David Smith of Interface Images is a Vancouver-based freelance photographer who also teaches the art of digital photography on some of the world’s top cruise lines. Recently, he spoke at the BC Association of Travel Writers annual symposium about how to take better pictures while travelling.
The key? Take pictures of people. Sure, landscape and architecture shots are great, but it’s pictures of people that will make your travel photography unique (and share-worthy) and help you build and capture lasting memories. “Explore what your camera means to you as you interact with cultures around the world,” he said. Here are his top three tips for getting great shots of local people as you travel around the world.
1. Ask permission
Taking someone’s photo without asking is at best rude, and at worst can get you in serious trouble. While people in North America may be hesitant to have their picture taken, people in other cultures may be flattered you asked. “Internationally, your camera can unlock doors to local culture,” Smith said. Improve your odds of success by asking to “create” someone’s picture rather than “take” it – it’s a simple shift of language that makes a big difference.
2. Work the easy connections
Simply put, be nice. Be nice to cab drivers and others in the service industry – Smith has been invited into local families’ homes more than once just by being polite and expressing an interest. When purchasing local goods in a market, be friendly and ask the vendors to pose with their products – they’ll be happy to show off what they sell.
3. Create rapport
Bring pens, stickers and other gifts from home (Canadian flag items are a big hit) to thank people for allowing you to photograph them. Be sure to show people the photos you take of them on the camera’s LCD screen. As strange as it may to sound in selfie-obsessed North America, some people may never have seen a photograph of themselves before, and it can bring them great joy.
Bonus tip: When taking pictures of people who know each other (friends or family members), ask them to “touch heads.” It brings their faces together (and gets them smiling) for a much more interesting photo than a line of people standing in a row.