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Every year a huge crowd of people gathers at the San Diego Convention Center to celebrate pop culture and movies in an exceptional spectacle called Comic-Con. Many attendees dress up in beautiful costumes, handcrafted in countless hours with an astonishing devotion and attention to detail.
For us photographers the colorful figures exert a strong pull to visit and photograph the event. Two years ago, I decided to fly to San Diego to see what the fuzz was all about and of course to take photographs.
How to photograph People at Comic-Con
I find that many photographers are troubled about taking the photograph of a stranger without asking for permission. Street photography is very different from landscape photography. We feel restricted through norms of society and our own inhibition.
A large gathering like Comic-Con with many like-minded photographers makes it very easy to overcome those fears. If you cannot pull the trigger here, street photography clearly is not your game. That is perfectly ok.
How to overcome your inhibition and get your subjects to relax
Look non-threatening and friendly. Smile and behave normally
People usually mirror your behavior right back to you. If you look grumpy, grouchy and tense, others will assume that your intend is not honorable and will automatically take a negative attitude toward you. Smile at a baby and it will smile back, make a sad face and it will cry. Although higher brain functions prevail in adults, our mind still works on this level. People will not like you but won’t know why.
Respect your subjects
If you respect people, they will not mind you taking their photograph. If you laugh about a person and then try to take their photograph, they will automatically assume you want to take a funny picture. If you respect a person, they usually do not mind at all and may actually strike a pose. Do not just pretend to respect people. True emotions usually shine through. There is no reason to disrespect another human being.
Relax and enjoy yourself. Your photography is a beautiful thing. See yourself like a news or press photographer. You are here to create wonderful pieces of art. With the right attitude, your inhibitions will disappear.
Contrast or Complement
In this picture on the left, the visitor strikes a pose that is very fitting to the movie poster right behind him. They complement each other.
In the picture on the right, we have an example for contrast.
Here are two more examples:
Look for color contrast (complementary colors) or color uniformity.
The colors at Comic-Con are simply amazing.
Once you have successfully shot strangers at Comic-Con, it is time to graduate and move into the nearby Gaslamp Quarter for some city street shootings.
The same rules apply in the city. Smile and look non-threatening. Use a short focal length and leave your paparazzi telephoto lens at home. I have yet to encounter somebody who got seriously mad for being shot with a small lens.
If you had enough of the Gaslamp Quarter, you could walk to nearby Seaport Village. Take a break from the nerve wrecking people shots and enjoy some unique skyline views.