“It’s the best way to make friends,” says Portuguese street portrait photographer Miguel Raimundo when asked if he’s made any long term acquaintances while photographing strangers. Asking permission for photos goes a long way toward getting a smile in return. But there’s always the odd person who feels threatened and can even become abusive. Miguel shrugs it off with a smile and just continues on his merry way.
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I’m terrified to ask strangers for portraits when I’m taking photos by myself. But I find no lack in self-confidence doing this when I’m with a photo walk group. It’s almost like I feel I won’t get rejected if a stranger sees me alongside a bunch of photographers. Of course, experience has proven me wrong in this matter, but it doesn’t change my approach. It’s not like I photograph people from a distance in secret when I head out for photos alone. I tend to capture more of the street life in general, instead of people by themselves.
Somehow, when I’m with fellow photographers on the street, I think getting rejected when asking for a photo is easier. It probably means the others would be rejected too, and then it’s not my approach that was the problem; it was perhaps just a person who didn’t want a photo anyway. Seeing Miguel’s impressive images, I’m tempted to change this. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about rejection so much and should focus on getting a fantastic picture of those who agree. Dubai is, after all, a place with many interesting and friendly faces.
The Essential Photo Gear Used by Miguel Raimundo
Miguel told us:
The Phobographer: Hi Miguel. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Miguel Raimundo: Hello! My name is Miguel Raimundo; I’m a 24 hobbyist amateur analog photographer based in Lisbon, Portugal. As some of you reading this, I had the pleasure to inherit some photography material… It’s almost better than finding gold in your attic – yup, I found a 501c in my attic.. unused but not sealed. “If your dad has it, you’ll most likely have it,” or something like that. You get the picture – pun intended.
The process. A breeze. Be concise, polite, smiley, and non-intrusive: “Hey! I’m doing a project of portraits of people in XXXX(city), and I’d like yours”. Rest for about 2 seconds for their facial reaction and before they tell you anything, just add: “only if you wanna! if you don’t, that’s completely fine, I’ll just walk away” with a big smile and easy posture.
The Phoblographer: Approaching strangers for a picture isn’t a new trend, but when did you start doing this? Tell us about the very first experience you had and the photograph you made from it.
Miguel Raimundo: The first one… to be honest, I was always an outgoing kind of person. Messing and talking with people in the street was always something I was keen on doing. One of those days, sometime in 2017, I just had the camera in my hand in the right place at the right time and took this one:
Pretty simple and straightforward. Just asked for a pic, made two minutes of chit chat and walked away feeling like, “I could do this more often”… And then it began.
The Phobographer: How do you approach strangers these days? Do you just ask them when you have your 501C with you, or do you also show them some of your previously taken photos? What’s the process like?
Miguel Raimundo: The process. A breeze. Be concise, polite, smiley, and non-intrusive: “Hey! I’m doing a project of portraits of people in XXXX(city), and I’d like yours”. Rest for about 2 seconds for their facial reaction and before they tell you anything, just add: “only if you wanna! if you don’t, that’s completely fine, I’ll just walk away” with a big smile and easy posture. This will give you a 90% acceptance rate. Inverted psychology, I suppose. The Hassy may help a bit. Some agree; some don’t. That’s life.
The Phoblographer: Understandably, there might be a lot of rejection with this kind of approach. Do you shrug it off and move on, or do you give each denial a second attempt to try and convince them?
Miguel Raimundo: Never ask again. Be concise. After the “only if you wanna,” if they don’t seem to be liking your idea, just say “no worries! thank you” and walk away. The best portrait of the day might be passing by while you’re trying to convince someone who does not want to be convinced. Again, that’s life
The Phobographer: Have there been unpleasant incidents while doing this? Any incidents where strangers became offensive?
Miguel Raimundo: You mean butthurt people? Nah. I had an old dude calling me off like, “A picture? go to work, f***** artist”. That was the peak of unpleasantness. Again, be respectful, and no one is going to mess with you.
The Phobographer: Which photographs have been the most memorable (not just in terms of the results but also the experience behind it)?
Miguel Raimundo: I can tell you about two that have been on my mind. The first one was in Coimbra Bus Station sometime in 2019. I was going to get a bus to my hometown, and there was this tired young nun sitting on a bench inside the station. We exchanged some small eye contact, and then she just put her head down, and (having my gun always at reach – the Hassy) I just took a shot:
I did not talk with her. It stayed a mystery.
The other was maybe in 2018 when I got to know a cool old Brazilian dude with some terrific stories. I met him in Viseu. He was traveling Europe that year, and he ended up staying a bit more in Viseu than he expected. Zé dos Rios was his artistic name. Search him on the web, and you’ll find something. He passed away a few months ago.
One of the only pictures where I liked the smile.
The Phobographer: Do subjects provide their details and ask for the images? Have you made any friendships along the way by doing this?
Miguel Raimundo: Every time I shoot someone (with a camera), I give them my Instagram. I think it’s a bit evasive if you ask for their Instagram or whatever social network you wanna use. Give them yours and let them send you a message. Friends? Dude, it’s the best way to make friends. I’ve met exes.. that’s saying something.
The Phobographer: One question that might have been asked of you is, why do you shoot these on film and not digital? How do you respond to that?
Miguel Raimundo: Why does anyone shoot film? Why do you have to pay for a big beautiful vinyl instead of just using Spotify? I use Spotify and I listen to vinyl. The same applies to photography: if I have to do a more professional kind of photography, i always use digital, but if I just wanna have some fun, film is the answer, analog is the answer.
The Phobographer: Are there any photos you candidly snapped of strangers without their knowledge? Which ones are your favorites among these?
Miguel Raimundo: A complete and giant “Yes.” I’ve tried some street photography, and I think some turned out to be way cooler than I expected. I think it’s easier to do it while traveling, where you know no one knows you, and you’ll be out of there in a week tops. But doing this in your hometown (even if it’s a big city) might not be as comfortable (funny reading these words coming out of someone who asks strangers for portraits). And hey, the Hassy is not a Leica… it’s a noisy camera.
The Phobographer: Which city or country would you say you had the best time in while taking portraits of passersby? Why do you rate this as the best?
Miguel Raimundo: My beautiful, sunny Portugal. Wherever you can take pictures, that’s the best place to take pictures. Just go out, just shoot.
All images by Miguel Raimundo. Used with permission. Take a look at his Instagram page to see more of his street portrait photography. Also, be sure to submit your own photos to be featured.