How to get your best India
India is essentially a photographer’s all you can eat buffet; from the whirlwind of the festivals, to the bustling throngs of the marketplaces
Every year I lead at least one photo tour to India. I think I’ve seen it all, and every time India proves me wrong. I’ve been traveling there for a good 30 years, but it’s one of the most unpredictable – and rewarding – destinations as far as a photographer is concerned.
Much of the true India happens before the tourists can get up and get moving. I have no interest in tourists, and most photography is not interested in them either. So it’s necessary to find a place away from them, and generally at that golden hour just before dawn so your work won’t be disrupted.
India is essentially a photographer’s all you can eat buffet; from the whirlwind of the festivals, to the bustling throngs of the marketplaces, the exquisite architectures, and the hundreds of peoples and cultures, you can and will find any photographically appealing scenario you could possibly imagine in this incredible country. But, though it has an endless supply of spectacular fodder for your camera, going there unprepared can lead to frustration and stress.
The harder question is how to photograph India. How to capture your India trying to avoid the “cliché”.
This might mean crossing to the other side so to speak. When you see a rocky path or alleyway that looks less than ideal in terms of comfort, take it. If it isn’t comfortable, your risk of finding tourists decreases greatly. Even more so if they’re all still asleep.
It’s about where but -most of all- it’s about what .
Just being in Paris doesn’t guarantee you get to know Paris, just like being in Varanasi, New Delhi or Ulaan Baatar, doesn’t guarantee you get to know the places. Far more than the importance of the destination itself is looking at the interesting themes and subjects in each location.
You need to know what is authentic or of genuine photographic interest and what isn’t, and you need, of course, a solid connection to the locals.
Far more than the importance of the destination itself is looking at the interesting themes and subjects in each location.
The emotional connection.-
At the photo tours with Nomad Photo Expeditions, we work on how to tell the story we see in front of our eyes, and how to convey an emotion through our pictures. We all need stories in order to understand the world, and travel photographers more than anybody else.
Empathy and emotional connection are imperative in a good picture; we need both to bring to life a main character who the viewers will attach to.
- 1.- Know where the action is.
Once there it might be tempting to try the myriad of things that will be at your fingertips, but remember what you are there for: your craft and your art. You’re going to need time to properly set up your shots and wait for good opportunities once you have chosen locations, and if you take too much time for non-photographic related activities, you may find yourself suddenly out of time at the end of your trip, with only half your shot list complete. Plan around your photography sessions, don’t plan your sessions around other things.
Good travel photography relies on storytelling
- 2.- Make friends where you can.
It also means making contacts ahead of time whenever possible. You will need locals who know where you can go to get the best opportunities, and to speak ahead of time with proprietors of certain venues if you want to photograph them. There are some things, like cremation burials for instance, that you probably can shoot from a boat along the river, but if you want the best pictures you can get, you’ll need to be up close and personal. In order to do this at set private ceremony, you’ll need to work in advance.
Make contacts ahead of time whenever possible
- 3.- Be culturally aware.
India has certain distinct differences from the West – besides the fact that there will be constant noise, from honking horns to yelling merchants along with general din, there’s a significant difference in personal space as well. Don’t be thrown if you’re approached by people who suddenly have your hand in theirs or one on your shoulder, and expect to suddenly be the center of attention anywhere near a merchant district. Just stay cool and go with the flow, even if it’s nothing you’re used to. Rely on your guide to help create a buffer if things get too overwhelming.
Stay cool and go with the flow, even if it’s nothing you’re used to
4.- Stay positive.
India can be dizzying, and perhaps full of road bumps both literal and figurative when you’re on a trip there, but keep a smile on. You’re still on a once in a lifetime adventure, and a calm, positive attitude will transmit to everyone around you. Indians appreciate this kind of attitude, so remember to keep smiling even if your air conditioner breaks, or your bus was late, or what have you. It will be all forgotten once you’re back out there with your camera, making the most of your time in this incredible country.
If you want to experience a unique India join me on my next India Photo Tour