/ Adventure Travel
adventure — By Vawn on December 7, 2009 at 7:41 pm
Filed under: featuredarticle, photographing people, travel photography

Tips for photographing people when traveling


This photo was taken in Langmusi, a Tibetan town in the province of Gansu in western China, which borders Tibet. I didn’t actually take this photo - I handed over my camera to a group of Buddhist monks I encountered outside of a monastery and ended up with more personal photos than I could have taken myself.

I’m far more comfortable taking photos of inanimate objects than human beings, so one way I get “people” shots is by handing over my camera to the people I want to photograph (obviously, it’s important to use your instincts – you don’t want someone running off with your camera). This photo was taken with a 35mm film camera, rather than a digital camera (film vs digital is a debate for another day), but it didn’t seem to matter that they couldn’t get instant gratification on an LCD screen. The simple act of taking photos was enough.

When taking photos of people:

-Ask permission, or try to establish some sort of rapport (in some cases, though, you may be asked for money, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if you’re comfortable with that)
-Offer to send the person a copy of the photo, either by e-mail or snail mail (digital photos are handy, but not everyone will have access to the Internet)
-Recognize that not everyone wants their photo taken and respect their privacy

While these tips may seem blatantly obvious, it’s surprising how often they’re ignored. In Langmusi, I went horseback riding with some fellow travelers in search of a Tibetan sky burial site. I happened to be wearing a traditional Tibetan coat – the kind with long sleeves that hang to your knees – since it was cold out and the owner of the guesthouse I was staying at insisted I wear it. My horse, however, refused to keep up with the others and eventually I got lost. In the midst of having a meltdown, a group of Chinese tourists pulled up in a jeep and, fascinated with the foreigner in Tibetan clothing on a horse in the middle of nowhere, started snapping photos while I tried to hide my face with my super-long coat sleeves. It’s not so pleasant when you’re on the other side of that camera, against your will.

Sometimes, too, the best picture is the one you don’t take – but simply remember.

Photo Copyright @ 2009 VH Media

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