Portrait photographer Oded Wagenstein recently sat down with Canon to share the most important lesson he’s learned over the course of his career. Namely: how to build meaningful relationships with strangers and capture more authentic portraits as a result.
The advice in the video breaks down into several discrete “tips” that all get at the same goal: building rapport and forming a meaningful connection with your subject. He begins by tackling the most critical point, the need to get over your fear of getting close:
“I used to tell myself stories about shooting from a distance to keep the authenticity of the moment, but it was just an excuse; an excuse that allowed me to remain in the comfort zone of not approaching,” says Wagenstein. “By approaching and not shooting from a distance, what you’re actually saying is, ‘I find you important, I want to share your story.'”
This intimidating first step opens the door to the rest of the process Wagenstein describes: slowing down, listening to your subject tell you their story, and then embracing the power of silence in the aftermath of that conversation. Finally, by way of conclusion, he explains the importance of returning to the same communities and photographing the same people again and again, continuing to build on the relationships that you develop.
Each of the points above is accompanied by ample explanation and beautiful sample images from Wagenstein’s own portfolio. And while these aren’t the “quick tips” or “hacks” that enjoy so much attention online, the lesson that Wagenstein is hoping to share is profound. Watch the full video above to hear it for yourself or head over to Wagenstein’s website to see some of the work this approach has helped him produce.