Travel Photography Tip # 5
My next tip for the traveling photographers out there is “Photographing People”. When I first started taking travel photographs I rarely, if ever, included people in my pictures, to me they were a distraction from the main subject. However, with age (and smart advice from my wife), I have come to the understanding that people in a photograph make it more interesting for other perspective travelers to grasp what the area is all about, among other things.
Including people in your images is not as easy as just point and shoot at a group of people piling off a tour bus. First, you want to determine what your subject will be, it could be a statue, a park, a building etc. Next, find a cool angle to shoot from where you will be out of the main flow of traffic. After that, determine what your background will be. Ultimately, you want something that’s not too distracting but adds to the context of your subject, some examples are the sky, a large crowd of people or large buildings. Next, decide if you want to take a candid photo, essentially, an unsuspecting person, or do you want to orchestrate the photo with your subject. That usually works best with a stranger or fellow traveler you have just met. Better yet, if you are traveling with a friend or relative use them as your model. Another idea is to put yourself in the photo either using a time delay, give your camera to a trusting stranger or (as a last resort) just sticking your head into the corner of the frame with your point and shoot camera.
Either way, make sure you fill the frame with your subject and the background. Get in nice and close or use a zoom lens. I mentioned earlier that you want to find a cool angle to take your photo from. This extends to the point where you probably want to mix up your stance from time to time, try squatting, leaning or kneeling to get a different perspective or if you are trying a candid shot, this is a good idea when trying to take a sneaky photograph of an unsuspecting person. Images taken from the same perspective get old quickly and show a lack of creativity.
The bottom line is this, including people in your photographs offers insight into the culture and lifestyle of the region you are visiting. I will leave you with a few tips on how to get some quality candid photos. I must mention that you have to be somewhat sneaky and must act like you are spying on someone. First, try to blend in with the crowd. Don’t stare down your potential subjects, take a quick scan of the scene and then decide on what your subject will be. Turn around and pretend to shoot at something else, fiddle with your camera, or look in your camera bag real quick before turning back around to locate your subject again. Use a street sign, trash can or bench as a prop or a place to conceal yourself. Do not linger in one place to long, get your shot and move on. It will take you a while to perfect this technique so don’t get discouraged if someone yells at you or shoos you away. I was recently in Central Park in NYC and was “caught” by a street performer near Strawberry Fields photographing their cat and I just quietly moved along. There is ALWAYS another candid people shot waiting for you.