Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Human Connection

I didn't set out to become a portrait photographer with an international focus.
By Jen Lemen Of Shutter Sisters Published in Point Of Focus
The Human Connection


1. Be Friendly. Do you see a particular angle or unique point of view that you often use in your work? How do you most commonly see and capture your subject?

2. Ask before you shoot. Most documentary photographers I know don't do this, and for good reason. They know that most of the time their would-be subjects will say no, and they don't want to miss the shot. But when you ask and receive an honest yes, chances are, you'll get a much different image. Your subject will "give it up" in all the best ways, and you'll be allowed to see a part of that person's soul that they otherwise might keep buttoned up.

3. Show your shot. I've found that most subjects really care about how they look in a photo—no matter where you're shooting. You can argue with this, but you'll do better to say, "Let's try again." This allows you to collaborate with your subject and go deeper into their comfort zone. Your subject will begin to understand that they need to reveal something of themselves for the shot to work, and as a result, you'll more than likely capture something with more texture and meaning. You may still choose as a favorite something with more edge, but you'll also discover something really worthwhile in your subject's preference.

4. Share the shot. If your subject has email, send one of the more personal images along. You'll be surprised how the value of communication isn't lost on people in the most primitive of conditions. Facebook is often the easiest way to stay in touch, and even the simplest exchanges can turn into kind friendships. Most people you shoot in the developing world will have only a handful of photos of themselves, if any at all, and your photo will be a lifelong treasure.

5. Be mindful of how you use these images. Whether you intend to or not, the images you share become part of how we collectively see the world. Your interpretation of the places you've been is powerful. That's why it's always enlightening to ask lots of questions as you travel and to find out what your images mean to the people you meet. Take time to ask your driver or that friendly guide to go through your photographs with you. You'll be surprised by the story your photos are telling, and your shooting will improve in the process.

SHUTTER SISTERS is a collaborative photo blog ( and a thriving community of women, passionate about photography. Jen Lemen is a partner in Shutter Sisters and the founder of, a digital publishing collaborative designed to fund and fuel global leaders with a passion for brilliant ideas, new economic models and wisdom for the world at large.

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