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Digital Photographer Interview

by Coole Photography on May 20, 2013 Leave a comment

I am pleased to announce that I have been asked to be part of a travel photography feature with the magazine – Digital Photographer. I am very honoured to have been asked and hope that my section will give everyone a little more insight into portraiture work. I have included the original questions asked and my responses, as the feature itself only uses certain parts. The magazine will be available to buy this month, but I have included a sneak preview PDF of my contribution here (just click to download a copy):
Digital Photographer May 2013
For those of you who are not familiar with this particular magazine, here is some information taken directly from their website:

Digital Photographer is the kitbag essential for enthusiasts and pro photographers looking to refine their skills and bolster their portfolio, created by working photographic professionals. The Digital Photographer brand focuses on what good photographers really want – exceptional images, expert advice and all the latest technology explained. Digital Photographer reaches out to photographers on their level, providing them with all the inspiration and information they need to take their skills to the next level.

What’s the secret to capturing the culture of a place in a photograph?

Immersing yourself in the culture to begin with often helps, simply by sitting and watching or joining in with a local tradition or activity. Once you have a good idea about the specific culture, it tends to naturally come out in your photographs. Some places will be easier than others of course, especially if traditional dress is still worn, but the hardest places just require more time observing and perseverance always pays off!

How important is it to research traditions and customs beforehand?

Absolutely essential. It all boils down to respect and given that you are in someone else’s village or home, you should know how to behave. Sometimes it’s just small things, but in some countries or areas there are strict etiquette rules that must be followed – so rather than offending someone by doing something that is deemed unacceptable, it makes sense to spend some time getting to know the basics before you arrive.

What are your top tips for photographing local people?

I have said it many times before and I’ll probably say it again in the future, but when photographing people it should be done with a high level of respect. On more than one occasion I have walked into a village to find other tourists and photographers standing over the people, not talking or interacting, not getting to know about their lives and customs, but simply turning the people into objects and getting as many photos as possible.

I will always ask permission before taking a photograph, and if the person chooses to decline, it is their own personal choice and is not a problem.

Interaction is the key and I often find that after spending time with people, either chatting, using hand signs or having a cup of tea, they are much happier to be photographed. After getting to know the person a little more they relax, smile and laugh – making a much better photograph.

What’s the trick to taking a great portrait if you don’t speak the same language as your subject?

Approaching people is often the hardest part, whether you speak the same language or not. By simply having the courage to go over and say hello, people will generally attempt to interact with you. A smile can go a long way and often relaxes people enough for you to try and use either hand signs or pointing. The best way of becoming friends is to try and make people laugh, which can be done easily if you don’t speak the same language, as they will find whatever you say amusing!

What are the essential kit bag items for travel portraiture?

When I first started out I always took far too much gear with me, hauling it all around and getting a bad back started making less and less sense, especially given that some pieces never saw the light of day! So now I take only the essentials:

–         1 x Canon EOS 5D MKII

–         1 x Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0L IS USM Lens

–         1 x Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

Each of my lenses has a HOYA Pro1 Digital Filter on for protection and I always take extra batteries and a few big capacity CF cards, just in case I run into power supply issues or go on extended treks to remote villages; it’s a horrible feeling knowing you can only take a few more shots before your card is full or battery runs out!

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