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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Find the natural hams

We've all got one in the family. The type of people who just can't stay away from the front of the camera. They're always pulling funny faces or getting behind Aunt Myrtle when you're trying to get a shot - usually with a couple of fingers behind her head.

Your job as a travel photographer is to find the Kenyan, Thai, Japanese (insert equivalent country here) version of your family ham. And that's who you want to photograph.

I find markets are a great place to photograph people because there's always interesting produce for sale and the sellers are usually down-to-earth types who love to interact with foreigners.

Not all of them of course and that's where your people skills come into it. When I first noticed this stall of octopus for sale at the NijoIchiba markets in Sapporo there were a couple of guys standing behind the display.

When I am out photographing on the street I always put my camera out front where people can see it. It lets people know I'm taking photos and their body language lets me know whether they want their photo taken or not. As I walked along the rows of stalls I was photographing fish and stall holders and I could see these guys at the end of the row.

And they could see me. As I got closer one of the men ducked out behind the stall. Maybe he had something to do but part of the reason could have been he didn't want to be photographed. His friend on the other hand was standing there with a big smile and beckoning me over. He pulled out the biggest octopus and held it up for a picture.

When you're shy about photographing people one of the best ways is to let the hams find you! Have your camera out front and prominent and they will find you. And pose for you. And introduce you to their families. And never let you escape! And the shy ones will turn away or hide somewhere. It saves you having to ask if you can take a picture and be rejected when the locals are begging you to take their picture.

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