I grew up taking lots and lots of pictures that didn’t have people in them. I thought I was better catching the scenery that I liked instead of cluttering it with people. Well, I was wrong. When out taking photographs in exotic and foreign locations you want to be able to showcase and share all of what you have seen and not always limit it to the scenery, gorgeous as it may be. There is a right way to use people in photography that breathes a new life that would otherwise be missing in the photo.
By tastefully incorporating people into your shot you are able to show off more of the culture of the country you are in. You don’t have to find a model and place her in the setting you like. Use the locals. Have the people in your picture match the atmosphere. You don’t have to look far to find someone who will fit in because if they live there they will fit. When adding people, the tendency may be to pose the person or people to be just where and how you want. This can be good and artful but if there are only posed shots it may become artificial. Don’t be afraid to take candid shots also.
One good way of enticing someone to be in your photography is to be kind and respectful of their lives. If they don’t speak your language simply show them your camera as if you are ready to take a picture of them to show your desire to take a picture of them and are asking permission. Smile, nod, be confident that they will say yes so they feel your positive attitude but wait for some sign of approval before proceeding. Once they says yes be sure to quickly show them the picture you took. This will spark their interest further and you may get even more shots from them, both candid and posed. In most cases if you can get them to agree to the first shot they will be willing to take more.
If this doesn’t work remember that they are probably trying to make a living too. Be open to the idea of buying something they are selling. Once you buy something you change from a nosy, annoying tourist shoving a camera in their face into a customer supporting their livelihood who wants to remember where they’ve been through pictures. Make friends and let them see you, not just your camera.
Now, with this all said I want to emphasize, I am not saying that landscape photography doesn’t have a place in the photography world. Instead I am pointing out an alternative style of photography that can show a different emphasis and can boost “tourist” type pictures and transform them into something more.
Let yourself become more than just a tourist snapping shots of any and everything and bring some characters into the mix.