Framing a story in one image is a great way to articulate your social commentary; the human brain processes visual information more quickly and pictures transcend language barriers. Here, we share four useful tips to help you enhance the experience for both the subject and yourself when capturing the true essence of your cultural narrative.
#1 Pony Up
Alas, this does not mean you need a pony for your shoot. Think about the opportunity to sell your work or show it to others and remember: it wouldn’t be possible if that nice lady on the street hadn’t agreed to pose for you. It’s always a good idea to carry some small change to give to models in exchange for letting you take a picture, but we’re not just talking about money. Pencils, crayons, small mirrors and similar items are useful, inexpensive items that your subjects would appreciate.
#2 Do Your Research
When immersing yourself in someone else’s culture, be well-informed when it comes to their customs and traditions. First, you’ll understand them better, and second, you’ll avoid offending them. In some parts of Asia, taking someone’s photo is akin to stealing their soul. Another common belief is that a photo of three people will result in the death of the one in the middle. Be mindful of the cultural and religious beliefs of others, and they’ll respect you as a photographer.
#3 Gain Trust
There aren’t any hard and fast rules, but in general, be as human as possible. Peel yourself away from the viewfinder and make eye contact with your subjects. Spend time getting to know them and what they like to do. Be polite and warm, and make them feel involved by allowing them to look at the photos you’ve just shot. Sometimes, the excitement that follows when they look at the images on your LCD screen is a photo op in itself.
#4 Keep Your Promises
One of the most important things you can do is to keep to your word when you promise to send your subjects a copy of your photo. It will also encourage them to be more open and friendly when they meet other photographers, which is a great way to pay it forward to your fellow photographers. If you can’t send a digital version, ask for an address and mail them a copy. A little goes a long way, and your subjects deserve a keepsake for allowing you a glimpse into their daily lives.