6 Doable Tricks to Make Awesome Portraits of Local People

Whenever you travel, your eye is mostly trained to see nature and the architecture. But even towering mountains, graceful rivers, and mesmerizing buildings sometimes pale in comparison to the beauty of local people. By snapping pictures of the locals we take a short but breath-taking glimpse into a different culture, into a different lifestyle. In other words, shifting your focus from land- and cityscapes to the many faces of a nation might give you an even better understanding of your place of visit. 

But taking pictures of people has always been a trifle more complicated than snapping a pic of a monument or a seashore. Luckily, we have a few tricks that will help you make better portraits of the locals. Let’s have a look at them. 

Tip 1.  Always Ask for a Permission

In case you are taking a bona fide portrait, asking for permission is certainly in order. 

First of all, it is a sign of respect that might make your model feel very much at ease. Secondly, some people might be opposed to being photographed due to their religion, superstitions, or other perfectly valid reasons. In case you don’t get permission, leave this person be – that is the wisest and most polite thing you could do.

Tip 2. Have a Little Chat

couple looking photos

If the person is willing to be photographed, don’t just snap a few pics and be on your way. Instead, talk to them, even for the briefest of time. A simple chat will engage your model and will awaken emotions that are so beautiful when captured on film – as opposed to a flat face with a blank stare. Besides, if you learn even a bit about your model and their way of life, you’ll be able to make a photo that would tell a story. For instance, capture your model doing their daily routine, engaging with others, or just fooling around, enjoying themselves. 

Tip 3. Give Something Back

And we don’t just mean money. As a matter of fact there is no discernible option on that among travel photographers, so whether to pay a model for posing is something you should decide for yourself. As for other things you can give back, there are multiple options. For instance, you might offer to send your model their pictures or hand it right away once you print them. Sometimes a genuine smile and your sincere gratitude may be just enough. 

Tip 4. Shoot Holidays and Festivals

Sometimes the best portraits are those where people aren’t aware of being photographed. But instead of following people around paparazzi-style when they go about their business, consider shooting celebrations and religious ceremonies (provided you are allowed to). During festivals and holidays people are more brightly-dressed and more relaxed, which allows for stunning shots. 

Tip 5. Choose Proper View

Unsurprisingly, nothing beats the front view of a local’s face. While you definitely can go artsy with snapping people with their backs to you or just focus on their hands folded in their lap, the photo of a face looking directly into the camera is the clear winner. Focus on the model’s eyes and let the model’s expression tell a story. You might end up with a new Sharbat Gula portrait. 

Tip 6. Take Less Equipment with You

Since travel photography implies well, travelling, taking loads of equipment is counterproductive. First of all, you’ll be restrained by additional weight and sizable tools, whereas you have to light on your feet. Besides, you surely don’t want to intimidate people with enormous lenses poking into their faces. So consider going with more discreet cameras and only the most essential equipment. 

Bonus Tip. Don’t Overdo on Post-Processing

While editing your travel pictures, try to hit the perfect balance of erasing distractions and preserving the raw beauty of the local people. Do not be tempted to give your models perfect skin and teeth or airbrush them into plastic dolls – your portraits will lose all authenticity. 

In order to find that perfect balance of polish and sincerity, you need portrait editing software that would allow you to control the retouching process, while also giving you easy presets for a quick fix. The first software to consider is PortrairPro – a pro-level portrait editor equipped with all the tools for making your headshots perfect. Another option is PhotoDiva, a free portrait editor with a sophisticated AI that allows manual and automatic retouching with subtle and realistic results in both cases. So in case you are travelling with your laptop and perform all the edits with it, both these programs will work perfectly fine even on low-end equipment. 

These are our easy tricks that will help you to make National Geographic-level portraits of local people. Make good use of them to create shots that would capture the raw beauty of humanity. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.