Who’s that boy?

I don’t often take portrait photos, I still haven’t learned how to ignore my unease of approaching the potential subject and asking permission. And I certainly don’t like taking candid shots without the person knowing.

Asking for permission is the only way, in my opinion, to take a stranger’s portrait photo. Even though, more often than not the spontaneity of the moment will be gone. Though I’m pretty sure if you’re a good photographer you’d be able to create such a moment even after the person has become aware s/he is the subject of your photo.

During one of my photo safaris in Bangkok, Thailand, this time on a bicycle, I run into the scene where school kids come home from school. The setting is one of the many thousands of alleys of the main roads in the Thai capital. There’s a very relaxed attitude there.

This boy looked like he’d make a nice subject for a photo, so I asked his mother if it would be okay to take his photo. I hoped that the white powdered face of the boy would be a nice contrast against the dark background.

The final photo turned out to be exactly what I imagined while approaching the scene on my bicycle. A boy with a white powdered face contrasting a dark, out of focus, background. I used a very shallow Depth Of Field.

While I was quickly adjusting my camera and finding a good position to take the photo, I was already taking some images. And while I was adjusting my balance and my camera, the mother was adjusting the boys head to look towards the camera.


Like I said, the photo turned out the way I had hoped, but at home one of the images where the mother’s hand is holding the boy’s chin is much more interesting. There’s a better story going on in that image. Unfortunately precisely that image is out of focus, due to the shallow DOF and me still finding my balance while taking the photo.

So the question is: does it matter that an image is out of focus if you like the story better than that of a similar image that is in focus. Let me know what you think in the comments.