• Jan Hunter

Travel Photography Tips

A few travel photography tips from a recent trip of my own

by Pandora (Yorkshire Region Tutor)

The other year I was excited about traveling to Vietnam and in particular the beautiful old

town of Hoian.

However, I didn't want the usual travel pictures of the major sights, I wanted to venture

down the backstreets and capture a bit of real life and street photography, although as a

woman on my own I knew I wouldn't feel comfortable or safe doing this on my own.

So I Googled local photographers and found that a few offered street photowalks with a bit

of tuition thrown in. Although I didn't need the tuition element I liked the idea of going in a

group with someone who knew the local area so I booked on.


I met the photographer and 5 other attendees of varying ability at a street cafe and we had

a brief chat before setting off down the back streets. The photographer was English but

married to a Vietnamese lady and gave us some great information about local culture and

how to approach taking a picture of a local person. This will vary depending where you are

in the world but in Vietnam you never ask to take a photograph of someone as you will

probably get a no. What you do is try to generate an interest in what you are doing, for

example if it is a street seller take a picture of what they are selling and show them, learn a

few simple words of their language, and make a small purchase if possible. Show them the

picture and it will usually get a delighted smile (if it doesn't you know not to pursue it). I

then took a picture of the seller (above) and showed it to her using to local word for

‘beautiful’ and she gave me shrieks of laughter and called her friends over to see the

picture, I then was surrounded by willing models. Another thing I learnt is that the spacial

awareness of the locals is very different to our own and they have no problem with a close

up with a 50mm lens, where as I would be backing away, they were coming closer to have

the picture taken.


The photographer then asked if we would like to go into a school and take pictures!!!

Something which is a massive No No in the UK, however, here we found we were

welcomed in by the teachers and allowed to take natural shots of the children in school,

who were delightful and loved to see the pictures in the back of the camera.



During the walk I also met another attendee who was keen, like myself, to visit the harbor

one morning as the locals brought the catch in. We agreed to meet up at 4.30am as we

both felt better going together rather than venturing there on our own. With the tips we

picked up on the photowalk we were more confident on how to approach the locals.

Admiring their catch and using the few local words that we had learnt, went a long way.

Another thing which really broke the barriers down was that my colleague smoked and he

offered a cigarette to a local gentleman who was then more than happy to have his picture

taken. When we saw him later in a rough and ready cafe on the dock with his friends he

greeted us like long lost friends and gestured us to show his fellow fishermen the pictures

(see below). He reveled in his celebrity status and was happy to pose for some more

pictures and we left after buying them all a drink as thank you which cost us about 60p!!!.


So the key things for me that came out of this are:

• Try and go with a group or someone who has local knowledge

• Learn a few words in the local language

• Be respectful of culture and if people obviously don't want to be photographed move on.

• Show your pictures which generates interest.

• Make a small purchase if it is a street seller

• Although I don't smoke myself I would actually consider carrying a packet of cigarettes,

as they were a great ice breaker (if you know the person smokes) and the pictures

resulting from giving one to a local fisherman were some of my favorites.



Happy holidays!

Pandora (Going Digital Yorkshire)

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