photo; Joshua Johnson

How do you approach strangers and encourage honest, candid encounters?

CAPTURING SPONTANEOUS moments with strangers on film makes for the richest moments in your travel videos.

Beautiful landscapes and soaring architecture are all well and good but nothing is more captivating and telling of a culture than the people who have created it.

A few quality moments of a person responding honestly on film can be the height of your travel video.

The story of a city, a country, a political or artistic movement, is a story about people.
It is your job to let the people do the talking.

Here’s how.

Rule 1 ASK PERMISSION

The first thing to remember is that before put a camera in someone’s face or space is that you must ask permission. Even if you don’t share a common language it is easy to signify that you wish to film someone by simply gesturing with your camera.

What if I can’t ask permission because I am too far away or there is simply too many people in frame?

A good rule of thumb is that if in the video you can readily identify someone you need their permission. If your video is for non-commercial purposes that permission can be given on camera. For commercial videos you must have a signed release.

The rules have blurred considerably since the advent of social media, and when you add the possibility of subjects that probably may never have access to your video, you need to practice good judgment and respect peoples space.

If someone sees themselves in a video and doesn’t want to be in that video, they have the right to a cease and desist order that is pretty much infallible. As you will see in this video I waste no time filming once I have established I have permission.

Rule 2 IT’S ABOUT THEM

However fleeting your video encounter is, it is vital that your subjects are allowed to simply be themselves.

If they are a silent Holy Women or Men, merely allow them to be silent. Should they be a braggadocios politician, allow them to be loud and verbose.

The point is to capture them honestly and candidly.

  • Ask them about what they are doing
  • Ask their opinion on a subject they are familiar with
  • Get an anecdote

It doesn’t exactly matter what they say, it is who they are you want to capture.

Gently guide the interview but remember, what the subject wants to say is often far more compelling then what you want them to say. Make your subjects as comfortable talking to a complete stranger as possible. I prefer to hold my camera in a manner that allows me to maintain eye contact and engage my subject, occasionally glancing down to check the framing.

Rule 3 EVERYONE IS INTERESTING. . .

Especially people who do not share your viewpoint, political affiliations, occupation or cultural background. Approach the person you are about to engage as the most interesting person on the on the planet. And remember…

  • Everyone is on a unique journey.
  • Every journey is a story.
  • Everyone has something to share.

If you genuinely strive for an authentic connection, your subject just might open up and reveal some jewel about themselves that can be a powerful and moving theme for your video.

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