Be A Photography Ambassador


When you travel, the impressions you make help people to form opinions of you, your culture and your country.  If you make a good impression, it is easier for people to like you and share with you.  And when people of different cultures share with friends, they are one step closer to getting along with each other.  As a photographer, you have some of the best chances of all travelers to make a good impression by practicing a few good habits.  So be a photography ambassador and do your part for peace on earth.  Here are ten things you can do to make a good impression.


1. Make people smile


Sounds simple doesn’t it?  It’s not always easy but it’s always worthwhile.  I’m not talking about the fake smile they give you when you say “say cheese”.  I’m talking about a genuine smile that says they are happy – even if it’s just for a few seconds.  To do this you have to connect with people.  Smile.  It’s contagious.  Talk to them, through a translator if necessary.   Be willing to be part of their life, if only briefly.  Be willing to make fun of yourself.  Get them out of their ‘serious’ mode.


2. Get permission to take photos


When you want to take a picture of someone in the foreground of your image, get their permission.  Sometimes it’s as easy as pointing your camera and smiling.  Other times it requires some convincing.  If they say no, you should respect their wishes.  If they want money, you must decide if you want to pay them.  If not, don’t take the picture.  But if they are just shy you can coax them.  Compliment them.  Tell them they would look good in your photo.  If that doesn’t work, take pictures of other people that are willing to be photographed and show them to the shy ones.  Once they realize you are not trying to embarrass them, they might come out of their shell. 


3. Take pictures that others ask you to take


When you point your camera at someone, other people often want to be in the picture.  If the person you are taking the picture of wants the other people in the picture, let them.  Your goal is to make your subject happy and if a picture with his friends or family makes him happy, then you have a much better chance of getting the photo you originally wanted.  After you leave, they will talk about their experience with the foreign photographer.  You want to make sure they are talking about a good experience.


4. Show people your photos


Show people the photo(s) you just took on your camera’s display.  Make sure everyone that wants to see them get’s a chance.  It’s hard not to smile when you look at a photo of yourself – even if it’s a bad photo.  Besides, it shows you are willing to share.  Typically, they will open up more and share other ideas for your photography.  You have just established a connection so treat them with respect.  If you have to leave before they want you to, apologize for leaving early and explain that you have a busy schedule.


5. Take photos with other people


Be willing to put yourself in the photo.  Once you establish a connection with people, they often want a photo that includes you.  In many areas, this means more to them than you can imagine.  They will talk about the time they were photographed with that foreigner.


6. Let people take photos of you


Turn about is fair play.  If they want to take pictures of you, let them.  Pose for them, if asked.  When they use their camera, they know they can keep the image so it helps them share their experiences with their friends and family.


7. Take photos for other people


When you walk around with cameras, it very common for people to choose you to take their picture.  Here’s another opportunity to connect with someone, even if it’s another tourist.  Take advantage of this opportunity to take a good photo that will remember fondly.  Pose them.  Move them if necessary.  Create a composition that includes the background you know they want in the picture.


8. Share your photos


Everyone likes to receive photos.  Whenever possible, try to honor requests for photos of people.  If they have email, offer to email them a picture or two.  If they don’t have email, encourage them to find a friend or local business that does.  If printed photos are required, try to print them locally and give them to your guide or hotel to share.  If you take a lot of photos at an event, you can copy them to a CD and mail it to them.  The photos they receive will give them fond memories of the foreigner they encountered.


9. Delete photos when asked


Occasionally, people don’t want to be photographed or they don’t want you to photograph some object.  It does not matter what their reasons are so if you are asked to delete a photo that you previously took, you should do so.  Show them the image on your camera and show them you are deleting it.  It may not earn you their friendship but it will earn you some respect.


10. Share photography advice


Everyone takes pictures these days, even if it’s just with their cell phone.  They want good photos just like you do so help them out when you can.  Be willing to share advice on composition, lighting and backgrounds.  They will remember you when they look at their photos.


Small gestures, like these, create lasting impressions.  They help to bridge the gaps between age, race, religion and culture.  It’s what the world needs more of and it’s easy to do.


May your travel and your photography both be rewarding!


   Roger Nelson