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Advice For Taking Photos Of People?

Travel Forums Travel Photography Advice For Taking Photos Of People?

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1. Posted by jkeller1ca (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y

I just completed a trip from Alaska to Brasil, carying my camera all the way. My problem is that I have very few photos of people - I concentrated on landscapes and such. My album looks as if the whole continent just stepped out for a party.

The reason is that I always feel uncomfortable taking photos of people. I perceive that it makes some people self-conscious. Others act in a way unlike the one that caught my eye in the first place. And I don't want people to feel as if they are a "tourist attraction." Something about photography is so intimate, especially with a professional-type rig. Who wants a big lens in their face?

I threw my inhibitions to the wind one day and just started taking photos of people while in Guatemala at a fair. While I did get one or two good snaps, I ended up creating a zoo, people crowding around me, trying to look at the tiny LCD version of their friend or favorite shopkeeper, then hamming it up for the camera. While no one was mad, it wasn't exactly what I wanted.

I've learned "May I take your photo, please?" and that helps. But do people have any advice/thoughts/exercises for me? Should I use a professional camera and try to stick out hoping people will ignore me because it looks like I'm working? Or or do I use a small pocket camera and try to blend in, snapping photos on the sly? Snap first, ask second? And what about taking photos of poor/sick people? Do it enough so that I'm used to it or "pay" them for their time?

As you see, even though I've traveled some time, I still have lots to learn. But that's the point, eh?

Thanks!
-Jesse

2. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

Everyone here should know the comment that all guidebooks make on this subject:

when taking people's picture,
a) ask for their permission,
b) offer to somehow get them a print of your shot.

So, definitely no snapping on the sly; a) is common, even codified in the western world as well, so why would we drop that rule in other cultures? It is a nasty remnant of colonialism to do so, in my view. b) is just a matter of being nice, which in my experience is always MUCH appreciated. Also, many people regard a picture of themselves as something very special, that explicitly acknowledges their existence.

I occasionally also come across c) offer them something in return, but that is ethically complicated, as it is known to stimulate begging, as one can see in Cusco, where you can select your 'traditionally dressed woman' to photograph from a long long line of folk waiting outside the airport.

3. Posted by Pardus (Respected Member 2356 posts) 10y

Here are some good tips from the Photography Blog:

http://photoguide.travellerspoint.com/5/
http://photoguide.travellerspoint.com/8/

Hope that helps.

4. Posted by Brendan (Respected Member 1824 posts) 10y

Or get a telephoto lens and then you can shoot people across the city... by shoot I mean take their picture.

5. Posted by jkeller1ca (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y

Thanks for the leads. I particularly like the tip about talking with the person while, kinda, fiddling with the camera at some point in the interaction. I can imagine it would make it not so much a suprise/imposition when I want to snap a photo of them. It's like saying "Hey, I just remembered I have a camera here, mind if a snap a photo or two of you?"

As for giving something in return, I am hot on the trail for a rugged battery powered printer for giving out snapshots. It's too bad someone couldn't invent a camera with a built-in printer.

-Jess

6. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 10y

I dont like to talk about taking a picture from a person.

If I have to pay for it ,I'm not interest in it anymore.
Some times I ask for it, but then I have mostly taken the picture,I just would take more of the person or the family.

I dont like to take pictures from people, posing.

I take fotos,go to the fotoshop,go back to the people give the foto as a gift and take new fotos while the are looking at there fotos.
most time they are happy, they open up to me,I can take fotos as many as I like(and I dojust have a look at my fotos here)
Marlis
;)

7. Posted by Travinfo (Budding Member 32 posts) 10y

Hi Marlis,

You are right, Paying for photographs i too dont like the idea.. But some times you really really want to have that snap.. Like check this photograph which i took of this sadhu.. (you may feel very awkward)

http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/stream/size/M/photoID/70600/

This sadhu was asking for a "BOTTLE RUM", and we nearly had a deal.. :) but in the end he agreed just without it but unfortunately gave the pose.. i wanted to take it in the most natural way.. But he didnt allowed me.. Nevermind..

SO the key thing in people photography which i feel is to mingle with the people first, talk to them in friendly way.. i sure you will get the best..

8. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 10y

Hi travinfo,
had a look at your fotos,and yes you are right,that is exactly how I dont like to have the people posing for me.
best is a good tele lense and if you dont need endless till you take the picture.It also helps sitting down and wait,watch the people around you and then "strike".you will realise that the people you would like to fotograf dont pay so much attension to you anymore as if you walk around with your camera good visible.

Marlis

9. Posted by Travinfo (Budding Member 32 posts) 10y

That's correct..
I guess i need a still better camera, I would be going to Kumbh Mela (Allahabad, India) coming yesr so i should be prepared..

I am trying to create a rural india digital library, and people are the most important element of that.

Will send you links of my collection to look at.

10. Posted by bayon_100 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 10y

Hi travinfo,
had a look at your fotos,and yes you are right,that is exactly how I dont like to have the people posing for me.
best is a good tele lense and if you dont need endless till you take the picture.It also helps sitting down and wait,watch the people around you and then "strike".you will realise that the people you would like to fotograf dont pay so much attension to you anymore as if you walk around with your camera good visible.

Marlis

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please... ]