Capturing Culture: Ten Photography Tips for Travelers

African girls look at an iPhone

Ami Vitale shares with us her Top 10 Rules of Travel Photography, because:

“Photography is not about the camera. It’s not even about the beautiful images we create. It is about telling powerful stories. Photography is a tool for creating awareness and understanding across cultures, communities, and countries; a tool to make sense of our commonalities in the world we share.”

And we couldn't agree more!

The old adage that a picture (or photograph) is worth a thousand words certainly resonates with this Vitale's perspective: Looking at all the details and emotions of a photograph can unearth many stories about culture, identity, idiosyncrasy, and commonality.

Photography is a valuable tool in raising global awareness and information about places that are beyond our horizon. We get to see, firsthand, what's happening in another part of the world. We get to see other people's lives, environments, rituals, attire, and all the details we find in a photograph.

Those of you working in other countries, or traveling for fun, can take fantastic photos and capture thousands of words worth of experience and observation with ten easy-to-follow rules:

  1. Do your research!
  2. Go deep: “The magic really begins when you stay in a place and give yourself enough time to gain insight and understanding”
  3. Be authentic and sensitive: “Successful pictures of people almost never happen from a distance. Put away the telephoto lens and become part of the moment.
  4. Know your equipment: “Simple is always better. It's okay to use the latest and greatest technology, but know how to use it before you start your trip.”
  5. Keep good notes: “You think you will remember everyone you meet, but time and age fade the memory.”
  6. Dress appropriately: “Fit in with the respect for local sensibilities.”
  7. Meet the leaders: “If you take the time to explain why you're there and get the blessings of the leaders or elders in any community, it will keep you safer than wandering around aimlessly. As a woman, I also take time to meet the women leaders in a community, too.”
  8. Trust your instincts: “Don't let your guard down.”
  9. Give back: “Send back some prints, cherish the moment, and treat them well.”
  10. Have fun!

These helpful tips can go along way for even a novice photographer visually capturing an international adventure. Anyone interested in photography should check out this article, even just for the breathtaking pictures alone.

Another great resource for photography lovers out there wanting to visually experience cultures around the world is National Geographic's photo of the day. These photos show us the power of storytelling, and perhaps inspire our own cultural capturing endeavors.