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How to Photograph People on Your Travels

How to Photograph People on Your Travels

The people of Indonesia are delightful. They are warm and playful and relaxed. This woman sat easily at a street-side restaurant waiting for her meal and was very willing to be photographed.

There are certain rules to follow when photographing people in the public sphere. Taking photos of people while traveling requires an additional layer of sensitivity.

Your desire to capture the beauty of a culture by taking photos of people can be intrusive. Sure, your intentions are pure. You want to capture the beauty of local traditions and ways of life. But one cannot assume that a person is willing to have their photo taken. Whether you are doing it unobtrusively through a zoom lens or obviously and up close, if you don’t have the agreement of your subject you are still operating on an assumption that may be incorrect.

Then there’s the issue of taking photos of children on your travels. They are typically more joyful and animated than adults and, therefore, really interesting subjects. They are also typically very willing to have their photos taken. Is it right to do so? What will you do with the photos?

There are issues to consider when photographing people on your travels. Here are a few tips to do so responsibly.

How to Take Photos of People While Traveling

As you may have noticed in my posts, it is the people I meet along the way that I enjoy most about my travels. Yes, spectacular landscapes take my breath away but it is the people who hold a special place in my memories. And when I am able to save their image in a photograph I have a specific moment in time to hold on to.

So how does one take photos of locals to reflect the beauty of a culture you have enjoyed on your travels? Here are a few tips.

  1. Smile.

    I know, this is the most obvious thing I could say but it is the first step. Smile warmly and see if your smile is returned.

  2. Take your time with the person you want to photograph.

    If your smile welcomes you into their space, take some time for a chat and gain the trust of your subject. Not only will this get you closer to a photograph but it will make that photograph all the more meaningful when you look at it years later.

  3. Ask for permission.

    If you feel that the person is comfortable with you, that they are enjoying your company, ask permission to take their photo and tell them why you want to. If I feel I might use the photo on the blog I always tell them that their photo may appear online. So, in addition to getting permission to take their photo I get permission on how I can use it.

  4. Take discreet back or side profile shots.

    You don’t need a person’s full face to capture a culture. A busy street or market scene reveals lots about a place. Faces may appear and legally this is usually allowed but you may want to be selective in how you take and use these photos. Being discreet is important and, if you’re selling the photos, a model release may be needed. Also, if a child is involved, shots that do not reveal their face is best.

  5. Focus on personal details.

    Hands being held, the lower half of a group of children running, or arms and hands up in the air dancing at a party are details of people in ordinary life that reveal much without showing faces. Again, don’t take this opportunity for granted. Your subject does not necessarily know that you are only taking a partial portrait. It will still require the trust of the people being photographed.

I have many treasured photos of people I have met on my travels that I have not shared with you on Solo Traveler. Fortunately, I have some that I can. I hope you enjoyed these photos of the beautiful, warm, and welcoming people of Indonesia.

how to take photos of people while traveling
I was having such fun with these college girls and they were having fun playing up for the camera.

For more photos of Indonesia see Solo Travel to Indonesia: Photos by Readers. Also read Solo Travel in the Indonesian Jungle, Solo Travel Destination: Gili Air, Indonesia and Solo Traveler Artist in Residence: Images of Indonesia.

Last updated: 2nd November, 2020



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