3 Tips on Photographing Strangers and Asking to Sign Model Releases

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Many photographers feel it is difficult to approach strangers to asking them if they can take their photo. But it doesn’t have to be very difficult. These are our 3 simple steps on best practices going about this.

1. Start with a compliment

Give a compliment to the person. This gives a specific reason for why you would like to take their photo. The person will be more willing to let you take their photo now that they better understand why. If you have the time and the stranger is not going anywhere, think about how you want to photograph the stranger before approaching them.

2. Offer a copy of the photo in exchange for signing a model release

Make sure to have your business cards and model releases available. Tell them to email you, and you will send a copy of the photo. Make sure they sign the model release on the spot. Don’t expect them to sign it later and email it back to you. Note, you don’t have to have an actual registered photography company in order to have business cards made. There is nothing wrong with ‘Nina’s Photography Blog’ to have a printed card with contact details.

3. Learn 3 important words in the local language

For approaching strangers in a foreign country were you don’t speak the language, learn how to say:
“Hello’, ‘Photo’ and ‘Thank you”. The hotel clerk checking you in will most likely be very happy to teach you these 3 words.

Photographing Minors

If you are photographing teenagers at the local skatepark, or something similar, you will need one of their parent’s signature on the model release. Have a couple of self-addressed (and stamped) envelopes with your business card in it. They can then bring the release home to their parents. They have a way to contact you for questions, and they can sign and send the release back to you.

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