Charm your way into the heart and mind of your subject...
The stoat charms its prey by performing a strange ritual outside a rabbit warren. With its gyration, writhing and twirls, it attracts a fascinated audience of rabbits who become bewitched by the show. While dancing,the stoat gets closer to its unwitting prey and then, without warning it ends its show and dispatches a member of the audience with a bite to the neck. What a deliberate and deadly ploy!
Now, what has the stoat got to do with photography, you may ask? Well, be like a stoat... bring out the acting skills in you... charm your subject, get closer, take your shots and move on... a deadly ploy, ugh? But wait...
A lot of travellers often feel guilty about photographing people(strange faces?) in a strange land... they take the picture and run. Why? I see people notice me and I drop the camera,hang out a while, make friendly gestures and get closer. Then I take some more pictures. The secret is you have to pull down the camera and keep eye contact. You have to become a person (yes, not a photographer!) behind the shutter box...digital or otherwise...
TIME IS probably the greatest gift you can give a photographic subject and the one thing you usually have the least of. Just as you wouldn't want someone to shove a camera in your face, your subject won't like it either.
So start to work slowly...Spend time...use friendly gestures (they are universal - you don't want to be caught in a chicken and duck situation, right?) to introduce yourself...comment on how they look, and reassure them that they will look just fine for the pictures you will be taking in a few minutes. Then sit down with the camera on your lap and just chat. It can take only five minutes or an hour, but it's your job to make them feel comfortable. Remember, you have invaded their space, and it's your job to help them help you..
As they become more comfortable with you, start to play with the camera while talking to them. . If they are unfamiliar with your camera, show them how it works. Let them take a picture (if you are using a digital, show them the image they have taken...oh - the digital, in this respect is a classic ice-breaker!). Have fun with it. Laughter is the best relaxant!
After a while people become used to the clicking and forget about it, opening up even more possibilities...
You can even coax them into telling a thing or two about their work, family life, etc which may produce the facial images you want. As they reminisce, their faces and bodies will emulate the emotions linked to the stories. An old farmer may stand up and dance around like a kid when he talks about the rice harvest festival. Or he may blush a little remembering the young woman who shared his life in the beginning. Look for those moments and listen. There will be tell tale signs..your subject is now the actor!(is he the stoat and you the rabbit now?)
The longer you spend with your subject, the more familiar you become and the more new things you see and learn about the subject.
And finally, don't treat things as if they are old-hat, dull and boring. Try looking at things from a new point of view just as you do with your writing. Who said you have to stand over a child to take his picture? Get down to his level. Who said all pictures must be made from the standing position? Lie down on the ground and aim your camera up. Climb a tree and aim down. Try new angles and positions to keep your work exciting and different...Produce photos with energy...aren't you the aspiring photojournalist?
The eye sees reality. The lens sees beyond reality to capture the truth!