This is a guest post by Maria Rainier who is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online colleges and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop. If you would like to write for TheDolt’s Blog, do read our page Be My Guest; Write A Guest Post.
This post is a sequel to Maria’s last guest post, How to Take Good Travel Photographs.
The subjects that make it into travel photography aren’t always the things people traveled to see (like famous bridges, old buildings, or stunning landscapes); they can instead be the people met along the way.
People-centeric photography can be tricky. When traveling, people-centric photographs tend to be candid ones, like of a mother and child at a market in Florence or of fishermen in Vietnam. The idea of taking pictures of random people is normal to some but a lot of people understandably get a bit of a stalker vibe. In order to take the most effective and attractive photographs while maintaining your manners, follow these tips.
- When taking candid photos of people, it’s best to use a telephoto lens so you can keep your distance and very subtly snap pictures of people without them knowing. This can be done with subtlety or with the aforementioned stalker vibe. If you’re spotted by your subject, you can do one of two things: smile and turn the camera away or smile and approach the subject to engage him or her in conversation. This conversation doesn’t need to be about the weather or how many kids they have; keep it short and simple so you can ask them if it’s okay that you take a picture of them or even if they will pose for you.
- Walking up to a stranger in a foreign country or in a spot in town you’ve never been evokes many scenarios. Maybe the stranger gets angry at you. Maybe they run away and everyone starts looking suspiciously at you. Maybe somebody catches you taking pictures of their kids and calls the police. Or maybe your would-be subject shakes his or her head or covers his or her face and walks away. Maybe, just maybe, they shyly nod and let you snap a photo. Of these scenarios, only the last two are likely. If you ask politely enough—and even if you don’t speak the local tongue, an indication of your camera and a smile usually communicate the point—most people won’t be offended and will either comply or equally politely decline. If they do the latter, no sweat—just don’t take the picture anyway, because the other scenarios become more likely.
- Don’t know how to ask your subject to pose? Let him or her decide. If they want your guidance, try to frame the scene to capture only the head and shoulders and have the subject look into the lens (although they don’t need to face the camera entirely). The sidelong look is a highly effective and even intimate shot. Make sure, also, to keep the background simple, neutral, and uncluttered to keep the focus on the person. If you have a dSLR, use a large aperture and selective focus so the background becomes blurred and your subject is in focus. Soft, even lighting is ideal, but if you find yourself in direct sunlight, use a flash (yes, even outdoors) to offset the shadows cast by the sun under the eyes.
- Say that your subject is a basket weaver at work. Taking pictures of individuals working means that there’s already some kind of action in your photo, which is great. Be sure to frame the shot so as to include the action just enough to tell a story.
- We’ve all seen those black and white, close-up portraits of people from exotic places of the world. It’s strangely beautiful how the lighting takes advantages of the wrinkles on their faces and gaps in their charming smiles to portray stark, stunning images of real people in real places. Black and white photography has its place, but never shoot in black and white. Your camera captures color better than any photo-editing program. You can desaturate your images there, but always shoot in color.
- In some cultures, having one’s picture taken is unlucky or signifies a bad omen. Read up on local culture and beliefs before taking your camera.