Travel photography is about places we go, but it’s also about people we meet and experiences we have – which can often be categorized as “street photography” or at least this is where the line between travel and street blurs a bit. I took a weekend workshop with National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow to focus on this aspect of my travel photography (Recommended!) A couple of things I learned:
1) Ask permission
When our assignment for the day was “people” with a requirement to ask permission to photograph first, all the workshop participants cringed. We’d have to TALK to someone other than a photographer?! But as I screwed up my courage and approached people, I realized that I wasn’t just asking permission, I was chatting to them about themselves, the area, their day, etc. – I was having an experience myself! If I approached with a smile, most people were happy to have their photo taken and a bit of a chat. The photos were all the better for it!
2) Maximize elements
Try to get as much of a sense of place and story as possible into one photograph. This means choosing people who fit the vibe and have expressions that fit the situation & including certain colors or symbols (signs, buildings, etc.) in the background that show the place. And don’t forget good light!! Move people if necessary (I’ll be working on this lesson for a while!)
3) Make lots of photos
Rather than just one click, take a short burst of photos – expressions and gestures change quickly! More importantly, this means sticking with a situation or person for some time, trying different angles and expressions – sometimes even stepping back and letting them forget about me. Their permission to photograph doesn’t expire with one click of the shutter! This part was even harder for me than asking permission in the first place! But most people seemed ok with the attention or just forgot I was there and got on with life.
Kayla at Three Dog Bakery was a real sport! Catherine worked with me to maximize elements in the photo. She wanted me to include all of the following: Kayla’s smile, her cat shirt, the colorful dog treats in the case, the dog birthday cake, the sign behind, and a cute birthday dog on the screen (choosing a good photo as they scrolled through) – all in one photograph!
When I travel, I’ll still photograph the epic places and architecture, but now I’ll look to include the people and sense of place in my photos. I’ll feel less awkward about approaching people and initiating a conversation. This will take more practice on my part, but I already feel excited about my next trip!