8 rules that I live by during my travel shooting!

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. I believe the way to find common ground is by seeing yourself in others.

A lot of my work involves traveling to foreign countries and living in remote places. Photography has been my passport to meeting people, learning, and experiencing new cultures. I want to talk about the methods and sensibilities I use to bring back powerful, story-telling images without getting hurt in the process.

Here are the top 8 rules that I live by.

Rule #1: Research

Read everything you can about the place you’ll be visiting, especially local newspapers and social media. Local stories that may not reach the large international papers give me clues about what’s really happening in a place. Establish relationships before you even get on the plane. Make a point of befriending other photographers and sources. Nothing is as valuable as another photographer who has been there. I like to use social media to meet people, or through websites such as lightstalkers.org, where there’s a forum to connect and ask questions.

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Image by Adam Khaled | Budapest, Hungary

Rule #2: Go deep

I don’t view travel photography as solely an adventure. Although I get to witness extraordinary things, it’s not simply about jetting off to exotic places. The magic really begins when you stay in a place and give yourself enough time to gain insight and understanding. It requires tremendous persistence and patience, but I would rather spend more time in one place than try to see it all. One way to get beyond surface images is to plan a trip to one location, several times, if you can.

Image by Shams Tarek | Vienna, Austria

Rule #3: Be authentic and sensitive

The easiest way to make compelling, real photographs of people is by being authentic. Making candid images of people is not a trick. It’s a skill a photographer can develop, which requires respect for the subject and building a relationship in the time you have together. Successful pictures of people almost never happen from a distance. Put away the telephoto lens and become part of the moment.

Talk to people. Whether it’s simply a nod of acknowledgement, a greeting, an explanation of what you’re doing, or a long involved conversation, connect with the people you are photographing. Remember, we have more in common with each other than you might think. Don’t look at people as different or exotic. Rather, focus on the things that unite and bind us.

Image by Boula Wadie | Athens, Greece

Rule #4: Know your equipment and get the best out of it

If you exude apprehension or tension, people pick up on it and cannot relax with the added element of a camera. Know your equipment so that you can focus on relating to your subjects. Your confidence in yourself will instill confidence in them. For me, simplicity is the key to success. I never bring new gear on an assignment or a trip, it’s always tested at home first, and I bring backups on the real trip. 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.

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Image by Adam Khaled | Malaga, Spain

Rule #5 Give back

Your subjects are giving of themselves. Don’t abuse their gift of sharing their lives. Don’t treat them like models. Send back some prints, cherish the moment, and treat them well. Don’t promise if you don’t intend to deliver. In this age where many people are digitally connected, it has become easier than ever to email a jpeg to an address for your subjects to share.

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Image by Adam Khaled | Bratislava, Slovakia

Rule #6: Dress appropriately

You think you will remember everyone you meet, but time and age fade the memory. In the past, I used to take down people’s names and a short description of what they were wearing, or some distinguishing feature about them. I would get back home, start looking through my notes and discover many of the girls I was photographing wearing similar-looking pink dresses. Now I carry my phone, loaded with a model-release app called EZ Release, which allows me to take pictures and get their consent at the same time. I also make a habit of writing captions and labeling images right after a trip ends, and not procrastinating.

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Image by Veronika Vizvaryova | UAE, Dubai

Rule #7: Keep good notes

You think you will remember everyone you meet, but time and age fade the memory. In the past, I used to take down people’s names and a short description of what they were wearing, or some distinguishing feature about them. I would get back home, start looking through my notes and discover many of the girls I was photographing wearing similar-looking pink dresses. Now I carry my phone, loaded with a model-release app called EZ Release, which allows me to take pictures and get their consent at the same time. I also make a habit of writing captions and labeling images right after a trip ends, and not procrastinating.

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Image by Adam Khaled | Novi Sad, Serbia

Rule #8: Meet the leaders

Whether you’re in a slum or a city, there’s always a hierarchy. 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.

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Image by Veronika Vizvaryova |Beijing, China

My upcoming article about Travel Photograph: What is the best Camera/Gear to use while traveling?

Please feel free to post your suggestions in the comment box below based on your experience. Your recommendations are highly appreciated.

Thank you for reading!

My new signature2015 black copy

 

2 thoughts on “8 rules that I live by during my travel shooting!

  1. Adam Khaled says:

    Well! Write on a paper all dream destinations (even if you can’t travel now due to whatever reason) and keep this paper with you and keep whats in it in your intention that you REALLY want to visit these places, subject your purposes of visiting these places, e.g.; what exactly you want to photograph there and what you want to do in general, i know its not that simple sometimes to travel, but just have a PLAN, planning our dreams bringing them much closer to us.
    Even if the world gave us pain, someday you WILL make the gold out of it! – You got my message? 🙂
    Thank you for passing by and wish you the best!

    Like

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