What You Should Know in Order to Photograph Traditions
For a photographer, traditions are a very appealing subject. They are deeply related to the history of civilization and are full of stories. Traditions can be dedicated to historical events, spiritual beliefs, nature or lifestyles. From the very popular Christmas tradition to Geisha rituals, from Spring welcoming customs to maturity rituals, people are anchored in habits and ceremonies. Weddings and funerals are also subject to traditions. Even music, clothes, and foods are made different for special occasions. Our cultural identity would be lost if we didn’t keep these special traditions alive.
Here are some tips to make the best photo album featuring traditions.
History, legends, and stories
A tradition is driven by a narrative line. The story behind it can give you a clue about how to plan your pictures. There might be things you shouldn’t do, places where you are not allowed to stand, and clothes you are not supposed to wear. In some traditional rituals, the rules are very strict, so knowing the reasons behind them can serve you. For example, Easter in Orthodox Church starts with a midnight Mass, a religious moment where noise and flashes are not allowed.
Knowing what you are going to photograph can also give you an idea about what gear you should have. Church interiors are usually very dark, making a tripod essential. In most churches, you are not allowed to use the flash, so slow shutter speed is necessary. Try to keep the ISO as low as possible to avoid adding noise to your pictures. Outside events might need wide angles and fast cameras to keep up with moving crowds.
Many traditions have specific items you cannot overlook. Costumes, colorful lacing, religious items, flags, wood figurines, or special ornaments are just some of them. Easter eggs and Christmas trees are the most popular, but there are many other interesting subjects for you out there. Look for symbols and use close-ups and telephoto lenses to make them the main subject. Put the entire atmosphere into your frame, playing with colors and shapes.
Every culture is different, and photographing traditions give you the opportunity to extend your portfolio. Working hands, facial expressions, and dancing feet can equate to details. They humanize your pictures and give them a realistic feeling. You can photograph them without colors, using monochrome mode.
Traditions in all types of photography
There isn’t a dedicated style for those who photograph traditional scenes. It can be part of travel photography, street photography or even food photography. Traditional cuisines are very exciting and can be great subjects. Portraits are also included when you photograph these cultural events. So you don’t have to follow strict rules. But the general composition rules, like the rule of thirds, should be included in your work. Traditions offer a large palette of subjects and perspectives. Try new angles and positions. Do not photograph everything in landscape and from your eye level. Be creative and follow your intuition.
When you are in foreign countries or places and photograph people in their most sacred moments, be respectful. Don’t judge, just observe. You are not there to change their traditions of thousands of years. Instead, you are there to have a great photographic experience and to share their story. A photographer should have not only a well trained eye and a lot of great ideas, but good life principles as well.