By Mark Eden
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.
Photography Outdoors: A Field Guide for Travel and Adventure Photograp
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
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
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
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