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6 Ways to Photograph People While Traveling

People are one of the most popular subjects for photography. Perhaps this is because they mean so much on a personal level. People can provide a positive experience to your travels and make engaging subjects for pictures. There are many different approaches for photographing people from formal portraits to more candid shots. Here are six ways you can photograph people when traveling:

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Monks on their morning alms round, Luang Prabang, Laos © Jeremy Flint


1. People in action

Capturing action is an area in which photography excels above all other art forms. The camera’s ability to freeze dynamic movement is second-to-none. Fast shutter speeds bring successful action photography within easy reach of anyone. You can set the shutter speed according to your subject and its speed of motion.

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Fisherman, Jaffna peninsula, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

When people are busy doing an activity, they aren’t inhibited about being photographed because they are so involved with what they are doing. Shoot rapidly to capture people in action and be sure to set a faster shutter speed if shooting in low light.

2. Candid snaps

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Cyclist, Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, Jaffna, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

You can define candid photography as ‘taking photos of people who are unaware that a photo has been taken of them.’ The main principle of candid photography is to capture people acting naturally. Whoever is the focus of your photograph while on your travels will be going about their day without interruption. They are not posed for the camera or performing with your notable presence.

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© Jeremy Flint

The art of candid photography is similar to street photography where you are trying to take photos without being noticed by your subject. It is enjoyable to do while traveling when everything appears new and exciting.

You can capture people spontaneously from all backgrounds and different walks of life during your travels.

3. Using dramatic lighting

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© Jeremy Flint

Lighting in people photography can be used to create different effects. Being adventurous with lighting when shooting a portrait can be very rewarding. A little work with positioning and framing is all that is required. Try lighting your subject from different angles and see which you prefer. Vary the poses and seek out different positions. Get in closer for more intimate and emphasized lighting.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with lighting. Use available light to help define your images and use a flash to lighten areas in darker conditions.

4. Characters in a scene

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Kalmadu fishing village, Passekudah, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Many individuals find photographing people to be a daunting prospect at first. However, once you overcome your initial fears, it can be hugely rewarding. Outdoor spaces provide interesting places to capture informal shots of people. You can photograph people enjoying themselves or going about their business.

A long-lens with a zoom is a great way to hone in on characters in a scene if you are uncomfortable shooting from nearby. Capturing images from afar doesn’t distract the people in the picture or make them feel self-conscious about being in your photo.

5. Capturing the celebration

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Naga Pooshani Amman Kovil temple, Nainativu, Jaffna, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

The celebration of an event, the spirit of a festival or the jovial atmosphere of a party are relatively straight forward and captivating subjects to photograph. Most participants are likely to be involved in the company of their respective groups and are relaxed about having their picture taken.

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Drummers at the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Find a vantage point to capture the participants at an event and concentrate on capturing an unposed scene from an observers perspective. If you are photographing a party, enjoy the spectacle and photograph the people getting into the fun of it all.

6. Character-driven portraits

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Portrait of Tea picker, St Clairs Falls, Nuwara Eliya District, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

A person’s character is usually all that is needed to make a photograph striking or memorable. Whether this is a person’s face or distinct clothing, both present key elements that make up an individual’s appearance. Character-driven portraits provide an opportunity to capture features that are unique to the person.

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Naga Pooshani Amman Kovil temple, Nainativu, Jaffna, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Often when you are traveling, you come across people you want to photograph. You may find some people are so full of character that you just have to photograph them. To overcome a person feeling awkward about having their picture taken, keep a distance, so they don’t look too tense or nervous.


Photographing people can be a hugely enjoyable experience. Capturing people through action, candid shots, interesting lighting, character-driven portraits, celebrations, and character-filled scenes will help improve your images. Get out there and take pictures of people during your travels using these tips and share your results with us below.

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Jeremy Flint
Jeremy Flint

Jeremy Flint is an award-winning photographer and writer, specialising in travel, landscape and location photography and is known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. Jeremy has won awards including the National Geographic Traveller Grand Prize and the Association of Photographers Discovery Award, besides being commended in Outdoor Photographer of the Year. He has also been a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the year and British Photography Awards several times. He has been commissioned by commercial and editorial clients worldwide including National Geographic Traveller, Country Life, Discover Britain, USA National Parks and Visit Britain and has travelled extensively to over 65 countries.

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