Portraits of Strangers: To Ask Or Not To Ask, That Is The Question


It's not always easy to take a photo of a stranger. It needs courage and politeness. Or sometimes it just needs pure cheek. This is how I got the shots and why I took them in the first place. Six strangers and a few dogs, here are a few of my favourite stranger portraits, taken on a variety of film cameras.

I saw this chap in Lisbon. He was posing underneath the hanging fronds on a tree in one of the city’s lovely gardens. I quickly realised that he was fooling around and using the fronds as a wig for his very bald head. LC-A+ in my hand, without asking, I lined up the shot and pressed the shutter. He saw me doing this but, fortunately for me, just laughed. He said something in Portuguese but sadly I didn’t understand him so I just laughed with him. I wonder where he is now…

Strictly speaking, a photo not of a stranger but of a stranger’s dog. The dog looked so great I really wanted a photo of him. Dogs are often a great way of starting a conversation with strangers, they’re usually very proud of their pets. I asked the owner if I could take a portrait of the lovely/ugly dog and he happily said yes. They nearly always do.

This strange chap was in town with his child’s pram full of horns, whistles and hooters. To be honest, he was easy to take a portrait of as he was there to be the centre of attention anyway. So in this case, I just walked up to him, framed the shot and let him pose away!

Dogs again—can you spot the theme? To be honest, when I saw these two guys I knew that I really wanted a portrait of them, not the dogs. One bald, the other with sunglasses, a cowboy hat and a big moustache, I just had to capture them on film. I walked up to them and politely asked if I could take a photo of them with the dogs. I commented on how magnificent the dogs were, all the while thinking how bizarre the men looked! They were happy to oblige and as the man in the hat talked at length about the wonders of digital photography, I captured this odd couple on good old film.

So if you ever see a stranger you’d like to take a portrait of, don’t be afraid to ask. Smile, be polite, lie a little if you need to (i.e. “I really love your hat,” etc.) and don’t pester them if they say no. There are plenty of people out there, you’ll get your shots eventually.

written by panchoballard on 2012-03-09 in #lifestyle #strangers-portraits-street-people #black-and-white #analogue-photography


  1. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    ask, explain, make friendship!

  2. has
    has ·

    What camera did you use to take the last photo? my guess is a holga or a diana :). Really nice photos to!! :)

  3. fizzynothing
    fizzynothing ·

    Great article and I loved the photos. Thanks for sharing.

  4. panchoballard
    panchoballard ·

    Thank you. The cameras, in order, were: LC-A+, Kiev 6C, Brownie 44a, Kiev 6C and Holga 120GN. The Holga is my favourite camera, I just love it.

  5. fiveorsixgirls
    fiveorsixgirls ·

    what kind of film? (and i don't suggest lying, i think you can always find something nice to say=)

  6. mrmostarr
    mrmostarr ·

    take the photo and... ruuuun :D

  7. lokified
    lokified ·

    I find the larger or odder-looking the camera, the easier it is to get a photo. Something like a Holga or the Belair catches people's eye already, so it's easy to say "Can I grab a picture?"

    I think though, that the key is to be quick, I saw a photographer I didn't know ask a stranger if she could photograph his dog. She then crouched down and for a minute plus fiddled with exposure, focus, etc. He was squirming, and clearly wanting to leave. I swore not to be That Photographer. :D

More Interesting Articles

  • Top 5 Ways to Get Strangers' Permission to Shoot Them

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-03-05 in #world #lifestyle #tipster
    Top 5 Ways to Get Strangers' Permission to Shoot Them

    Asking “Can I take your photo?” will save you the trouble of hiding behind bushes or pretending to shoot buildings just to get a stranger’s good angle.

  • Petzval LomoAmigo: Luke Archer

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-19 in #people #lomoamigos
    Petzval LomoAmigo: Luke Archer

    Luke Archer is a professional photographer with a large and rather impressive portfolio of portraits. Lomography lent Luke a Petzval lens to test and asked him a few questions about photography.

  • Photo Stories: Police on My Back by bloomchen

    written by bloomchen on 2015-02-26 in #world #lifestyle
    Photo Stories: Police on My Back by bloomchen

    Sometimes when taking pictures I get addressed by strangers either because of my cameras or because they don't want me to shoot something they claim they have responsibility for. But having the police on my back was a new experience.

  • Shop News

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    At 25% off you can take dreamy 35mm images with this little black beauty. Beam coloured light into your shots with its accompanying Diana Flash Back accessory and be the analogue king of the night.

  • Lomo'Instant LomoAmigo: Ruth Nitkiewicz

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-11-12 in #people #lomoamigos
    Lomo'Instant LomoAmigo: Ruth Nitkiewicz

    Ruth Nitkiewicz is a film photography fanatic living in London. We lent her a Lomo'Instant camera and asked her a few questions about the joys of instant photography.

  • Photo Stories: Kīlauea - Volcanic Eruption by russellmcbride

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-06-07 in #world #locations
    Photo Stories: Kīlauea - Volcanic Eruption by russellmcbride

    Venturing into an area when there's volcanic activity is a feat that can only be either courageous or foolish. One thing's for sure, though, it's the kind of experience that not many people share and—should one escape unscathed, like russellmcbride and his friend—a highly rewarding one at that.

  • The New Petzval Lens: For Portraits with Swirly Bokeh

    written by wesco on 2014-11-27 in #reviews
    The New Petzval Lens: For Portraits with Swirly Bokeh

    My brother purchased the new Petzal lens by Lomography and Zenit through the Kickstarter campaign. Last spring, I was able to borrow it for a few weeks. Read on to find out my first impressions of this portrait lens!

  • Shop News

    Fisheye One Pearl Blue

    Fisheye One Pearl Blue

    Snap dazzling 35mm fisheye shots at the push of a button with this shimmery blue lightweight beauty.

  • Stacy_mcpommes and her Weapon of Choice: Lubitel 166B

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-10-09 in #lifestyle
    Stacy_mcpommes and her Weapon of Choice: Lubitel 166B

    Not knowing exactly how to do deal with its odd appearance, Nadica first regarded the Lubitel 166B as a complete monstrosity. She left it untouched on her shelf for months after receiving it as a gift. After using other Lomo cameras and getting familiar with the rules on exposure, she finally had the courage to test it. Find out what made stacy_mcpommes fall in love with the Lubitel 166B in this installment of Weapon of Choice!

  • How to Break the Ice with the Lomo'Instant

    written by antoniocastello on 2014-11-20 in #lifestyle
    How to Break the Ice with the Lomo'Instant

    New York is full of interesting people. Everywhere you look you, will find good-looking, smart, and powerful characters; models, actresses, entrepreneurs, managers, artists. Because of this sometimes it can be a little intimidating for a regular guy in the Big Apple to step up, talk to the girl you like, or make new friends. So here are a few tips, courtesy of the Lomo'Instant, that will help you to break the ice.

  • Pieces of Berlin Make Their Way to NYC

    written by efrost on 2014-09-29 in #people #events
    Pieces of Berlin Make Their Way to NYC

    Photographer Florian Reischauer is no stranger to the Lomography community. In 2013, our LomoAmigo took a Lubitel 166+ out for a spin and told us about his famous blog, "Pieces of Berlin". A few years earlier, he took time to take part in the 5 Questions on Analogue Photographyseries. Now, we’re here to give you the latest scoop on Florian Reischauer and his next appearance in NYC to present his new book which was based off of his blog, "Pieces of Berlin 2009-2013".

  • Shop News

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Whatever kind of film development you're after, you'll find it here! Now you can confidently shoot from the hip without having to worry where to develop those film rolls!

  • Creative Vision, Personified:The Community's Most Creative Lomographers

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-02-03 in #world #lifestyle
    Creative Vision, Personified:The Community's Most Creative Lomographers

    As Steve Jobs puts it, "creativity is just connecting things." It's all about tracing one's experiences and pushing the boundaries of what's already known to establish new things. The Lomography community is no stranger to these instances. In fact, the community is filled with brilliant minds who are always ready to refine existing techniques and look for innovative ways to express their visions and ideas. Here are just a few of the creative lomographers we've come to love over the years.

  • Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 120: Perfect for Endless Multiple Exposures!

    written by adi_totp on 2014-08-19 in #reviews
    Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 120: Perfect for Endless Multiple Exposures!

    About two years ago or so, I purchased the Lomography Redscale XR 50-200. I saved just one roll of this film and waited for the right moment to shoot with it. In April this year, I just wasn't able to take it anymore! I loaded this film into my Lubitel 166+, which I realized I hadn't used for maybe about six months. One idea came to mind: taking crazy multiple exposures!

  • LomoAmigo: Susanna Brown

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-26 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo: Susanna Brown

    Susanna Brown is the Curator of Photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She curated the exhibition "Horst: Photographer of Style" as well as recent V&A shows "Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography" and "Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton." We lent her an LC-A+ to test out her own photography skills and asked her a few questions about this fascinating job.