I recently read a book by Chris Orwig, entitled "People Pictures". It's about portraiture, a subject I am loathe to pursue. However, I am forcing myself to because I want to expand my horizons and grow as a photographer. In his book, Chris says that "photography requires more than a selective mind, it requires a selective eye...it refers to the way we use the space within the frame." He goes on to say that "composition isn't reckless, but well thought out. Great composition brings order and peace to an otherwise cluttered and confusing world."
Well, I agree...mostly. There are times when I'm out shooting where I just want to see what happens. Shooting floral abstracts in macro requires intentional composition. The line and flow of the image as well as the flower itself can provide an absolute meaning or an abstract one (metaphorically speaking). It isn't something to be figured out; rather, it requires a different way of seeing...or feeling. This is how I feel about portraiture.
I went to Old Towne in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a few weeks back to practice "shooting" people. I pulled out my telephoto lens and away I went. It was a weekday toward the end of tourist season so I was surprised at how many people were there. Once I parked, I walked a short distance to find a group of local musicians playing. I sat and took a few shots trying to be inconspicuous, but really, how inconspicuous can you be with a ginormous lens on your camera?
From there, I went over to the church, then ambled around the plaza. My goal was to practice shooting people pictures, since that's my least favorite thing to do. Armed with my telephoto lens, I soon discovered I didn't have to be right in someone's face to shoot them and get a relatively decent image. That's what's great about shooting with a telephoto lens. Since you're relatively far from the subject, no one pays attention to you and their actions are natural and unimpeded by being consciously aware you're there and taking their picture. There were all manner of interesting sorts out that afternoon: artisans, more musicians, tourists, homeless folks, restaurant workers, families, people who lived nearby and me...trying to be as unobtrusive as I could.
As it turned out, it was a really fun experience. I captured some truly candid shots and while they weren't anything I can add to my website or portfolio (yet), I can use them here in my blog to hopefully encourage another photographer (professional or otherwise) with the same "people portrait" aversion I have, to get out there and give it a try. You might find that you actually like it and decide to add it to your repertoire.