s worth a one hour wait which is my max for wait­ing for absolutely any­thing non life-threatening. If you are a patient per­son though, it’s worth wait­ing all day.

Take your cam­era because pho­tog­ra­phy is 100% per­mit­ted and encour­aged. This mod­ern aspect of the exhi­bi­tion also impressed me because plenty of exhi­bi­tions are still in the dark ages with regard to pho­tog­ra­phy. Expect crowds but expect that the wait and bus­tle will be worth it. Expect to see the work of a Master.


Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal — Photo Month in Montreal

Every two years, Mon­treal, Que­bec, Canada fea­tures a major, month-long major con­tem­po­rary pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val called Le mois de la photo à Mon­tréal. This year’s fes­ti­val runs from Sep­tem­ber 5 — Octo­ber 5, 2013 and fea­tures 25 pho­tog­ra­phy exhi­bi­tions in dif­fer­ent parts of the city.

This year the theme of the fes­ti­val is Drone — The auto­mated image and it is guest curated by Paul Wombell. I’ve been going to this fes­ti­val pretty much since it started and the exhi­bi­tions are almost always laden with exper­i­men­tal (less con­ven­tional) pho­tog­ra­phy and themes that require reflec­tion. If you’re look­ing for more con­ven­tional pho­tog­ra­phy (beau­ti­ful land­scapes, still lifes, street pho­tog­ra­phy) you nor­mally won’t find it at this festival.

Although Le mois de la photo is a pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val, many exhi­bi­tions will be video based and some will fea­ture instal­la­tions. I always find a few exhi­bi­tions that I really like and will report back on my faves.  Feel free to check out the exhi­bi­tions here.

Le mois de la photo

The Circus is in Town — Montréal Complètement Cirque

This week­end will be your last chance to catch Mon­tréal Com­plète­ment Cirque, which is a newish cir­cus fes­ti­val that got added to Montreal’s ros­ter of fes­ti­vals a few years ago. It’s loads of fun and a great addi­tion to the sum­mer fes­ti­vals in Mon­treal. I was lucky enough to see a few shows and I can tell you that there’s some­thing for every­one. There’s both free out­door shows as well as paid indoor shows. Last week I saw the indoor show Smashed Gan­dini Jug­gling which was a fab­u­lously whim­si­cal jug­gling per­for­mance by a team of British apple jug­glers wear­ing suits. It starts off com­pletely whole­some and gets slightly less whole­some through­out the rest of the jug­gling show (but remains whole­some enough for kids).

Last night I saw Pro­pa­ganda at Usine C and they were less than whole­some. It’s an eccen­tric 2 per­son acrobatic-theatrical show with female acro­bat Jo-Ann Lan­caster being top­less for about half the show. There’s skits, tits, trapeze, rope swing­ing, themes of servi­tude along with some cool fetishy out­fits, all served up in a dimly lit set with harsh light­ing. The audi­ence enjoyed it big time but I didn’t get it or find it very excit­ing. This week S Circa seems to be get­ting lots of buzz; I didn’t get to see them yet but Mon­treal Cuture guy Zeke reviewed them here.

Free out­door shows are a great way to soak up the cir­cusy zeit­geist and I got to see TOUR DE PISTE AU QUARTIER DES SPECTACLES: BABEL last week at the cor­ner of St. Hubert and Ste. Cather­ine. About 25 acro­batic per­form­ers jump, dance, strut, swing, bal­ance, tram­po­line, uni­cy­cle, and flip all around a few sto­ries of scaf­fold­ing in Place Emi­lie Gamelin. Fun stuff for the whole fam­ily and still going on for the rest of the week.


Babel - Place Emilie Gamelin- Montréal Complètement Cirque

Babel — Place Emi­lie Gamelin– Mon­tréal Com­plète­ment Cirque


Smashed Gandini Juggling - Montréal Complètement Cirque

Smashed Gan­dini Jug­gling — Mon­tréal Com­plète­ment Cirque


Montréal Complètement Cirque

Smashed Gan­dini Jug­gling — Mon­tréal Com­plète­ment Cirque

The Montreal Jazz Fest — Mucca Pazza invades

Hi every­one,

I’ve added a new cat­e­gory to the blog called Mon­treal art, pho­tog­ra­phy and cul­ture and I’ll use it to cover some of the cooler events in this fes­ti­val city that I call home. Even if you can’t make it to Montreal’s world class fes­ti­vals, hope­fully this new pho­tog­ra­phy blog cat­e­gory can turn you on to some­thing new.

This week the world famous Mon­treal Inter­na­tional Jazz fes­ti­val is in town and it fea­tures hun­dreds of world class musi­cal acts and street per­for­mances. The Jazz fes­ti­val is one of the best fes­ti­vals in our city and I attend almost every year. This year a friend of mine, Mon­treal Cul­ture Guy Chris ‘Zeke’ hand, invited me to see a 30 piece Chicago Hip­ster march­ing band called Mucca Pazza. They were so fab that I saw them twice. Had I had more time I would have gone again.

This band INSTANTLY makes you smile and makes your brain release endor­phins. Just try not to smile when you see them, I dare you!  Instead of tak­ing Prozac, just watch Mucca Pazza.

The music is a jazz-based fusion to my ear and is per­formed extremely well —  in  ‘we do not take our­selves seri­ously for even a nanosec­ond’ disco meets the civil war cos­tum­ing. The chore­og­ra­phy is crazy fun as well with cheer­lead­ers lit­er­ally thrown into the mix. Did I say this is the most fun I’ve had at the  Mon­treal Jazz fest in years? Well it is!

Mucca Pazza at the Montreal Jazz fest

Mucca Pazza at the Mon­treal Jazz fest


Mucca Pazza at the Montreal Jazz fest

Mucca Pazza at the Mon­treal Jazz fest


Mucca Pazza at the Montreal Jazz fest

Mucca Pazza at the Mon­treal Jazz fest

Mucca Pazza at the Montreal Jazz fest

Mucca Pazza at the Mon­treal Jazz fest

Mucca Pazza at the Montreal Jazz fest

Mucca Pazza at the Mon­treal Jazz fest