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I live in a fairly touristic place and get asked to take pictures of strangers a lot. When I do this, I get a little bit self-conscious thinking if they are saying to themselves "this dude is taking too long, just get over it".

So I was wondering what is the normal amount of pictures someone needs when they hand a stranger a camera and ask them to take a photo of them?

I haven't tried asking directly yet, since it feels like an unnatural question.

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I've often been around my brother who is asked to take pictures of someone, or a group. His procedure is very consistent and the people in the picture always seem pleased afterwards:

Before taking the picture, he interacts with the group verbally in a positive manner thus making them smile and have happy faces. He will use small jokes or your typical "say cheese" type of conversation to prepare the group.

Now since the group is smiling and having great photogenic faces on- he will take several pictures (maybe 2-4) with different perspectives (below). He may even interject some conversation in between each picture to keep the photogenic faces alive

  • portrait mode
  • landscape mode
  • close up
  • further away

He never keeps the group posing for too long- IIRC only 15-30 seconds from start to finish. Enough to take a few pictures.

Since digital photos are so quick and cheap to shoot, it's OK to take more than just 1. This gives the group some choices in which picture they want to best represent themselves (maybe in social media sharing, printing, etc).

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    30 secs max seems like a reasonable time and little conversation seems like a good way to make things less awkard, thanks I'll try doing this. – barteezy Oct 24 '19 at 13:12
  • @barteezy When taking the photos on a mobile device, I recommend also taking photos two at a time (in quick succession). If someone's blinking in the first one, they usually aren't in the second. This can make the process faster than the typical "check it -> try again" method. – bta Oct 24 '19 at 21:16
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    I also find it helpful to give them a count down with one hand. 3 fingers, two fingers, 1 finger -> take picture. So long as you know which fingers to use politely. – Craig Oct 25 '19 at 1:32
  • This seems a job for a professional photographer.not a casual bystander. – Pedro Lobito Oct 25 '19 at 2:19
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    Your brother is good, this gave me a lot of tips for when it happens. – the_lotus Oct 25 '19 at 13:35
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Here's an example of my style:

Generally people are interested in a photo showing where they are. Thus, I will move around, and move them around to get in a good spot for lighting and for showing some sort of landmark.

Then, I tell them I'll get a couple of different shots.

In one case, the landmark was the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas. I told them, "hmm, this is going to require some interesting angles." Then, I took a couple quick shots, switched zoom/landscape, got a couple more, and then, said, "and, now for the interesting angle." Then, I laid down on the ground, up close to them, had them lean over, to get the whole tower and their faces.

They were all "wow" "you are a serious photographer!" They thanked me, and I said, "enjoy your trip!"
So, normally, a) I let them know I'll do more than just a quick snapshot and run, b) be quick, c) move myself and suggest they move in, out, left, right, etc. d) the whole process is, as others stated, no more than 30 seconds, unless they are chatty, engaging, or ask for more. If I have time, and they are nice, I might offer to get one "over there" for a different landmark or lighting. I've had a couple people ask me for a card or to pay me.

If it is people I know, family, friends, etc, I might do 10 or even 20. My cousin is a pro photographer and so now he takes the family photos, and will grab 20-30 per "shot".

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As someone who is an introvert and not very good with having a small talk with strangers, I usually just make it simple without asking: a minimum of 3 acceptable photos, let them review, then take more if they request (provided you have the free time to fulfill their request).

Almost always, when someone asks me to take a photo, I will straight up agree and take a position. For each take, I'll just make it short by initiating a countdown (or count-up in this case)

1... 2... and.... 3! ... once more!

Each take won't take more than 10 seconds, and I do this until I get 3 acceptable photos. ("Acceptable" in this context means "not photographer's fault", like blur due to shaky hands, lens blocked by the photographer's hand and passing travelers, etc.)

After this, then I'll let them review the photos by saying,

Are these okay?

More often than not, they will find them okay, thank me, then move on. Sometimes they'll request more, sometimes with additional instructions, and I'll do the same approach again as long as I have the time. Otherwise, I'll reject the request politely.

Sorry, I have something to catch.

An exception is if when they are in hurry while I try to get the first 3 acceptable photos, then they'll interrupt me. Still, they'll usually thank me because it's better to have something than nothing. But usually, people are always happy to have more photos, as long as you're okay with it.

I'll consider to "just go with the flow": take more if they request, stop if they feel enough.


Something to ponder from the requester's perspective is that:

  1. They're entrusting their personal belonging (sometimes not a cheap one!) to a stranger.
  2. Not everyone is a skilled photographer.

So, more often than not, they will always feel grateful to have at least 1 okay-ish photo and most importantly, getting their personal belonging back!

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A photographer once told me that you need around 10 photos to get a good one, he just keeps shooting at a steady speed (3-4 per second) and filters out the best later. Would just shoot for lets say 5-10 seconds, which is a lot of photos to pick from and then give the phone back. Works great when you photograph smaller kids, usually you get a lot of blurry waving hands and in between will be one photo that is just right. maybe combined with james' answer you can take 5 seconds of photos in each orientation (landscape, portrait, close up, far away). Make sure they understand "far away" and don't think you are running away with the camera! :p

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