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How to shoot Portraits outside of your culture (Featuring the Himba People of Namibia)

4/01/2017 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

Sean Tucker put out a video recently (link) talking about how to start moving your photography career in a particular direction. He asked himself what sort of photography really spoke to him, and in his case it was pretty obvious.

It was people photography. Portraits. Especially portraits of people from different contexts and with different stories to his own:

My photography heroes are Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado, Jimmy Nelson and Joey L for his work in Africa, India and Syria. I understand that it’s a different era now and that grabbing a job at National Geographic is not a realistic option. I also know that no one is coming to knock on my door to hire me for this sort of work just because I would love to do it. There are no favours in this industry.

If I ever manage to make this sort of work my full time job it will be because I had already proved that I could produce quality imagery in this area. So I packed my bags and gear and headed to a country which has always held a special interest for me; Namibia.

Una publicación compartida de Sean Tucker (@seantuck) el

I went to the tribal homelands of the Himba people and organised through a local guide (the wonderful Vanessa) to head into one of the villages for golden hour, for two evenings in a row, to shoot portraits with them.

For the portraits I shot using my Canon 5DmkII and a Sigma Art 50mm f1.4. On top of this I was using a Tiffen Variable ND filter to be able to cut the light and keep the depth of field where I wanted it without overexposing.

The first evening I went in I shot all natural light.

On the second night I went in and shot mixed strobe and natural light using my Alien Bee 800 with Vagabond Mini battery pack, shot through a 1.5m Photek Softlighter, in order to darken the background and shape the light on the face for a slightly more dramatic look.

My settings were always ISO100, F2.0-2.8 and my shutter speed for strobe was always 1/125 to avoid flash sync issues or camera shake.

The experience was amazing.

I intend this to be the first of many trips, but I will likely always remember this one as important because it helped proved to myself that I can do this; that all the work I have put in to build up my skill set over the years has resulted in images like this. This is a valid direction for me, which is exciting because it’s one which I would get a great deal of fulfillment from.

Here’s to the journey ahead:

Vehicle rented
The village I visited is here:

(Sean Tucker´s Affiliate links)

Gear used for filming:

  1. Canon 80D:
  2. Sigma 18-35mm:
  3. Canon 24mm pancake:
  4. Zhiyun Crane:
  5. Zoom H1:
  6. Rode Smartlav and SC3:
  7. GoPro Hero 5 Black:

Lens and Filter used for photographs:

  1. Tiffen Variable ND:
  2. Sigma 50mm Art:

You might also like: The War in every Portrait

About Sean Tucker:

Sean Tucker twitter profile image
London based Professional Photographer and Filmmaker . Unsurprisingly, I mostly post nerdy photography stuff.

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