I have a facebook friend insisting on talking about travel portraits. I don’t agree about the premise – You don’t have to travel to take a portrait. It is like going to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun or Playa del Carmen and think you see Mexico.
The neighborhood I live in is like Chinatown, Little Italy and Soho all in one, I just need to take a walk around the block to find a piquant face for a picture.
For a portrait people stop with what ever they are doing and look in to the camera – You loose the atmosphere that caught your eye at the first glance.
However my online friend would love Mexico and Latin America, as soon as anyone sees a camera they are posing.
Travel photography for me is about capture the essence of the country and the people you visit.
I am not saying you should hide in the bushes with a 500mm lens to take your photo, I walk down, or sit by, the street showing my intention with camera in hand and a smile on my face. But I try to get the first couple of shots before my subjects react with a pose.
Don’t give money after a shot!
I never give money to someone after I have taken a photo, this will spoil the authenticity for the next photographer walking by. I may give some change walking away to later turn around for my shot. If it is a street vendor I sometimes walk up and buy something.
If I am in a country or region where the dominating religion is against photos I – of course – respect that and have my camera tucked away.
Photographing in public is allowed in most countries of the world, but if someone get upset or turn away when I push the trigger I erase the photo, if possible show the affected person what I am doing.
There have been discussions after a shot about my intentions, I try to explain and promise to send a photo by email if possible or with snail mail when I am back home. This is usually enough to ease any possible insecure or doubtful feelings.
And as most things in life if you want to get anywhere it is better to apologies than to ask permission.
If you do promise to send a copy, do it and if sending by snail mail have the printed photo framed for a nice touch – Don’t be cheap.
Never photo poor people to show class differences or in a demeaning way!
Street photography everywhere, but especially in poor countries is difficult. You have plenty of opportunities walking the streets, lots of colors, interesting characters and intriguing encounters. I always try to make people look there best and sometimes to shine the light of the problems in the less fortunate part of the world. It happens I walk on a thin line with my photos and sometimes even cross my own moral and ethical boundary but those are the photos you will never see.
Walking around in the tropics by night there is numerous of possibilities to see how people live. With the hot evenings front door and windows are often left open and indoor you can see a family having dinner with candle lights or a single naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Maybe an old man sitting in his rocking chair watching TV. This is a clear example where my ethics says stop, it feels like an intrusion of privacy.
If you hesitate before pushing the trigger – Don’t take the shot. There is lots and lots of views not including people to photograph. Colorful buildings, beautiful details or ordinary things just done different in the country you are visiting.
It is your imagination that make a photo good or just mundane.
For a photographer the boundaries should be easy – How would you like to be imaged?
But it is not always this easy, we often forget feelings of others when looking through the comfortable shield of the lens.