Q: What do you generally say to people when you approach them for a portrait?
A: I smile, ask them to pose, share what attracted me to them (people love to be complimented), and hope they have the time. Depending on the location and city, different tactics apply. Language barriers have presented interesting challenges, getting the right word for portrait is a trick, and then not coming across as a creep with an nefarious agenda helps. There are too many creepy photographers and a general suspicion regarding photographs that good folks will have to overcome.
It's a funny thing that our art form is as broad and yet as powerful as it is. If I told you I was a painter, you'd probably shrug with indifference. I could paint masterful works of art that hang in the great museums of the world or I could paint apartment walls in tenement buildings. I'd be a painter either way. But as a photographer, I instantly insert myself into the immediate consciousness of the culture. I am a power-broker to some, an exploiter of souls to others, etc. We dabble in a super-charged political art form that everyone has participated in in some form another. Everyone has a camera in their pocket these days and they know somewhere deep down the power it can wield. It behooves us to respect and honor our subject AND the medium.