Travel Photography: the importance of making a connection when photographing people

Travel photography is not only about discovering beautiful destinations, it can also be a passport to meeting new people, experiencing other cultures and discovering common ground as well as differences.  Photography can be a powerful tool for telling stories and creating awareness and understanding across cultures, communities, and countries.

And yet often as photographers we find ourselves holding back for fear of how people might react to the lens being pointed at them; a certain unease that we are somehow ‘taking’ something from them; snatching intimate moments.

One of the best ways to overcome this fear and ensure that we make captivating photographs is by being genuine, having respect for the subject and building a relationship in whatever time we have with that person or group of people. Sometimes, as in the case of Travel Photographer Of The Year runner (Mankind category), Panos Laskarakis, it’s simply a question of asking outright and explaining your motive for making the images.

Villagers of Volakas, Falakro by Panos Laskarakis

When Panos Laskarakis set out to photograph the customs of the villagers of Volakas in Falakro, a mountain in Northern Greece, he knew that any shots snatched from a distance with a telephoto lens would only tell half a story. Instead he planned the shoot over a few days and made a connection with the people, explaining what he hoped to achieve and gaining their acceptance of his presence. On the third day, deep in the forest, he experienced some of the harshest conditions he had ever photographed in at -15˚c and with a snow storm raging. And yet photographically they were some of the best and most dramatic conditions, serving well as a backdrop against which to portray the celebrations of the villagers in their their ritualistic costumes.

Villagers of Volakas, Falakro by Panos Laskarakis

The moment you make a connection with your subject (a simple nod, gesture, or if you’re lucky a longer conversation) and give something of yourself back (whether you offer to send images from your shoot or simply take the time to listen, chat and learn more about their lives) is the moment you begin to create a story and not just an image.

Himba People, Kaokoland, Namibia by Panos Laskarakis

Athens born Panos Laskarakis lives in Ioannina, Greece. He was runner up in the People & Cultures Portfolio – MANKIND  – in the Travel Photographer of the Year awards  2016. To see more of his work on landscapes, wildlife and people, visit

1 thought on “Travel Photography: the importance of making a connection when photographing people”

  1. Great article! As a photographer to capture the real essence is important to create a bond with people by showcasing your portfolio, your motives and how you going to use those images. These things will make the connection stronger and build confidence. Found some resources about travel photography that really helped me out.

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