The many faces of Myanmar (Burma) 3 tips for taking travel portraits

The many faces of Myanmar (Burma) 3 tips for taking travel portraits

Seven years ago today I was on a trip of a lifetime travelling through Myanmar with the award winning photojournalist and National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. Steve was best known for his photograph of the “Afgan girl” which was taken in 1984 of a 12-year-old refugee called Sharbat Gula and which became famous across the world for being the image that represented the conflict in Afghanistan at the time. What I love about Steve’s work is that each of his images tells a story, provokes feeling and gives a snapshot of history.

Up until this point when I went on this trip, I hadn’t really focused on portrait photography I was what was called documentary in style, creeping round with my camera and capturing people going about their business completely unaware of me in the distance snapping away. I was quite an unobtrusive photographer, but more than that it was a confidence thing, having to approach strangers is quite a daunting thing as they are going about their everyday life, especially who I didn’t share a language with, then somehow to ask them if I can take their portrait it seemed such a barrier. Watching Steve work really helped me with this and started a passion of telling a story through photographing people’s faces.

Here are my 3 tips for taking portraits when you’re travelling or on holiday.

Firstly, you have to gain the trust of your subject with eye contact, a smile and being approachable.

Secondly, be respectfully show them your camera and using the universal thumbs up OK sign. If they say no, then that means no if they are simply shy then build their trust by taking a shot and showing them an image on the back of the camera this helps to build a report with them.

Thirdly remember whatever expression you use on your own face your subject will copy. Which was a problem for me as I am always giggling so I had to learn to change the expression on my face to let the natural story of my subject show through.

These are just a few of the portraits I took while in Myanmar of these proud, strong and amazingly friendly people. Myanmar 2010  

Lara Jane Thorpe(
Lara Jane is an established as a successful commercial photographer. Her work has an up to the minute creative style, with a commercial understanding that benefits any business or brand offering not only photography but creative direction and design capabilities.