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Photographing People While Traveling

by Sage McHugh

Sep 24, 2014

© Sage McHugh

Tips / Travel

Follow these tips when documenting your travels.

 

© Sage McHugh

© Sage McHugh

How to approach a subject: Asking people for their photograph can be an intimidating process, depending on the place you’re visiting and its customs. Getting a good shot is largely determined by your own energy. Approach your subjects in a friendly and respectful manner. Don’t hide behind your lens; let people see you are genuinely interested in them. People will often ask why you want to photograph them, so be honest. A simple compliment, like “I love your smile” or “That’s a great hat,” often does the trick. Don’t be too eager for a photograph. When a subject is relaxed and comfortable in your presence, you have a better chance of getting a natural-looking shot. Always ask permission to take someone’s photo whenever possible.

 

Be sensitive to cultural differences: Things can get trickier when you’re in a group setting, such as a religious ritual or cultural ceremony. In these cases, it would be rude to interrupt the event and ask for individual photos. Keep a safe distance and try to capture the moment from a different angle. A solemn row of monks in Laos or a crowded passenger train in India, shot from afar, can be just as powerful as a close-up.

According to ancient superstitions, people once feared cameras because they believed photographs could capture a piece of their souls. This fear still exists in more remote parts of the world. People may refuse to have their picture taken and you should respect their wishes. Those who are not familiar with a camera may be curious as to how it works. If you have time to give a brief tutorial, do so. Once people become comfortable with you and your camera, they might be willing to pose for a picture.

 

Paying people for pictures: Travelers may also encounter a different scenario — locals asking for money in exchange for a photo. It’s up to you to make the decision and your own ethics will come into play. Do you want to pay money to take someone’s photo? Do you feel it’s a harmless trade or a corruption of culture? If you’re uncertain, you might want to assess each situation on an individual basis.

 

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