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How To Photograph People In Their Environment?

Photographing people in their environment is something we do often, especially these days when everyone has a phone camera with them. We want to capture people and the atmosphere of a place to tell a story.

The thing is how do we capture it right? Everyone has their style. I am sharing several examples of the way I do it. These are my take of candid photos.

I photograph people in their environment to show the uniqueness of a place that creates its people, its culture and its way of life. 

The following photo captured the night ambience of an open-air food stall in Hong Kong. This kind of stall is called "dai bai dong", a trademark of Hong Kong outdoor dining, known to be the best place for local food and frequented by locals and tourists. The background is a large pictorial menu.


My camera aperture was set to f/8 for a narrow depth of field to ensure that all parts of this photo are in focus.   The shutter speed is at 1/125. The ISO was set to auto to let the camera work on its own for light sensitivity while I looked out for spontaneous action and compositions to capture.

How to photograph people in their environment?
Diners at an open-air food stall in Hong Kong. This kind of stalls are called "dai bai dong".

My preferred camera and lens for most of my street photography are either a Fujifilm X-E2 with an 18-55mm f/2.8 - f/4 or a Fujifilm X100F with a fixed lens of 24 mm. These cameras are small and less intrusive.

I make a lot of impromptu stops when I noticed something interesting. I like to walk into the scene or the environment to photograph people going about with their activities or tasks.  

How to photograph people in their environment?
Farmer tending to his livestock in Central Bhutan.

One early autumn morning in central Bhutan, I saw this farmer busy tending to his livestock. The light was amazing at that time. It draws out the beautiful natural colour of that autumn morning.

The farmer was standing among his livestock, scattering feed for the cows. There were a lot of movements and mooing from the cows. It is a typical morning for a farmer in this remote part of Bhutan. He stood up and look straight at me. I captured exactly that. 

I framed this shot to include the rustic barn behind him, to show where he was. Also, some vegetation can be seen in between the barn to draw out some colours of nature.