Top Tips for Street Photography - Cambodia

Taking photos of real people in real life situations is something I really enjoy. It's why, when i'm on a family photoshoot, I try to get the family as relaxed as possible, so that I can capture natural, relaxed photos of them enjoying some family time. It's why I love taking my camera out when I'm on holiday, to local markets of villages. Seeing local people carrying on with their everyday lives is so interesting, especially when their everyday lives are so different to mine.

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I recently went on a trip to the town of Angkor in Cambodia. I was there to see Angkor Wat and the ancient temple complexes around there. The temples overgrown with bayan trees and moss was something I have always wanted to see. However, the temples didn't end up being my favourite part of the holiday. It was going into the town of Angkor and photographing the locals that I enjoyed so much more.  

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I was very lucky to have a wonderful photographer with me, who could speak the local language and distract and chat to people while I was taking beautifully candid photos of them. The market place, I feel I could probably have handled on my own. There is a kind of universal sign language for 'can I take a picture of you please?' and a general nodding or shaking of the head to answer. Pretty simple stuff. It was when we left the market that my photographer guide's knowledge became really useful. We wandered into the village itself. It was nothing but a dirt track with large plots of land on each side. There were small stilt houses in each of the plots, and it was into these houses that we wandered. Yep, we literally just walked into people's houses to say hello! I was so nervous at first, but even though we didn't speak the same language, the people were friendly and just as interested in us as we were in them. Lots of the houses had the women at work, making crafts such as rugs or baskets to sell at the market. There were children everyone, peering at us from behind pillars and tables, and offering a shy smile, before coming to have their photo taken and giggling hysterically when I showed them the photo. The experience really made me appreciate the Cambodia for being one of the most friendly countries I have ever visited.

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The final stop on our tour was at a small temple, where we chatted to a 10 year old boy, who was a monk-in-training. He agreed to be my model for a mini photoshoot and so off we set to a temple ruin down the road, the boys mates trailing along behind him to watch. The light was very dramatic and lent itself to dark, moody photos - not a style of photography that I usually go for. It was fun to experiment with a different style. The pop of orange, of the boys clothing looks particularly dramatic against the overgrown temple ruins. It was such a wonderful experience.

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Here are some top tips for local street photography when on holiday:
  • If you don't ask, you won't get. Don't be too shy to ask someone if you can take a photo of them. The worst they can do is say no, and you move on! If you don't speak the same
    language, crack out your drama skills and get miming.
  • Change the angle of the photo. Every tourist's photo of a market stall holder is from the front at standing level. Mix things up a bit by crouching down, getting higher up, going behind the stall to photograph from behind. It instantly makes your photos look more interesting.
  • Consider your background. What do you want out of the photo? If it's a spectacular shot of an interesting face, don't be afraid to just photograph the person's face. If the background helps tell an interesting story, include the background in your shot. If it's an interesting food item on display, get close up to it and have the person in the background of the shot.
  • Stay still. Patience is your best friend. Just wait and see what happens. It may take a while to get the perfect shot, but it's worth it.

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