You might have seen this shot earlier in my post about “Do What You Want with What You Have.”  It’s a nice shot with lots of little compositional things I would have changed; some lighting changes, posing suggestions, framing the shot differently, etc.  However, that’s not the point of this post.

I’m actually really proud of this picture for a number of reasons.  This picture actually helped me nail down some thoughts I had been having for quiet a while about our roll as photographers – especially in another culture and how do we serve the community rather than take from it.  It was also a turning point for me to re-see the things that I saw the first time I came here that moved me.  So much happens around us that we are numb for so many different reasons.  Listed below are the things that, this shot, taught me.

1. See Opportunity//Act on Opportunity – Over the last six months I’ve said “That would be a great photo!” waaay to many times with too few captures to show for.  I actually caught myself saying it and decided that it wasn’t acceptable.  I told myself I had no choice; the next opportunity that presents itself and the only thing standing in the way of this opportunity is myself – I need to make it happen.  Over the course of a few days I had seen this guy and his brother out in our courtyard playing basketball pretty much 24/7 so the opportunity was very much there – it was just a matter of me making time for it and being compelled by this scenario again.

Needless to say a few nights later I looked out the window – they were there playing ball.  My initial response was, “Man – its 6pm and I’m TIRED.  I think I’m out of batteries on my flashes.  What if they can’t understand me?” – whatever- my resolution was to JUST.GO.SHOOT.IT.  So that I did.  I went down and at least put myself in a scenario where capturing this was a possiblity

What’s the point? I wonder what opportunities are literally at our doorsteps that we aren’t paying attention to. I wonder how many excuses we make and what they are.

2.Paying for your shot – A concept that many photographers let slip by is that we all have to pay for our shots.  It’s either time, that studio we built, heck – the camera you own.  You have to be nice to the client and make them feel comfortable on a day when you’d rather kick a hole in a wall than be nice.  If you sit down and think about it there are probably thousands of ways that we as photographers are paying for the shots we get.

In my case this often means eating or drinking something I don’t want, spending more time than I anticipated with the subject, going into their house for tea or doing something that is completely outside of my cultural realm of “normal.”  In the case of this picture, I KNEW I couldn’t just show up with these guys, set up an umbrella, tell them to stand there, take it, and then bolt.  As much as some travel photographers might want that to be the case, that is NEVER the case.  There is no “I’m here for your stock photography pleasure” society that I know of.

In this case I paid for the shot by playing about an hour of basketball with these kids.  I probably rebounded more shots for them than I have since high school.  I had a great time and everyone was feeling comfortable.  At that point I felt comfortable enough to ask for a picture.  Btw travel photographers, you might want to find a way to communicate WHY you want the picture too.  I’ve had more people ask me why, in a non-combative way, I wanted the shot than I ever anticipated.  My response here was that I didn’t know monks loved to play basketball.  They loved that statement – they laughed for a good solid minute.  Only then was I comfortable with taking their pictures; only then were THEY comfortable with me taking their pictures.

What’s the point? Thousands have said it before me – find a way to give back.  You taking yourself too seriously and them feeling comfortable are almost always proportional.  Answering to yourself on why you want a picture in the first place is a great exercise.

3.Give back – I’ve already touched on this, but it’s worth mentioning again – don’t simply take.  Listen, I’m not even close to the first person to say this.  There are entire books on this concept that I am pulling from.  I’m not a genius (not that I’ve ever been accused).  In this case I gave both this kid and his brother two prints to take with them.  I also went back out the next few days and played some ball with them.  Giving back and paying for the shot often times go hand-in-hand.

Man, I fail ALL THE TIME at this one – and to be very honest, you can’t always give back.  There are going to be situations where you just can’t help that person out, or you can’t give them a print.  Should you, as the photographer, feel bad about that?  Probably not, unless you are in the habit of just taking – but in the back of your head I know I’m always thinking “…wish I could give that guy this print!”

What’s the point? Take the shots of someone who is in the habit of spending time with a subject, talking to them, rebounding basketballs, drinking something they didn’t want, and in general having a balance concept of cultural interaction and compare it to someone who just snipes people – 99 times out of 100 the person giving back and paying for the shot has a more authentic, memorable, and moving shot.

What did you get into photography in the first place for?  For me, it’s people and humanity.  What about you?