How do you break the ice?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Wasabi Bob, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I’ve sort of tossed this question out before in another forum, and never really received any good suggestions. Street photography has always been something I’d like to do more of, but there is always a concern with people flying off the handle. I was walking through a neighboring town and stumbled upon a really neat tattoo shop. I walked in and asked if they would mind if I took a few photos of them doing their work. That request led to about 10 questions, and ultimately the suggestion that I go elsewhere.

    Just wondering what approach you use when you discover something interesting to photograph? How do you “break the ice”?
  2. Adubo

    Adubo SithLord

    Nov 4, 2010
    Real Name:
    I dont usually ask anybody if i can take a photo of them and/or their business, i prefer candids and the approach where i can actually surprise them that someone's taking a photograph. BUT, i do smile at people i encounter on the streets, (walking talking photos, or just hanging around a place where i usually shoot)

    Just show a positive vibe and smile a lot. People will usually feel or sense what your intentions are

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 App
  3. LeoS

    LeoS Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 6, 2012
    Purchasing something from said vendor is usually a surefire way to get them to agree to happily let you take their picture. Time to get some tats!
  4. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    Wasabi Bob,

    There are *many* answers to you question.

    The "ink" folks are a very tight-knit bunch, sort of like cops, US Marines, etc.

    The Tattoo Parlor is sort of like their church, the guy with the tattoo machine leading services.

    However.. you could have said you would like to shoot the place/people and offer the proprietor copy's of the images for his website or facebook. Explain how nice you photography is, and what it's worth and he can have it for nothing!

    Another thing would have been.. "Hey- I'm going through a mid-life crisis and getting a [small] tattoo is something on my bucket list. Can I shoot some photo's of the place and me getting a tattoo?" I know- it's a stretch.. but if you are a slave to you art, then...
    • Like Like x 2
  5. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Name:
  6. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    Real Name:
    I've not had any experience with this myself, but I've read several responses from "pro" street photogs. Often they have mentioned carrying around business cards and handing them out, showing a portfolio of their work, as well as offering to provide copies of prints.
  7. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    I would say dress & appearance has some impact too.

    I know of a guy that get's some incredible street shots in some really 'iffy' areas - but he doesn't wear a suit & tie when going to those areas (an exaggeration but you get my drift) - he also knows a lot of the dialect and information in general so he can immerse himself within quite well....
  8. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran


    Thanks for all the suggestions. I think part of the trick is having the right personality. Dressing like you are part of the community you are looking to photograph certainly makes sense.

    In each less than positive experience, it seemed they thought I might be a private investigator checking up on them. Think I'll take my iPad along and show them some of my work.
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I don't break the ice - I need the ice and try to maintain it. When I'm shooting on the street I'm shooting as an observer, not a participant. If people know their photo is being taken, they act differently and then I'm a participant and the photo is something different than what I'm after. Not to say it doesn't sometimes happen that people realize what's going on and sometimes those photos can be good ones, but that's not what I'm after. Asking to go in and take photographs inside a place of business can lead to some very very fine photography, but its not "street" in the sense that I imagine it. There are no rules of what constitute "street" photography, but to me its about a natural interaction between people and their environments - once I interject myself into the shot, its a whole different kind of thing.

    On the very rare occasion someone notices me taking their photograph and confronts me (its happend twice in the roughly two and a half years I've been doing this), I''ve offered to erase the shot if that's what they'd like. In both cases, they asked that I do so, I did, and we all moved on. In one case it was slightly nasty at first, in the other it was totally friendly. Most people never know I've included them in a photo and of the small percentage who do notice, only two have ever said anything. I haven't been punched yet, but I realize it could happen someday. And if it ever does, I'm sure I'll change my approach, but I'm obviously hoping that doesn't happen. The older I get the less likely it seems but I may be deluding myself on that one.

    • Like Like x 1
  10. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    Work on your sprints. Take the picture then run.
    • Like Like x 3
  11. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Real Name:
    The trouble is that most people have a hidden agenda and they don't know your intentions. Two personal experiences come to mind.

    On one occasion I was photographing a tumble-down shed from the public road. The owner came out of his house, quite agitated, and asked why I was photographing his shed. He looked bemused as I explained the attraction of the rusting tin roof, the rotting timber walls and the dooor, slightly ajar, half off its hinges and covered with ivy. After a brief pause, in a rather puzzled voice he said, "So you're not from the Council then?"

    Another time I was photographing horses in a field, once again from a public verge, when a passing truck pulled up and the driver jumped out. "What's wrong with my horses this time?" he snapped. "Wrong with them? I don't know, they look fine to me," I replied. "You're not animal welfare?" he asked, with relief in his voice.

    Just think, that less than friendly tattooist may just have filed a tax return, claiming he is no longer working. The loving couple you've just photographed in the park may be married, only not to each other, and so it goes on.
    • Like Like x 3
  12. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sounds like another opportunity for the "On Assignment" MU-43 shirt!
    • Like Like x 1
  13. lubov

    lubov Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 4, 2011
    Some good points.

    • Like Like x 1
  14. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    I think it comes down to what you really feel. If you feel that you're doing something wrong by taking candid photographs, then you're going to be noticed. Blend in and find a reason that won't make you feel guilty. The other points are already mentioned by others here. Another thing that helps is waiting at a location. Have the camera in your hands and wait at a location. The first five minutes will be awkward as people will be wondering what you are upto and why you are waiting with a camera. Once that goes away, they don't really care, that's when you start shooting.

    I have never been asked to delete photographs but a few friends have been asked to do so and they have obliged. Most folks being photographed are scared that they will end up being the cover story in a magazine and would like to know why you're taking photographs. We usually get away with "School Project" because it's difficult for most people to comprehend as to why you'd want to spend 2-3 hours on a weekend trying to get a kick out of an awesome street photograph :smile:.
  15. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    On something like that, I just wouldn't walk in with a camera and ask if I could shoot. I'd call early, before business picked up, and speak with the owner. I'd forward my website address and request the owner to check out my photographic skills. If the owner is interested then I'd negotiate things like prior restraint and free use of the images.


  16. dylandingo

    dylandingo Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 12, 2011
    La Crosse, WI
    How much does a polar bear weight? Just enough to break the ice, how you doing(or in this case"can I take your photo?")

    Sorry, I had to
    • Like Like x 2