Up Close and Personal // Hoi An, Vietnam
I was SO nervous. Invasive, inconsiderate and rude were the first words that came to mind. Wouldn’t they be so annoyed?
Last week during our visit to Hoi An, Vietnam I signed up for my first-ever photography walk with a professional photographer. I love landscape photography but candid people photography (outside of those goofy Instagram-oriented portraits that I sometimes try) makes me so anxious. I just really didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable by my putting a big lens in their face. Wearing my hesitations loudly on my sleeve, I headed to class hoping for some solid tips on how to capture people in natural but pleasant way.
That was the goal.
After a 30 minute boat ride to a remote village my instructor, Etienne, gave us a pocketful of tips for candidly capturing people.The most important method for documenting people naturally: engagement. Whether someone is cutting, cooking or cleaning something, ask them what they’re up to and how they are doing it. The idea is that this will make a person feel more comfortable with you and eventually your lens. Another practical tip: turn the camera around and share the shots you’ve taken and even offer to share over email.
Despite the helpful tips, I still found the project a difficult one. Approaching a group or individual one of two things happened: a. I’d smile excessively, feel inclined to ask to take a picture then end up getting a Sears Portrait gallery non-candid shot. or b. After displaying interest in their activity, I’d get distracted and join in, totally missing the opportunity to take a picture but enjoying myself nonetheless. (I actually lost the tour group for 30 minutes while I got stuck in a card game with 10 year olds.)
While I wouldn’t call it a soaring success, I really loved spending time exploring the countryside, meeting locals and learning photography techniques along the way.
Have you tried documenting people and cultures on your travels? How’d it go?