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Travel Photography Subjects: Young People


This post is number three of twenty one subjects that will help you focus when on your next journey and wish to bring back a well rounded story of where you were.  If you’re just going on vacation and only want pictures of yourself by the pool sipping boat drinks, then you can probably skip this one.  These posts are not intent on telling you everything you need to do, step by step, to capture perfect, cookie-cutter pictures while traveling.  Instead, they are intent on pointing out some vital elements to capture when on the road and ask thought provoking questions you may want to ask yourself.  My hope is they help guide you to find your own means to better expressing what your travels have meant to you and present that in the best light possible.

Today’s focus is the youth you will encounter on your travels.  Young people (and the age range for youth is open to your own interpretation when traveling) often require different tactics to befriend.  Often all it takes is a simple smile to open things up.  Kids are naturally curious but often wary of new things (and it conflicts them a lot!).  So it takes time and patience.  On the other hand, some older kids will run right up to you (sometimes asking for money, gum, pens, etc…) and be eager to see themselves on your camera’s screen afterwards.  That’s actually the best way to break the ice with most children, show them a picture of themselves.  Kids in touristy areas will be less interested in the picture and more interested in getting something from you.  But once you are away from the main tourist traps, you’ll notice kids delight in viewing themselves.  And if your camera has video capabilities, you may have to spend all afternoon filming them and letting them watch.

Be considerate of the children’s parents when taking photos.  It’s not practical for me to list the accepted cultural norms for all countries or regions of the world in regard to this (mainly because I’m ignorant of most of them myself and learn as I go) but as a rule of thumb, check in with the parents before taking photos of their children, assuming they are nearby.  If there’s a language barrier, a simple smile and quizzical look while pointing to your camera is about all it takes.  As it is polite to ask anyone for permission to take their photo, that courtesy should be extended to the child’s parents.

For some practical tips, set your camera on the ‘Sports’ mode if it has one.  Some cameras even have a ‘Kids & Pets’ mode which pretty much is the same thing; higher ISO, faster shutter speed and increased frame rate to help freeze the ever moving child.  If your camera doesn’t have either of those mode, just pick a decently high shutter speed and ISO combination.  Think 1/250sec or more and an ISO around 400 can help with the higher speed while not adding much noise.  If you’re using a point and shoot with their often maligned shutter delay, try using your cameras ‘Continuous Shutter’ option.  While this may only be .8 or 1.4 frames a second, it can help increase your chances of catching a special moment.

Also, get down at their level, or lower, and play for a bit before starting to shoot.   Make faces, laugh or show them photos of where you come from (you DO travel with photos from home to share with others, right?).  As with any human, big or small, try to connect before capturing their image.  One of the easiest ways of connecting is to bring photos of animals from home, be they farm animals, pets or wild.  Imitate the noises the animals make.  Goof off and have fun.

Do you have special photos of children from your travels that you’d like to share?  Post them in the comments section below.

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Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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