Taking better and more meaningful photos while on vacation

As photographers we travel the world in search of capturing the next awesome photo. If could be an hour from home, or it could be half way around the world.

I often watch many that travel and come home disappointed in their images where they tried to capture the people, the culture, and the environment.

After a conversation with a good friend Michele Zousmer on recent trip. We were wandering the streets of downtown Ulaanbaatar. As I watched her in action,  I finally realized where the disconnect was. So I wanted to post a few points to help you

This photo is an example of what i am discussing today. I was at an open air market in Ulaanbaatar. We came across these two brothers. Looking at them, there was no photo there... but after we engaged them we learned that they wake up before the sunrise every morning, gather meat from nomadic people and drive into the market to sell to buyers. What they do is a major source of revenue for the nomadic people and helps a small rural community survive. They were 17 and 9 with such a huge responsibility. So a scene I would have otherwise walked right buy, turned into a self enriching understanding of how a rural community survives.  This photo means something to me now. 

This photo is an example of what i am discussing today. I was at an open air market in Ulaanbaatar. We came across these two brothers. Looking at them, there was no photo there... but after we engaged them we learned that they wake up before the sunrise every morning, gather meat from nomadic people and drive into the market to sell to buyers. What they do is a major source of revenue for the nomadic people and helps a small rural community survive. They were 17 and 9 with such a huge responsibility.

So a scene I would have otherwise walked right buy, turned into a self enriching understanding of how a rural community survives. 

This photo means something to me now. 

Always ask first before photographing or videoing people. Not only is it rude but in some cultures, it’s also a violation of their spiritual and cultural beliefs. How would you like it if someone was sneakily — or not so sneakily — snapping your photo while you were going about your day? Just because you are a tourist doesn’t give you permission to take photos of whoever you want.

And heres some food for thought…  asking them before you click gives you a chance to have a conversation and to connect on a deeper level, and that’s what travel is all about, right? Making a connection with the culture… and isn’t photography about evoking an emotion and connecting with the subject?

If you want to go that extra mile, send them back copies of photos to help make it a two-way exchange.

Taking photos in a foreign land isn’t just about snapping a few photos… to me its about making a human connection and capturing the essence of the moment and creating a memory that lasts longer than that snapshot you took.

Try it the next time you are on vacation. I think you will find your photos will take photos you otherwise wouldn't, and you will create longer lasting memories.