Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Mon June 08 2015

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  • A Cruising Couple | June 8, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Travel Photography Tips: How To Photograph The Locals

    Travel Photography Tips: How To Photograph The Locals

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock, all other photos via Flickr

    While travel allows us to see new places, taste new foods, and simply escape the craziness of our busy lives, many travelers agree that the most memorable experiences are often had with the local people. And while photographing your favorite monument or beautiful landscape certainly involves technique, snapping photos of the local people always seems to add another dimension to the challenge.

    But it doesn't have to be this way. While it's easier to stand across the street with a large lens and take photos from afar, this isn’t always ethical — and definitely not how the best memories are made. Today I'm sharing my top tips for photographing locals, the right way.

    Make Yourself Available

    The first step to taking pictures of locals is to be where they are. When we arrive in a new place, we always make it a point to walk — not just through the touristy areas, but off-the-beaten-path as well. Remember that most locals won't be hanging out in tourist areas unless they want to sell you something.

    During our time in Vietnam, we decided to ride bikes through the country instead of take buses or a guided tour. Traveling that much slower and through rural areas allowed locals to come up to us and start conversations. They loved the idea of seeing foreigners riding rickety old bicycles through their country. The more accessible you make yourself to making connections with locals naturally, then the better chance you'll have to build a relationship and create a photograph you'll remember.

    Make Friends

    First For several days while walking from our hotel to the main sites in Granada, Nicaragua, we passed by a couple of old men sitting on the sidewalk, relaxing in rocking chairs and listening to rock music. We passed them three or four times a day, and every time we would wave and say "hola." I mentioned to my travel partner that they seemed really friendly, and that I would like to get a picture of them before we left town.

    It wasn't until the last day after we had said hello and smiled maybe a dozen times that I stopped and asked if I could take a photograph of them. I mentioned we had seen them a lot now, and I enjoyed their taste in music. They agreed, and I was able to take a photograph that I will always remember.

    Learn Key Phrases

    I always try to learn how to say at least a few key phrases in the local language, including: ”hello,” "please," "thank you," "may I take your picture" and “beautiful.” And that’s before I even set foot in the country. You will be pleasantly surprised at how far a little effort can go when you try to adapt to the local culture, and your subject will certainly appreciate it. Remember it’s always a nice touch to show your subject the photograph after you have taken it, and compliment them in their language.

    Know Your Camera

    The last thing you want to do when your lighting is perfect and your subject is finally comfortable is to be fiddling with your camera settings or changing lenses. Make sure you know your camera inside and out, and your settings are already ready to go before you ask to take a photo. The longer you make your subject wait, the more awkward they are likely to feel.

    These are just a few of my top tips for photographing local on my travels. But above all, remember that respect and a big smile go a long way. Not only will you get fantastic travel photo, but you’ll also go home with some of the best memories of all!


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A Cruising Couple A Cruising Couple's Column

A Cruising Couple Dan and Casey are the two lovebirds, world travelers and adventurers extraordinaire behind the popular travel blog A Cruising Couple - adventure travel with a dash of class. Their stories and photographs feature that special place where experiential and stylish travel meet. Find out how you can spend less money, live more adventurously and travel more luxuriously on their blog,
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