Travel photography is often frustrating because you can’t always be in the right place at the right time with the right lighting. If you like to photograph foreign people and their culture, you usually 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. 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
- 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 set up 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. 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.
- Jim Zuckerman is a top stock photographer and who teaches Developing Your Creative Artistic Vision, Eight Steps to More Dramatic Photography, Techniques of Natural Light Photography and other online photo courses for BetterPhoto's digital photography school and special certification for photography program.
- In addition, Jim Z's work appears in a new book by Jim Miotke and Kerry Drager: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography (subtitled: "Learn to Master Composition, Color, and Design"). This book, published by Amphoto, is due out in October 2011.