Tips for Photographing in India — National Geographic – Your Shot

Woman with Nath nose-ring photographed in India by Kristian Bertel, Your Shot.
Photograph by Kristian Bertel, Your Shot.



Photography in India is something special, and there is hardly a country in the world that offers such a kaleidoscope of beautiful motifs as India. Especially in its villages, where India’s culture with religious dances can be seen. In India you will discover a variety of clothes, headgear and jewelry and in Rajasthan and other states you will be captivated by beautiful landscapes, national parks and temples.

Again and again you will find fascinating scenes of the adventurous Indian everyday life, which can inspire you with the most fantastic photographs of buildings as well. The land is simply full of colors. Saris, Food and Markets—everything is colorful. It may be tempting to take pictures, but without the consent of the people, you should not just take a snap and eventually a donation will be due. Many Indians are still ready and happy about a picture. At Temples, a fee can be charged and also at other religious festivals restraint is announced, as far as photography is concerned.

1. Photographing people
Who of you who likes to photograph people is exactly right in India. Hardly anyone has a objection to being photographed in India. Often people even ask for a picture. However, women are often a bit more reserved, but a friendly request is rarely knocked out here. I am usually a bit reluctant when it comes to photographing people and usually try to get the ‘OK’ by smiling or nodding.

2. Controlling the light
When photographing in India the Light is very difficult to control and you have to fight with an extreme dynamic range, hard lights and hard shadows. A small fill flash should always be placed on the camera, because otherwise faces are usually too dark. When you want to keep the details in the highlights there is a thing you can do because the highlights in photos can sometimes be very much blown.


“You have to consider digital like the most sensitive slide film you ever photographed, when you meter a scene. Exposing correctly to ‘the right’ of the histogram is the simple answer and having a good post processing program so that you can blend either two adjusted versions of a single exposure. If you photograph in sunlight go down minus one point seven or minus two point zero in the exposure value”


Another option is to use the early morning hours or the time just before and after sunset. Sunlight in the early morning and in the early evening gives warm and saturated colors and are also known as ‘The Golden Hour’ in photography. It is a period of time shortly after sunrise or before sunset where the daylight appears more warmer and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky. When sunlight hits your subject from the front, so you have the sun behind you, you need to move a few degrees to one of the sides, so you create some shadows. It gives depth and shapes your subject. Since you are in India but very close to the equator, there is not much time.

3. Using a filter
Another topic is especially in cities the ubiquitous smog. A Polarizing filter creates a remedy and the filter is often placed in front of the camera lens in photography in order to darken skies, manage reflections or suppress glare from the surface of lakes or the sea. But getting up early in India can also help here.

4. Cleaning the sensor
India is dusty. You realize that at the latest when you have changed the lens for the first time. The constant cleaning of sensor and mirror with a bellows is mandatory. Otherwise you have a lot of work in retrospect, remove the resulting sensor patches from the photographs.

5. Camera bag, lenses and other equipment
I traveled with a Camera bag, which also was functioning as my wardrobe on my India journeys. For activities on site you can then take a small photo backpack or a bag to take with you or just have your Camera or cameras around your shoulders. It could be an advantage for you to walk around with two cameras so the lenses are already on the cameras, when you exactly need to take the photo. And then you are also avoiding to expose your sensors for dust when changing the lenses. Even though if a large camera and large lenses provide high-quality images, it is a choice that you have to take before your India journey begins, because they are heavy to carry.

Much better for some people are a small system camera with high-quality lenses. Here are actually two optics that are enough to cover everything:

• a Normal zoom lens
• a Telephoto zoom lens

A lightweight travel Tripod made of carbon is always worth a recommendation.

Very important is also microfiber cloths and a bellows for cleaning lenses and sensor.


This post was originally posted in Discussions on National Geographic Your Shot. The discussion group were a group of individuals, typically who share a similar interest for Photography, who gather either formally or informally to discuss ideas, solve problems or make comments. Common methods of conversing in a discussion include meeting in person, conducting conference calls, using text messaging or using a website such as an Internet forum.


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    Tags:   #india   #travel   #portraits