Taking photos of locals when you travel can be a bit dicey. Some people mind and some don’t.
But how do you know who is who? First of all you can ask, but I’ve missed more than one photo because the person said no. Of course, I don’t want to take a photo of someone who doesn’t really want their photo taken, but I’ve found that sometimes if I just snap the shot the person doesn’t really mind. Then I might take advantage of the situation and take a couple more to make sure I get a good one.
Sometimes reluctance has to do with the prevailing culture. For instance in China, some people believe that if they have their photo taken they will lose their soul. So when I arrive in a country I usually ask someone who caters to tourists how most people feel about having their photos taken. If I’m in a country where people do mind, I always ask first.
I love people photos. My husband didn’t really like taking people photos as he was embarrassed to ask. That changed when he gave a slide show of our six-month trip to Mexico in a camper bus. Everyone in the audience was asleep by slide number 500. One too many photos of archaeological ruins. You really need a variety of shots to captivate an audience and people photos are generally the best way.
So don’t be afraid to approach local people for a photo. On one trip to India, the people liked their photos taken so much that it was hard to even walk through a village. Then again, photos, especially ones taken with a digital camera, are a great way to get to know people. They might be inclined to invite you into their home for a cup of tea.
I also take names and address so that I can get prints made when I return and mail them back. It’s a minor thank you for their kindness. With many people in the world today having access to e-mail, I have also e-mailed photos. Either way, it’s good to carry a little notebook and pen in your camera bag to jot down specifics. And be sure to be specific (i.e. village/city, day, clothing etc.), because if you are on a long trip it can get confusing to remember who is who.
See more of my people photos in the Vacation Gallery.