Cuba Street Portraits
Hi this is Jay P. Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens we’re walking the streets of Cuba, taking street portraits of the people here. Not street photography- street portraits. I want people to look at the camera and interact with me while I take their portrait. The people here are fabulous. They are warm and inviting. They’re so enjoyable to meet and talk with. I’m sharing how I approach these quick, one-on-one street portraits that only take a few minutes as you walk with camera in hand. Let’s get started and see what we can do.
Equipment is Important
It’s basically just been Julene and I shooting here, so we packed accordingly. I’m carrying a Sony a7R II, and a Tamron 35mm and Tamron 24-70mm lens, depending on what I’m feeling that day. The Sony platform is great when we’re out like this because it’s so stinkin’ small. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been using it this entire trip.
I love this little Vanguard Alta Rise 48 backpack. I have the Sony attached to my Custom SLR camera strap here, and it’s incredibly easy to swing the backpack around, unzip it, drop the camera in, undo the strap, zip it back up, and go. This bag is very easy to work with.
Timing is Everything
I’ve got a camera with me most of the time when I’m out walking around. When you do street portraits it’s important to be bold. I’ve found that just after I’ve paid someone is a great time for me to ask to take his or her portrait. For instance, we’d just taken a four and a half hour taxi ride, paid the driver two hundred cup, and I asked, “Can I take your picture in front of the taxi?” Or when we went on a horseback ride up to the sugar cane. At the end of it we asked the guy if I could take some portraits of him. It’s the perfect time to ask to take pictures because whomever you’ve just paid is going to be very open to doing that.
Offer to Pay
Another option is to carry some money in your pocket. I’ll approach some person who’s sitting in a doorway, point at my camera and then at them, and say, “Can I take a picture?” Most people say sure, or sometimes they’ll say, “Pay me?” And so I’ll give them a dollar, or the local currency (in Cuba a cuc) and I’ll take some pictures of them. I get some great pictures that way.
Work with the Sun
Shooting as the sun is setting, I think, is the perfect time of day for street portraits. Just as the sun is starting to set, I get in there and I start to shoot. If I’m shooting during the day and it’s really bright, I stay on the shadow side of the street. A lot of times you’ll get light bouncing in from the bright side of the street, onto people’s faces.
Walk and talk to people. Some people say, “No, no, no picture.” Julene speaks Spanish, so that’s been really helpful. I also will just gesture to them and then to my camera, and ask if I can take their picture. Most of the time, if you walk up and talk to them, they’ll let you take their picture.
Come to Cuba with Us!
We’re at the end of our trip. We’ve been here in Cuba for ten days, and we’ve had a fabulous time. This country is a richly photographic. There are such great colors in the buildings, great cars. The old cars- it’s like stepping back into time. I absolutely loved them.
I’d love for you to come back with me on a photo tour. If you’d like to come here and have a people to people experience, to be able to photograph the people of Cuba, and see this great country, let me know. Talk about it in the comments, send me an email. Let me know if you’d be interested in coming to Cuba with Julene and I, to do a little photo tour.
Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
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