- Be prepared.
While you're enjoying the scenery of a particular location and shooting the location itself, be ready for the opportunity to include – or feature – people in your photos. Carrying the right lens is important, of course. So is having your lens cap off, since people aren't going to hold still for you like the landscape and architecture will. Keep a lens hood on and the cap off. Keep a lens pen in your pocket to brush away any dust quickly if necessary.
Keep your camera turned on, to preserve your batteries as well as improving your chances at grabbing the shot. Have your ISO at an appropriate setting for the lighting. You may want to consider having your shutter set to burst mode in bustling environments. In short, keep the idea of photographing people in mind.
- Get permission when possible.
For many photographers, this is one of the toughest hurdles. Speaking to strangers isn't always easy, especially when you're far from home. Good people skills are important, though and on the bright side, making new friends is always a bonus. If there's a language barrier, an inquisitive smile while pointing to your camera will get your message across.
Start by talking with people. Shopkeepers, vendors and most people you meet on the street are going to know you're a photographer from the equipment you're lugging around, so you probably won't need to explain that. If you're talking to a vendor, discussing their wares and maybe even making a purchase will probably go a long way toward a positive response. If you're talking to other visitors to the area, breaking the ice shouldn't be difficult.
There will be times when asking ahead of time isn't practical, because you'll miss the opportunity for the shot. On those occasions, don't hesitate to show your subjects a little preview of the shots. Knowing that you're portraying them in a good light will help convince them to let you use the images.
In either case, being prepared with a business card to introduce yourself will help you appear more professional. If you happen to have a KeepSnap card, it may also give you the opportunity to sell the images to the subjects themselves, without the need to give them a big sales pitch. Many people are bound to ask you what that “weird little graphic” does and at that point, the door's open.
Last, but far from least, don't take offense to rejections. People that decline will have their reasons and it's up to you to respect them. Don't come across as a jerk; word will get around.
- Think about including the surroundings.
Before you start taking people photos, decide whether the surroundings might be important. Remember, you're a storyteller that uses images. A shopkeeper in front of his or her product displays becomes a lifestyle portrait as well as a journalistic piece. In other cases, the subject's face, actions or demeanor may be the story, or the entire crowd in a bustling environment may be what the photo should really be about. Think about what needs to be included in a shot before you shoot. Tourist shots are for your photo albums. Travel shots should tell viewers something about the moment and the place.
(A good medium-range zoom can be a huge help in making these decisions.)
- Make friends with the clouds.
Strong sunlight is often the worst light for both location and people photography. Obviously, you're not always going to have control over the weather, but be ready to take advantage of cloudy days and their soft, diffuse lighting.
Now, depending on where you happen to be, clouds may mean fewer people to photograph. In that case, use that beautiful light – and the clouds themselves – to enhance your shots of the landscape and architecture. Either way, you'll reduce the number of challenges caused by harsh shadows and contrast and may even save some sunblock. Don't forget that those shopkeepers and vendors are going to have more time to chat, too!
- Be a director.
Professional models will probably give you the shots you want with minimal direction. Posing subjects for a portrait is a pretty straightforward process. Shooting someone you've just met in an unfamiliar environment may make you a little hesitant to start “barking orders”.
Take a moment to consider the situation from your subjects' perspective. You're asking them to let you photograph them. You're the one that should know what you're looking for and they're going to want you to communicate that to them. Most subjects will be grateful for a friendly suggestion followed by an encouraging word when they “get it right”. Don't be rude, but don't be shy.
- Know your equipment and your skills.
Being clumsy with your photo gear and taking a long time with your settings isn't going to be helpful in an impromptu shoot, or help you succeed with those grab shots, either. Get out with your gear at every opportunity and learn it inside and out. Remember, experience is the best teacher.
While you're practicing, enlist the aid of your family and friends. Take the time during family outings or get-togethers with friends to fire off a few shots. You might even find the opportunity to sell some of those shots!
For most of us, the people we see and meet when traveling are often as interesting as the locations. In fact, the people often make the place. Including great photos of the locals or other tourists when you're on the road can go a long way toward rounding out your vacation or travel portfolio. Of course, the key to that is making the photos great. Here are a few tips on how to make that happen.
Photographing people while you're traveling can add a surprisingly enjoyable new dimension to a vacation, business trip or any other occasion to get away. Next time you're out on the road, take advantage of the opportunity to meet some new friends, enhance your portfolio and maybe even fatten your wallet a bit!