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!

Got Milk?

Got Milk? I took a weekend workshop with Nat. Geo. photographer Catherine Karnow. When our assignment for the day was people with a requirement to ask permission to photograph first, we all cringed. We’d have to TALK to people?! But as I became bolder, I realized that it wasn’t just about asking permission, I was chatting to people a bit about themselves, the area, etc. – I was having an experience myself! If I approached with a smile, most people were happy to have their photo taken and chat a bit. The photos were better for it! I saw this girl from outside the Peacock diner in The Loop and loved the light. I chatted with her mom & aunt for a bit before capturing this genuine Sunday morning smile! 3.19.2017. Sony A7II 77mm 1/80@f5.6 ISO160

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!)

Photo Mission Taco.

Photo taken at Mission Taco in “The Loop”, a trendy area of St. Louis. Before taking this photo, the bartender gave me a bit of the California back-story of the restaurant. This was the 5th margarita he’d mixed for me to photograph – (no, I didn’t drink them!)
Sony A7II 24mm 1/60@f4.5 ISO1250

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!

Photo Dog's Life

I would have never taken this photo had one of my photography instructors hadn’t done an intensive one-on-one session with me trying to get multiple elements into one photograph – and interact with the person, in this case a shop attendant, for more than just one quick photo.

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!

Photo Marge and Ralph

Workshop participant dances with a St. Louis icon, Ralph at the Chuck Berry statue, a memorial to the musician a day after his passing. The atmosphere was far from somber.
Sony A7II 35mm 1/400@f5.6 ISO100