help your photos tell a tale

buffalo seller sonepur mela india by steve daveyFew people know more about travelling with a camera than professional travel photographer and writer Steve Davey. His best-selling works include Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die and Unforgettable Islands to Escape To Before You Die and he also runs Intrepid photography trips, so who better to give us tips on how we can capture great travel portraits…

“If every picture tells a story, then with a little bit of thought, you can make sure that your pictures tell a story about the person in your pictures. Close up, frame-filling portraits are fantastic, but sometimes you want a portrait that shows more about someone than what their face looks like.

An environmental portrait is one that shows a little more about someone’s life by including their surroundings. Often, just by showing the background to where someone is, you can show the person looking at the picture more about the person in front of the camera.

Having a recognisable background can convey where someone lives, or works. In the case of a person at a festival, or a notable place, this can identify the picture and where it is taken. If you compose your picture in order to include children or other people, then you can establish a link with the subject of your picture.

Showing a particular working environment will reveal where someone works and what their job is: one of the most profound things to identify any of us. Showing someone with a herd of cattle or even a taxi will effectively let everyone know their occupation, especially if they are visible actually doing something significant.

Shooting environmental portraits can also be less intimidating than close-up portraits – mainly as you don’t have to be so close. The golden rule of responsible photography is still to ask first, but you can also encourage them to concentrate on what they are doing and not have to draw their attention to your lense. Other good techniques for environmental portraits can be shooting from the side, to show someone with a different background, or even photographing them from behind.

So whenever you take a person’s portrait, just think whether you can say more about them, by showing a little more about their environment, and you could be rewarded with a far more meaningful picture.”

Steve Davey runs a series of travel photography tours with all land arrangements by Intrepid Travel. Destinations include Ladakh in July and Morocco in September, 2011, then Kerala is planned for 2012. More details on

Steve also regularly gives great photography talks at our Intrepid London store click here for more info on upcoming events.

* Photo © Steve Davey, Sonepur Mela, India.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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