The saying goes that the best camera you have is the one you have got, so taking pictures with your smartphone is something reporters should become comfortable with.

After all, you never know when you will need to capture the scene in front of you, whether that is a breaking news event or poignant image that can help visualise your latest project.

If you are not used to taking portrait photographs, approaching strangers in the street can be nerve-wracking, but the array of characters, ages and relationships you will find is priceless.

But before you start snapping away, it is important to build trust with your subject in order to capture the essence of their character and the moment, explained smartphone photographer Tim Bingham.

"Street portrait photography is about capturing the human experience in a photo – and if people don't trust you, they won't be natural," he said, teaching at MojoFest Tours last week (2 October).

"You have to remember that smartphone photographers can be seen to intrude into other people's space because we have to get close, so you have to build a relationship first."

A 50 year-old friendship in Farriery. Image: Tim Bingham

So, how do you begin to build trust with someone you have never met?

Well, Bingham noted that it is not uncommon for him to spend more than an hour talking to someone that he feels would be good to photograph. Some people are, by nature, more relaxed and open than others.

"If they are sitting on a bench, you sit on the floor – make them feel comfortable and in control. You are entering their space," he said, noting that he will often go out in scruffy jeans with the expectation of sitting on the pavement.

Striking a common interest is also key to helping your subject relax, where you allow them to talk to you about their opinions and feelings.

"It is never just about the photo – it is the experience of connecting with somebody," he said.

"You find that strangers can often offload everything onto you – and you see that emotion captured in a moment, it's in the eyes."

One of Bingham's most poignant shots was taken after an hour-long conversation with Adrian, a man who has been selling the Big Issue in Bristol for the last 17 years.

Bingham's image made the front cover of Mobiography magazine

He opened up to him about how selling the magazine has provided him with a way to be part of the local community, before allowing Bingham to take the shot.

"Sometimes you look at a photograph and it hits you in the chest," he said.

"If it creates something in me, then I know it will create that feeling in someone else."

But Bingham does not simply step straight into his subject's personal space, he stands back and gradually moves closer as he is shooting and talking, keeping the subject as relaxed as possible.

"You have to remember that you are strangers – sometimes you can get so excited and forget the whole engagement process," he said.

"I don't direct anyone, I tell them to be themselves.

"If they are feeling awkward, I might ask them to think of certain situations that they've shared with me – I have lots of photos that I won't publish."

Bingham 'marinates' his photographs, often leaving them for weeks before viewing them with fresh eyes. He can then edit and post them online if he wants to share them.

"Human connection is key – sometimes you will be able to develop it, and sometimes you won't, but you'll be able to tell through the images you produce."

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