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INSPIRATION: Building Relationships In The Field

In a previous post titled, In The Field: Asking Permission, I wrote about the importance of asking permission before taking photos at garden centers, markets and other public venues, as well as private properties. I thought this would be a good time of year for a refresher course as many of us are emerging from our winter hibernations.

Whenever you come across a potential photographic subject at a public or private location, it’s always best to take care of a small, but simple detail.

Before unloading all your camera gear, chat with the owners for a few minutes before bringing up the fact you are a photographer. Introduce yourself, mention where you are from, and tell them how much you admire what it is you want to photograph. Then, if you are getting a positive response, ask if you can take some photos. This little bit of common courtesy will help tremendously in your quest to capture what is displayed on their property that captured your interest. And the owners won’t think you are some kind of evil prowler. In return for allowing the privilege of getting some photos, offer them a print or to email them an file of one of your best shots that day. Simply put, take the time to establish a relationship.

Whenever I am out and about and come across a place I’ve never been to, if time permits I will stop in and check the place out. If it has potential, I’ll tell them who I am and explain what I want to do. Whether I intend to photograph something at the present time or in the future, I take the time to get to know the owner of the property or manager of the business. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to gain their confidence. And mentioning I won’t include any price tags or signage in my photos is very reassuring to a retailer, for example. After all, I wouldn’t want them to think I was a spy working for their competition. Besides, why would I want a big ‘ole sign in my photo anyway?

  1. April 4, 2012 at 8:35 am

    I was going to give your suggestion a try yesterday and then the sky opened up and poured with thunder and lightening. So I went to my local sushi joint instead 🙂 Doing it at a place of business, ie. greenhouse, there are no fears. Private property? I’m bashful.

    • April 4, 2012 at 8:46 am

      Yeah I would have called it quits too with thunder and lightning around. Not safe. Besides, sushi is a great tradeoff indeed!!! No worries with private property…just be yourself and you’ll be fine. I have to work up to asking total strangers.

  2. April 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    That is a wonderful piece of advice, David!

    • April 5, 2012 at 9:18 am

      Thanks Saffron, I figure, it never hurts to ask. They will either say yes…or no. If they say yes, you will probably be asked to stop in anytime!

  3. April 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks for the reminder. It is common sense really, but we often run rough-shod over other people in the pursuit of our ‘art’. Thanks, David.

    • April 5, 2012 at 9:20 am

      You are right, it is common sense/courtesy…but that little bit sure does go a long way!

  4. April 4, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Great advice, David! It’s always good to be reminded once in a while. Thanks!

    • April 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Thanks Graciel, it’s easy to forget, especially when we are caught up in the moment!!!

  5. April 4, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Definitely should ask permission – good advice! Although, I have not photographed anything yet at garden centers, etc.

    • April 5, 2012 at 9:29 am

      You had better go visit one…and quick!!! Time is a wastin’!!!

  6. April 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    A very informative post David,I´m going to file this in my memory for future use!

    • April 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Thanks Adrian, it really does come in handy, once you ask, folks usually are very welcoming!

  7. April 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Great advice David. I follow your doctrine to the letter and even from time to time return back to the location and offer them owners a print of what ever I shot. Always well recieved.

  8. Nandini
    April 5, 2012 at 12:04 am

    Beautiful flower photo, David! I love the kind of flowers you have around you. 🙂

    • April 5, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Thanks Gerry, it truly is amazing how far common courtesy will take you. I also offer a print or a digital copy to the owners!

  9. Jo Woolf
    April 5, 2012 at 1:42 am

    Very wise advice – I’m sure not everyone is so thoughtful. Love the photo by the way!

    • April 5, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Thanks Jo, I guess it comes from me imagining to be in the store owners place and how I would feel if someone came into my shop and just started firing away. The garden center where this shot was taken had a HUGE display of orchids!

      • Jo Woolf
        April 5, 2012 at 1:51 pm

        Oh dear… orchids… Colin is already addicted!

  10. April 5, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Great tip, so many times we forget to ask if we are allowed to take a picture of a certain object 🙂

    • April 5, 2012 at 10:28 am

      Thanks Kristina, I know what you mean…we get all excited about something and it just slips the mind.

  11. April 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    That’s very smart advice, David, even though sometimes hard for a shy person to follow. Still, a little politeness and courtesy do go a long way. I always ask myself, how would I feel if our positions were reversed?

  12. April 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

    That’s exactly what I do…would I want a total stranger walking all over my front yard taking photos of my plants without asking first? Nope…so I ask first. Same with garden centers or farm markets. It really makes life easier.

  13. April 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Excellent advice with many common-sense (or not-so-common-sense) tips. This is a really good article for photographers in general.

  14. April 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Thanks John, I have found with folks being on edge and un-trusting (so to speak) lately, just taking a few minutes out of life, to slow down, and get back to what I call “small town America” makes all the difference in the world! People really open up when respect is shown to them.

  15. April 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Always good to be kind and polite 🙂 Common-sense (at least to most people, I hope), but so easy to forget when there are many gems to photograph about

    • April 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      That’s exactly how I feel…and I understand how it is when presented with a great photo opportunity. I have to remind myself at times to ask first when caught up in the situation!

  16. April 19, 2012 at 4:02 am

    very valid point .. it takes a bit of experience to understand that relationships are longer term gains …although I can see a short term gain of potentially grabbing a candid or posed portrait of the garden owners too ( now that i am wearing the portrait hat these days) 🙂

    • April 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Ah ha great idea!!! I hadn’t thought of getting portraits of the garden owners. It’s now on my list of things to do. thanks for the tip! I will have to borrow your portrait hat…you have a special knack Abu!

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