Inspired by Gloria's wonderful open letter: The perceived ‘shallowness’ of wanting to look good in a tourist photo is something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past.
As someone who is generally behind the lens, my philosophy for travel photos is always to firstly capture the details and candid moments instead of the ‘postcard’ image: to look for small details that will remind you and demonstrate that you were actually in that physical space at that particular time, seeing things only people in that space can see.
That being said, I am a portrait photographer for a reason: When I'm not geeking out over architecture details, I love photographing humans (and animals) and I think subjects truly enliven a scene.
My feelings about self portraits while tourist-ing, however, have always been a complicated mix of insecurities and self-imposed hangups, some of which include:
- Not wanting to impose my non-beginner-friendly camera on either my travel companion or a stranger (because I usually have a specific idea of what I want the picture to look like in my head and it usually takes time to get right)
Feeling like it’s self-centered to plonk myself at the centre of a beautiful place and use it as a backdrop for my own vanity
Being afraid to be that girl travel blogger
Feeling like an imposter model because marathoning several international Next Top Model series does not mean 1) you know what your angles are, 2) you are actually a model and 3) give me death over having other people stare at me and judge.
Then I realised that was pretty dumb. Because you can appreciate the history, beauty and culture of a place, take good photos following your main travel photo philosophy and also take some nice photos of yourself to commemorate the occasion. And...well, there’s not much you can do about 2), so you just own your face, own the fact you're gonna be slightly embarrassing and Vogue-ing all over the place for a few minutes, own your girl travel blogger status (tongue in cheek) and travel the way you damn want.
If you picked a good travel companion, you either condition them to accept this inevitability or they’ll understand and maybe even support you (while keeping you in check of course!). If you’re solo, use it as an opportunity to interact with strangers a little or do the Gloria DIY method of tripod + self-timer (which I am duly very impressed by). And pray they don’t run off with your camera - not likely in Japan, at least.
All this to say: hey, if you’re in the gorgeous city like Kurashiki in rented kimono (meaning: crossing off a bucket list item) and you have a Chris willing to follow you around to hunt for the perfect light for a portrait session, and a Boat to yell verbal encouragement while being an angel and holding your stuff for you… take full advantage.
Sometimes, you gotta be your own kimono lady.
(and return the favour, of course. Guys deserve to vogue it just as much : P).
This is probably one of my top recommendations for the Okayama region of Japan. Bukchon Hanok Village meets Japanese garden, in golden hour.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.