Thoughts on Photography from an Amateur

I’ve always liked taking pictures. I remember when I went to Washington D.C. on an 8th grade trip with my school, it was my first time to go far away without my family. It was also the first time I got to be in charge of the camera! I took 800 pictures over a 4 day period. Most of them were bad, several were just while driving by on a bus – blurry and importance forgotten. But it was the beginning of something.

When I went to France a few years later, we were 7 days into a 10 day trip when my camera was stolen. I had over 1,000 pictures on there. My whole purse was snatched, and the “remains” were found about an hour later. My phone, my money, and my camera were all gone. I was fortunate though that they at least left behind my passport and a visa gift card. Still, I was heartbroken and crying. Firstly, because I was afraid of getting in trouble with my parents. I did not enjoy making that phone call, though they were sympathetic. But mostly, I lost all of the memories from my perspective.

Now that I have taken literally thousands of pictures abroad, I’ve been learning and developing my photography skills. I am most definitely an amateur since I have no formal training. But more and more often I am capturing photos that I am truly proud of and like sharing.

I started off mainly only taking pictures of buildings. I love cool architecture, and that’s why I enjoy sightseeing buildings and monuments in the places I go. I used to take just head-on shots. I’ve since discovered something called getting the “right angle.”

I also still take a million photos, just because the more I have, the more likely I’ll have some decent shots.

But the main thing I’ve discovered more recently, is that my favorite photos always end up being pictures of people. The pictures I take of people are always attached to a memory. Whether it was a conversation I had with them, or just simply observing a cultural custom – these photos bring along the joy of being in the moment. The tricky thing is though, that I’m pretty shy. I don’t feel comfortable always going up to people. Sometimes I’m afraid they will interpret what I’m doing in a negative way. So often, my photos are snapshots that I took with my camera still around my neck at my waist. My sneak shots. Oftentimes too though, the people I’ve met are the ones who started engaging with me, making it easier to take a great photo of them.

I have some below with a little story attached to each one. I want to start with the man that inspired me to write this post though. This man below was in the Old Town Market in Hyderbad, India. As I was walking through the market with my guide, I VERY clearly stood out. I was white. I was dressed in Western style clothing (as in American, not cowboys). I wanted to take pictures in the market because I found it very lively, interesting, and beautiful. All the foods brought out so many colors. All of the fabrics brought out colors in the saris, and the representation of different religions (primarily Islam and Hinduism) was very apparent. However, I didn’t want people to think that it was just another tourist attraction for me. If I snapped a photo of them, I was afraid they wouldn’t understand the amount of respect and appreciation I had for them. I remember going through a market in Haiti, and several people not wanting to be photographed. So I tried to take some of my “sneak shots,” and even those were few and far in between. As we were exiting the market for the main road, this man started talking to me in Telugu. I had no idea what he was saying, and I had actually assumed it was something negative about me being there or having a camera. Then my guide translated for me…”He wants you to take his picture.” It took me a second to process, but I then proudly and happily picked up my camera and snapped a shot. Then he smiled, we waved, and I continued on. It was so simple. And I don’t why he cared; he wouldn’t ever get to see it. Maybe he just noticed how few pictures I was taking and was helping out. Maybe he wanted to show off his lifestyle and culture to my people back home. I don’t know! But I’m so glad he reached out to me.


The following photos were from my most recent trip in Japan. Three of the pictures are from my experience observing the traditions of visiting and praying at the temples. The one with the two boys running was when school released for the day, and the kids were running home. The yellow hats were part of their uniform. Last but not least, the cute baby was staring at me the ENTIRE time I was watching the water parade at the DisneySea park. He was so adorable; I just had to snap a photo to remember him by.


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I also visited India this year, and since the nature of the trip was very focused on meeting locals, I had many opportunities.


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I have some others below.

Appian Way in Rome
Swiss Guard at the Vatican
local market in Leogane, Haiti
In Haiti, we went on a scavenger hunt through the market. He had one of our items!
These girls and boys came up to our group at the beach, and we painted their nails!
A Shipibo girl in Peru
Shipibo children
Shipibo monkey

I know the monkey isn’t a person….but he’s just cute.