These articles are designed to help you appreciate how professional photographers approach assignments and the techniques they use, including some helpful tricks of the trade. In this issue, editor Paul Burrows provides some tips about photographing people when you’re travelling in a foreign country.
As Cuba starts to welcome more tourists from overseas, Havana’s magnificently restored Old Town Centre is a very popular place. Enterprising locals – including this trio – are making the most of increased visitor numbers, providing lots of opportunities to capture the local colour. This image is for a future article on the courtesies of photographing people when you’re travelling in foreign countries.
Camera editor Paul Burrows was in Havana to participate in the judging of the 2017 TIPA Awards and stayed on afterwards to make the most of a city which is destined to change, but right now is a photographer’s paradise.
Panasonic Lumix GX8 mirrorless camera fitted with an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO zoom lens, hand-held.
It’s often tempting to shoot people candidly, but this makes for images that are mostly impersonal. Eye contact really helps viewers become involved in the image, so it’s best to be up front about your intentions. These ladies were actually on a break from parading around a big square, but the coloured background was too good to pass up… so a few gestures (and a few coins) later, they happily posed.
How It Was Done
Speed is of the essence in these situations, but you still need to take time to compose, frame and focus. Starting wide and zooming gives a few framing options for later on (and avoids cropping the image), but also remember to try a vertical framing too.
Tricks Of The Trade
Communication is the key to successful people photography (and portraiture) so, if even you
don’t speak the language, make some connection with your subjects. Don’t try to orchestrate too much, but a little posing is acceptable if it’s appropriate and adds to the image. In this case, there was just one frame where everything looked just right. Always remember to thank your subjects and, in many countries, this means handing over a few coins. And don’t forget to show them a couple of the images… just so they can see what you’ve been doing. Oh, and by the way, if somebody really doesn’t want you to take a photograph, then don’t.
Degree Of Difficulty (Out of 10)
There’s always an element of good fortune in travel photography and you can just happen to be in the right place at the right time. The challenge is to make the most of these situations, because things will soon change. Everything comes together here to score a solid nine.
Can You Try This At Home?
If you’re feeling shy about photographing people then start with family and friends so you can work on your communications and also start to understand how expressions and poses can look in the image. The more you experiment with photographing people, the better you’ll get… and if you’re relaxed and comfortable, then your subjects will be too.
Photograph by Paul Burrows, copyright 2017.