I will start with a disclaimer – I am not a professional photographer, but I am a photographer by the fact I create stories through my photographs. One of my first purchases bought with my first paycheck was an entry-level Pentax K1000. I preferred to use Kodachrome slides because they were less expensive to develop than film. In those days, we had very limited number of photos, either 12, 24, or 36. I couldn’t have been happier when digital cameras arrived and revolutionized photography as we knew it.
I love macro photography, capturing the beauty of nature, and the spirit and personalities of people! I enjoy people watching and starting a conversation with anyone and everyone! Over the years of travel, and running my facebook page “People, Places, and Faces of Ottawa“, I’ve learned ways that help me make the connection with local people, and most often they welcome and accept my request to photograph them.
1 – I will start with a “DO NOT” – – Please, be respectful of people around you. Don’t assume that you can go up to them and start taking photos without asking permission. I have forgotten this a few times, especially in times of chaos or populous events, but I’ve communicated and apologized, and asked if I could keep the photos. Someone in Vietnam walked up beside me as I was about to photograph a woman cooking lunch on a camping stove. I had been speaking with her for at least 5 minutes about different subjects, and I had asked permission to take her photo. This other person, however, had not. I politely asked him to ask permission and he responded: “Don’t have to, she’s in public, so no need to ask”. I also let them know where I might share the images – facebook, blog, instagram etc.
I also let those I photograph know where I might share the images – facebook, blog, instagram etc.
2. Take some time to get to know your subject. I typically will ask how they are, what are they creating, crafting, cooking, selling… anything to start a conversation. I have learned so many amazing things by asking questions.
3 – It’s a challenge to ask permission to take someone’s photo when there is a true language gap. I’ve tucked a list of translated terms in my camera bag, to help me in such cases. I also feel that you can easily mime the actions you want to take. I don’t like to play charades but I do my best when needed.
4 – I always take the time to let me subject(s) see the photos. I try to let them know that they may choose to delete the photos. Sometimes, people will ask me to retake the photos, and I always do so.
5 – I always thank you, in whatever way is possible – words, handshake, sometimes a hug, a bow. A smile goes a very long way as a sign of gratitude. I often buy a little something from them, if possible, or give a small amount when the subject has been friendly and helpful. I often carry little items that come from my country and share with others.
6 – If you are curious about something they are making, doing, playing, building etc, take some of your photos while they are doing their activities. It valorizes their actions and allows the subject to showcase their talent. Even if you are more interested in taking a closer photo of their features, make the first few photos about their skills. I find this always breaks the ice because they are proud to show you what they do. I so enjoy macro photograph, therefore, I often focus on the hands of the subject.
7 – Be ready to hear “no”, see some heads shake side to side, to see a hand up as a sign of cease and desist. Honor the decision the people take, thank them and leave.
The big BONUS tip is one that I recommend to anyone traveling to a foreign country. Research the rules and regulations related to taking photographs in the country. I had my 35mm film confiscated in a cemetery in Spain because it was against the law to take photographs in such a location. In China, taking photographs of military personnel is highly punishable by law. Take the time to know your rights as a photographer, and the laws.
There are so many other tips and ideas out there, care to share some ? I’m always open to new ideas!