Travel photography portraits are a great way to tell the story of any given culture. We’re re-posting an article that was not available online by photographer Jim Zuckerman that was first published at Pixiq website. Needless to say that we found it very interesting because it throws away the misconception of magical photo serendipity.
I have seen and heard many great travel photographers illustrate the same concept: You need to plan accordingly, and be ready in order to take a great photo.
It’s no secret that models and light need direction and sculpting. Both require knowledge thus is important you assume the director role while on location. A great travel photography portraits can sometimes be a more effective connection with the audience, than a landscape or candid photo.
Here’s the original post reproduced here:
Guaranteed results with careful planning
Travel photography is often frustrating because you can’t always be in the right place at the right time with the right lighting. What usually happens, though, is you breeze in and out of a village or town relying on serendipity to get good shots. This is not the way to do it.
I learned a long time ago that it takes forethought and planning to guarantee great pictures of people in other cultures. Sure, serendipity does happen sometimes where everything comes together as a pleasant surprise. We all know, however, that this doesn’t happen often.
Therefore, when I travel to a place like Africa, I make a list of the types of images I want to take in tribal environments. For example, my preconceived idea list when I took a photo tour group to Namibia looked like this:
- Silhouette of Bushman archer in tall grass
- Bushmen hunting party
- Silhouette of Bushmen against large sun
- Himba family in sunset lighting walking toward the camera
- Himba girls dancing
To get these kinds of shots, I have to wear a director’s hat and set these images up. I use my local guide to arrange the time of day (usually sunrise or sunset), the location (which I have scouted), and I always select the models to make sure they are the kind of people I want to photograph. The fee is negotiated before the actual shoot, of course.
At the appointed time, through a tribal interpreter, I direct the action. For example, I’ll tell a mother with children to walk to the camera from a particular place. I instruct them to forget about the cameras and to pretend we are not there. Or I will tell a group of Bushmen exactly how to stand, look, crouch, or aim a bow. In this way, I get perfect pictures for my photo tour group and me.