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Travel Photography: Photographing Cultures And People

posted 24 Feb 2013, 07:57 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Feb 2013, 07:57 ]

As a travel photographer, one of the most interesting and
rewarding subjects to capture is the many different cultures and
people the world has to offer. Photographing people also brings
its share of challenges. This article looks at some of things to
consider when looking capturing a culture in an image.

Do your homework

Before starting out, ask yourself this question. Do I know
anything about the people I want to photograph? If the answer is
no, or not really, then do some research. A little homework and
you can gain some helpful insights into how to approach your
subject. For example, some cultures might take offence to having
their picture taken, some will expect to be paid, while others
will rush you begging for you to take their photo. Having some
idea of what to expect gives you an advantage in considering how
to approach people. Research can also give you insight into the
culture of the people. You may discover a piece of clothing
native to that part of the world and look for people wearing
that piece of clothing. These small pieces of knowledge can make
the images you come away with more authentic and real by being
able to gain people's trust and cooperation.

Model releases

If you intend to sell your images, you may need a model
release. This can present some difficulty in language barriers
and people being willing to give their permission for their
image to be sold. It can be daunting to ask a stranger to sign a
piece of paper allowing you to make money from their image. The
best advice I can give is make it easy for them. Have your model
releases easily accessible and make them easy to read and
understand. Be patient and answer any questions they might have.
Most importantly, be honest. Don't hide your reasons for wanting
permission. Most times, if people see you are being upfront with
them, they are more likely to cooperate. There will however
always be times when people will be unwilling to sign a release,
or maybe even unable to sign because of illiteracy or language
barrier. In these cases simply accept their decision with a
smile. Arguing with them will not change their mind.

Be considerate, give something back

It is important to remember that wherever you are, you are a
guest in someone else's country, and to behave accordingly. To
take great images of people, you need to get them to let their
guard down, to relax and open up to you. You will never achieve
this with a grab and run approach. Slow down. Stop and talk to
people. Give something back rather than making your photography
only an act of taking. This may be as simple as engaging in
conversation with someone before asking to take their photo, or
you might carry around small gifts to give people. Whatever your
approach, you (and for that matter your subjects) will gain so
much more from the procedure.

A little sensitivity can go a long way in photographing other
cultures. It is a practice that will allow you to come away with
more than great images. It will also allow you to gain an
education. Which, at the end of the day, could prove much more

About The Author: Mark Eden is a freelance travel photographer
and writer, and the founder and director of Expanse Photography,
a photographic services company offering fine art, limited
edition prints as well as stock and assignment photography and
publishing services. Mark can be contacted through the Expanse
Photography website