Body languange and the travel photographer


A few weeks ago I had the great fortune to participate in a body language session led by Fox television contributer Tonya Reiman. We all know intuitively about body language but you will never look at relationships the same after you’ve had a session with Tonya.

Since the body language we read in a photo tells many things (erroneous or not) about the scene, this subject is paramount for photographers. But what about the messages photographers send to their subjects while photographing?

As a travel photographer (and that’s almost everyone at some point in the year) do you hide behind the camera? In foreign lands it’s very easy to avoid the relationship part of photographing someone because of the language barrier. But there is an entire language (much of which is universal) at your disposal.

Don’t be a drive-by shooter for starters, no stuffing the camera in someone’s face without their permission. Even if you don’t speak the local language, it is only proper to get “visual” permission from someone before firing away. And drive-bys are never good pictures anyway.

So, how do you get visual permission? You need to tune in the body language channel. Eye contact for starters. Also, I have not been too many places where a handshake doesn’t work. And finally, remember you are participating in another person’s life experience.

One thing I do a lot, whether I’m shooting a CEO or a bushman is to send the signal that I want them to look good. This could be anything from dusting off a suit shoulder to rearranging a penis gourd. (You need visual permission for either of these.) The subliminal message being that you want even the tiniest details to be right.

The other thing I do upfront is make everyone part of the problem solving team. Me against them never works. This can be accomplished by “coming out” from behind the camera to stand at your subject’s side. The closer you are able to stand the more likely they have joined the team. Hint, you unwittingly accomplish this if you stand next to your subject to show them the LCD screen.

(Tonya’s new book, “The Power of Body Language” was not available during our session but Amazon reports that it will be available Nov. 20, 2007.)



~ by keithphilpott on November 19, 2007.

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