Sometimes, it can pay off to approach strangers by Leonard Manfred

Sometimes, it can pay off to approach strangers

by Leonard Manfred

Hi Brando and Steve. I am a big fan of your site, I have to say a day does not go by that I don’t click on it to see what’s new.

I wanted to share an experience I had on the summer of 2014. I was walking down the beach in Luquillo, PR, when I saw this lovely girl just walking by herself. I usually don’t approach strangers, especially the pretty young female kind, but for some reason, this time, I did. We started conversing and I learned that she was a Colombian “au pair” traveling with a family from Miami. I was just fascinated by her eyes, and trying not to sound creepy, I asked if we could take some pictures. She agreed, if first I met the family she was traveling with and they said it was ok. So I did, and we all went to do the shoot together.

I really like the results I got. I’m still captivated by her soulful eyes every time I look at the pictures. I guess it pays to speak up once in a while.

These are all jpegs straight from my old A7s (now replaced by the mark 2) and Voightlander 35mm 1.2 (possibly one of my favorite lenses, especially in combination with this camera) and probably shot wide open, if not just slightly closed from that, which is, to me, the sweet spot for this lens. I also shot raws of the same pictures, but, I prefer, whenever possible, to do as little post as possible, especially since I suck at it. I rather let the camera do the work (that’s what I pay it for, right?)




I do have shots where she is not looking straight at the camera, and those were nice too, but, like I said, it was the eyes that got me, so sorry for the lack of creativity here.

Thank you for the work you do, please keep it up.


her name is Karo


  1. I don’t know about focus points, but she’s clearly focusing on you.
    A thousand times better than any perfectly shot dog picture…

  2. They’re all not sharp where it matters (the eyes). Does that matter? Yes.

  3. Wow, thanks for sharing. Does she know she is getting famous all over the world now? 😀

    She seems to be a very interesting person, as far as I can tell by her appearance. Of course she is beautiful, but this – for me – never is the unique characteristic which makes me want to take a portrait, especially not of a stranger. I understand why you approached her and I really would have wanted to be in that position, as well. Not only for taking a few shots, but (if she agreed) to get to know a part of her life story and also for sharing mine. That’s a part of what makes life beautiful.

    Travelling you get to know many great individuals, you can take unique shots – I really have not been travelling for way too long (time shortage due to education^^). Fortunately, I am not too old yet and hopefully have some time left. 🙂

    Btw, I like your JPEG philosophy. Besides I am not good at post processing either (and it takes too much time to process many pictures faithfully), I prefer RAW as a tool which I use when the camera is incapable of delivering the results I wanted.

    Best regards from Germany,

  4. Nice model.
    1. Somebody here was right – The AF is not focused on eyes – on the 3. photo :)…
    2. Composition – at least basic rules could help.
    3. Format of photos – emphasize the problems with composition.
    4. Lights (spots) in corners on 1. and 2. Picture are distracting.

    These are just advices that could help you in the future. Sorry, if I made you angry.

    • Don’t let you be distracted by the light spots. 😉 They could easily be removed by post processing or by cropping.

      Once an old photographer asked me if today everything’s about how sharp an image is. This made me think and, I think it should not be the focus (unless really needed). Photography is an art form and as such the (intended or unintended) composition of a picture changes its character. When looking at the bikini shot as a whole, the mismatched(?) focus does not distract too much – I am not bothered by it at all.

      Best regards,

      • Well, something IS in focus at the bikini shot but it’s not the eyes.. However, there was no mention of its importance.

        The old photographer was fretting about today’s sharpness? I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t the same in his day (mm, let’s see, say 90 years old, a WW2 and 50’s, 60’s, 70’s era guy; of course sharpness was pursued in those days!).
        Be that as it may, I think most snappers like to know sharpness is there when needed; it’s easy to change to less if the scene/subject is better suited without it, but it’s not so easy to do the opposite with a dodgy lens.

      • Hi,
        You are right. Photo does not have to be sharp. I have read interesting book by Czech author Rober Vano “Photo does not have to be sharp”. But the problem is, when sharp is something, what should not be sharp :). That is the difference. I do agree, that light can be removed, and I am asking – why author has not done it? I know that this is not a web side just for professionals, but if you do something, you should do it properly. You show your photo on web side for foreign people that consider you according your photo. I believe that my advices could help him more than your statement that everything is OK and as an author, he does not have to improve himself and can make mistakes. You can improve yourself just when you work hard – in everything you do. There is a mistake that is made very often – a man sees a beautiful woman (often naked), and he does not see mistakes like bad composition, colour, shadows, cutting, because he is concentrated just on an object :).
        That is my opinion.
        Have a nice day.


  5. Nice pics Lenny, but as much as you were captured by her soulful eyes, you focussed on something else in the bikini shot.


    Best regards

      • Yes – and it makes your composition refreshingly different – even if it was an accident !! Of course, eyes first is the usual rule of thumb, but it’s not an infallible dogma. I’m amazed at your courage in making the approach and the trust you obviously built up.
        Thanks for sharing.

  6. She is definitely beautiful subject….good eye for talent and good job….

  7. Very nice pics. I can see why you would want to photograph her.

    I have the A7s and only shoot jpg and RAW when doing astro photography or if difficult lighting…other than that jpg does just fine.

    I’m with Steve Huff when he says it’s not worth upgarding just for the IBIS – I mostly use the camera for astro when it’s on a tripod. It’s a great camera and takes photo’s in the dark when 99% struggle.

    I’ll be using it for some portraiture work this Friday so good to see your portrait pics. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Good results! And I agree with your jpeg and minimal post-processing philosophy.

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