Photographing people abroad

Tips and tricks to use for snapping the locals when you re away Learn the culture This is one of the most important things that you must do. The last thing that you want to do is offend someone that you want to take a photograph of. It can be extremely easy to offend someone when you have no prior knowledge or understanding of their culture. Upsetting them could be as simple as not taking your shoes off before entering their home or, perhaps, not eating with the correct hand during a meal. In a lot of cultures women do not want to be photographed at all and in the past I have made the mistake of pointing my camera towards a group of women going about their work in a public market only to be met with the shaking of heads and a waving of arms. Thankfully, a smile and a raised hand in apology showed that I was genuine and not out to cause offence, hence any confrontation was narrowly avoided. Be respectful As well as learning the culture, basic manners will also help to endear yourself to any potential subjects. Always be respectful and smile. If you respect the people that you are photographing, they in turn will show you respect back-it s a two way street. You may not speak or understand the language, but a smile is the same anywhere. You ve also got to keep asking yourself if you would want to be photographed if the roles were reversed. How about if you were attending the funeral of a friend or relative? I m sure you would rather not be photographed in these situations, so it s best not to photograph other people doing the same if you want to avoid an angry scene. If you don t speak the language then try simply pointing your camera at the subject and giving them a smile. If they shake their head or hold up their hands it s a certain sign that they don t want to be photographed and it s best to move on. If they return your smile then feel free to photograph them, but make sure that you show them their picture on the back of your camera. Showing them the shot you have just taken can make a massive difference, and it often sparks interest from other people who would like to have their portrait taken so that they can see the picture on your camera too. Always remember that when you ve finished give them a smile, as this shows your appreciation. Be aware though that on some occasions you may be expected to make a small payment in return for the photos that you have taken.  Photographing people abroadTechnique and kit Always try to plan any shot in advance if you can. The basic principle is the same no matter whether you are photographing in a crowded market or trekking the countryside on horseback. If you see a shot in advance it allows you to be able to spend some time setting up your camera (making sure you have the correct lens, aperture and ISO). This ensures that you are going to capture your image at the correct exposure and more often than not, once an opportunity has gone, it may be gone forever as you may well not get a second chance. If you are looking to shoot candidly and capture people going about their everyday lives and business then it goes without saying that you need to be able to do it without being detected. In situations like this, a large telephoto lens becomes essential allowing you to zoom in from afar. A 300 or 200mm lens should be ideal for this purpose and I personally use a 70-200mm 2.8 as this allows me to be able to zoom in close to the subject and with the lens wide open ensures a nice background blur to the shot. On a cropped APS-C sensor this is more than enough to allow me to get right in on someone without them knowing it. Always remember to show plenty of respect when taking photographs of people though. After all, you are photographing someone s private life. In places like Egypt and Morocco not everyone wants to be photographed, so a great technique that I use is to pretend to be taking pictures of someone in my group using a telephoto lens when, in reality, I am photographing over their shoulder what is going on behind them. This technique can be very successful, as to the locals you look like a tourist simply taking holiday snaps of each other. Local markets One of my favourite locations to photograph people is at the local market; these offer great photographic opportunities no matter what country you are visiting. More often than not the market stalls are situated in-between narrow streets, so a high ISO and wide-angle lens is the order of the day. As the locals are too busy going about their business trying to sell their goods and bartering, it is much easier to blend into the background and remain unnoticed. Markets like this offer a vast array of beautiful textures and vibrant colours to use as backgrounds in your images. Depending on where you are visiting, stalls are likely to include fresh spices, beautiful handmade silks and fresh locally produced fruit and vegetables. Why not take some close ups of some of the items that the stalls are selling? Shots like this can look really effective when sandwiched between portraits of locals working on their stalls, and can also be used to break up a series of otherwise quite similar images. During a festival or public holiday because everyone is usually in a good mood to start off with and are less likely to object to having their photograph taken. Festivals are generally colourful and vibrant affairs so, if you can, try and plan your holiday so that it coincides with one of these events. You re bound to return with a selection of unique images. Taking care of your gear When flying, I find that it s best and a much safer bet to keep your kit with you as hand luggage, depending on the weight. If it s too heavy for that though then ensure you ve invested in a good quality case that keeps it well protected in the aircraft hold. Always make sure that you have at least your main camera and a general purpose lens along with a memory card, battery and charger in the cabin with you. That way, if your hold luggage is delayed or lost then you re still able to carry on taking pictures of some sort. Remember to make sure that your kit is insured too, as airlines will generally not pay out for camera equipment damaged in the hold.

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