Top 10 Photography Skills for Travelers to Ethiopia

Contributed by Lauren Werner, our Board Member, photographer, and public health specialist.

Lauren’s Vision: To see the end of poverty in rural Ethiopia.

1. Ask permission to take a picture before you take it. This can be a verbal request or a simple non-verbal acknowledgement. “Photo, yichalal?” is the perfect way to ask.

2. Change up your subject matter. If you gravitate toward landscape, be bold and ask permission to take a portrait. If you prefer people pictures, turn to a house, animal, or sky for new inspiration.

3. Use your voice. Ask yourself what are you trying to say with the image you are making?

4. Selfie, and not selfie. You are “present” in every image, but you only need to be physically “in” a few to make your collection meaningful.

5. Watch the lighting. Early morning and late afternoon light have the least amount of glare and contrast on sunny days. Full sun too bright for your subject matter? Find a shade tree or shadow of a building to take the picture. Cloud cover is your friend.

6. Privacy: Sensitive subjects abound, and are highly visible at times, in Ethiopia. If you take a picture of someone in a vulnerable place, such as abject poverty or extreme illness, consider how that person would feel being portrayed that way to others.

7. Animals make great subjects, but they can move quickly, I have one too many close-ups of a cow nostril.

8. Combine posed images with spontaneous ones for a more realistic representation of Ethiopian life. Capture the movement in a whole marketplace along with individual sellers.

9. If you take a picture of a person, and want to show it to them on the spot, know that it can start a beautiful moment of sharing that can turn overwhelming in an instant. Have a plan to move on if this happens, with a smile and a wave.

10.Share wisely. Facebook is a great way to connect your photos to the world. Share what is appropriate. Facebook owns everything you post. Need a private way to share? Consider Flickr. They don’t own your images, and you can choose how you share them.

NOTE: Lauren’s amazing work can be seen on our social media sites and occasionally during special fundraising events, such as Story of Hope, and Light from the Horn of Africa. Contact us if you’d like us to bring a photography show to your community!

Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

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