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The Social Engineering of Photography: Overcoming the Challenge of Talking to People



I’m always on the lookout for potential subjects. Approaching them is something that I’ve actually gotten better at, despite the video evidence below to the contrary. When I was in college working for Student Media I hated talking to people to get caption information after I photographed them. Approaching a person before the photograph was even harder.

As I became more confident in my ability it became easier, but it was still difficult for me. When I decided I wanted to be a full time photographer, I knew I needed to do my best to remove the apprehension of talking to people I didn’t know about photographing them. I knew that working assignments would mean talking to people I’ve never met a lot.

One of the ways I did this was by walking into places I’ve never been and talking someone I’ve never met into letting me take their portrait. In the end these images were mostly what I used to launch my photography career. It’s interesting to look back at them and see how far I’ve come.





Fast forward five years and I’ve pretty much completely overcome the… I want to say awkwardness, but that would be a lie. Let’s call it the fear of being turned down or laughed at. I believe that in most situations it’s possible to come up with an excuse to strike up a conversation with someone.

Here’s the story of how I met a man named Jason:

This particular situation just struck me as extra awkward and could have potentially been really weird if Jason wasn’t as into the idea of a photo shoot as he was. I think it’s a great example of nothing ventured nothing gained.

Here are some photos that resulted from the shoot I did with Jason:




You can find a more in-depth account of my shoot with Jason in this post I wrote for my blog.

About the author: Kenneth M. Ruggiano is a photographer, husband, and Eagle Scout based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Visit his website here. This article originally appeared here.