Local people add color and excitement to travel pictures so photograph them…an intimidating idea to many of us. Flowers, animals and mountain lakes don’t talk back to you but it is people who make the world colorful, friendly and more interesting (IMHO). Be aware that different cultures react differently to foreigners and photographers. Don’t violate cultural or religious taboos on photo taking – research this before you arrive.
To start: Experiment with people you know, Use telephoto lenses. Try children first ….they are much easier with few hang-ups. On Location: Relax, study your site for interesting subjects, get people to be used to you and that you are a photographer with a camera and using it! When you arrive at a scene for the first time you are like a rock in a still pond causing huge ripples everywhere. If you have the time, hang out, relax, sip a latte, let the “ripples” subside and others will soon get used to you.
Shoot around your subject, then move closer & SMILE. Engage in friendly conversation “I love your hat” “you have a beautiful village” “Can you help me find —?” Learn a few words of the local language, people always appreciate your efforts. After establishing any type of relationship with your subject ask “may I take your picture?” or if there is no common language, point to your camera then your subject with a “may I?” gesture. If there is a negative response – move on, there are billions of people in the world left to photograph. The first poses are often stilted or unnatural – get your subject to hold and show you something or interact with others and plan on taking several shots to get a good one. Come back later and try again, the second time your subject will be more natural and relaxed.
Don’t feel obligated to tip unless your really want. Bring home town pins, flags, mementos to hand out. In high traffic tourist locales tips can attract amazing subjects dressed in local costumes for better images. Some of your subjects rely on tips for their livelihood so carry lots of small bills to hand out, particularly in high traffic popular sites.
In a photo rich setting, watch and prepare for candid shots and practice your camera technique at home to be ready for that once in a life time opportunity, like this one of women fruit sellers in Antigua, Guatamala. David had 2 seconds to grab 2 shots before they turned down a lane.
A few tricks:
- Let children pose themselves – they’re natural; Say “Touch heads” and you will always get a smile and a laugh. Want a friend for life? – exchange contact info, send/email photos.
- Using a digital Camera? The BIGGEST icebreaker by far is to show them the picture you took. Everybody likes to look at themselves. Capture yourselves with your new friends by using Dave’s Smile Circle ä effect, a technique which will be explored in detail in a future post.
No need to travel afar, watch for local festivals and special events. When people get dressed up for parades and cultural festivals, they are really saying “take my picture” Don’t get there just for the parade – get there for setting up and post parade interaction. If you are on a tour be sure to photograph your traveling companions doing things, your tour guide and any local hosts or entertainment events.
Remember -A memorable portrait is really a moment in time between a photographer and a subject and is an effective tool to get to know, experience & appreciate people around the world.
Please share some of your favorite photos and stories of people you didn’t know.