How to Photograph People while Traveling (meaningfully)

Travel portraits allow us to connect and tell stories about the places we visit.  In our fast-paced, digital age, it is so easy to take a snapshot and upload it to our favorite social media outlets, all while briskly walking by.  If we can make an interesting photograph without actually looking up, what happens when we stop to share a few words, look closer, and make a true connection?


If you have a trip in the books or simply have a love for travel, there's a really good chance you'll snap a shot or two of a stranger now and then.  How does it feel?  I know, it can be a vulnerable experience for both photographer and subject, but it doesn't have to be.  

I hope the following tips might help you not only take more meaningful travel portraits, but also connect and honor the people you meet along the way.  

Photographs tell stories, but the act of making them, whether on an iPhone or Canon 5d Mark III, can add depth to our experience.


1)  Make a Genuine Connection  (Learn the local language and smile.)  :)

While preparing for your trip, take a few extra minutes every day and study the local language.  Learn a few key phrases and local slang.  This delights locals and shows respect.

I will never forget our very first day in Bali when our driver, Gustaaf, was a wee bit late (an hour or two).  When he finally arrived full of apology, I quickly responded with “Sampunang sangsaya!”  (Essentially, “no worries” in the local Baliness dialect.)  He was delightfully surprised and this allowed our first exchange to be one of laughter, smiles, and mutual respect, despite the late start.

Whenever possible, it was my goal to communicate with locals in Indonesian or Baliness.  Their delight and warm smiles in return never grew stale and this connection allowed me to create beautiful portraits, beyond typical travel snapshots.

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Photograph taken in Bali, Indonesia 

Photograph taken in Bali, Indonesia 

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

To keep it real:  

It’s not always so easy.  In the small fishing town of Hopkins, Belize, even though there was no language barrier, I found making portraits of the locals much more challenging than in Bali. 

However, the same lessons were revealed.  Approach someone with a smile, compliment them, show respect, and ask politely to take their photograph. Many people in Belize, mostly men, declined.  As a photographer who is visualizing a killer shot, it is hard to walk away, but it is more important to show the upmost respect. 


2)  Zoom with your Feet (Change your vantage point and work quickly!)

Once you’ve made a genuine connection and you have your subject’s permission, “zoom” by moving your feet, rather than just the focal length of your lens.  Think about how it feels when someone points a camera at you – perhaps you are a closet supermodel, but I assume most us get a little sweaty palm action as the self-consciousness creeps in.   

Therefore, for the following series of images, I began by kindly approaching this lovely woman as she washed her dishes.  Realizing I was stepping into a stranger’s personal space, with immense respect, I complimented her on the color of her beautiful home, her adorable kids, and how the light was just perfect. 

When she obliged to my request to take a few photographs, I started by stepping back to document the entire scene with a wide vantage point.  Then, I moved in closer for a full-length photo of her daughter, as I sensed she was open to my camera.  Finally, as I interacted and sensed her comfort, I took a close-up portrait, which fit my original vision.  As a token of gratitude, I showered her with compliments as I showed her the images I had captured.

Know your camera, be quick, and continue to connect with a smile as you shoot.  This intentional approach not only allows your subject to ease into having their portrait taken, but it also gives you a diverse collection of images from a variety of vantage points. 

Photograph taken in Hopkins, Belize

Photograph taken in Hopkins, Belize

Portraits taken in Hopkins, Belize

Portraits taken in Hopkins, Belize

3)  Look Close and Move beyond Portraits (Capture details to tell a story.)

Environmental portraits tell a story about a person by incorporating their surroundings.  When I took these photographs of Caitlin, a local to Hopkins, Belize who is originally from Ohio, I dug deeper by documenting her quaint bakery off the beaten path and the subtle details within.

Caitlin is full of life, inspiration, and spirituality and shares it openly.  She works tirelessly to support her family with her bakery and her devotion to both is apparent through the spark in her eyes and the tiniest details of her environment.  I was intrigued by her story and found the more I photographed, the more I learned, simply by slowing down and looking closely.

Caitlin's Bakery in Hopkins, Belize

Caitlin's Bakery in Hopkins, Belize


(Caitlin also makes a mean chocolate zucchini muffin that I absolutely think you should go out of your way for if you find yourself in Hopkins, Belize.) 

Remember, to travel is to explore what is unfamiliar, and to photograph with openness is to connect unconditionally.  Always show respect, understanding, and gratitude and I promise you’ll make some pretty amazing photographs (and connect with some fascinating people) along the way. 

Refresh your Brand: A simple branding exercise & May photo special for Grand Rapids' small businesses and entrepreneurs

Spring is a natural time for freshening up our lives, our living spaces, our looks.. why not our brands?

As a small business, I know the laundry list of "to-do's" can feel as long as a string wrapped around the Earth (twice), but it's so important to take a step back to take inventory of our brand image now and then.  

Last Spring, I completed a much needed spring-cleaning of my photography business – new look, new copy, new website - to reflect my current values and passions. Every detail was re-imagined and renewed. 

It felt freakin’ fantastic.

This Spring, I’d love to help you.  Your bio picture(s) / headshots alone make up a huge part of your brand image and help your prospective clients get to know you before they even meet you.  

We can create an engaging headshot or a complete photo library to help elevate your perceived value and allow people to better understand your product or service from the second they visit your website.


Take inventory of your brand in 15 minutes:

But, first, what exactly is a "brand"?

Your "brand" is what people feel when they think about your business, product, etc.  Your brand image is everything from your website copy to the photographs that tell the story of who you are and what you have to offer.  It is vital to make sure the feelings and thoughts that are conveyed are true to your current passions, your intentions, and your authentic, unique self.  

Try this simple branding exercise:

Brainstorm a list of 20 words that describe your brand.  Narrow that list down to 10.  Narrow that list down to 3-4.  Sit with the feelings of those words for a few moments.  

Next, visit your website, read your copy, look at your imagery.  You might ask a friend (with a "pretty please") for their opinion, as well.  

Are your top 3-4 brand qualities accurately represented?  What needs to be refreshed to build a more consistent brand?  The goal is to dig deeper, move beyond the typical words that are easily plucked from the surface, and discover your differentiating qualities that will truly allow you to stand out from the crowd.  

To celebrate Spring and this time of renewed energy, let’s DO this. 

For the month of May, I’m offering 100. off Lifestyle Portrait / Branding photography sessions.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you, let’s chat

p.s. I know what you're thinking.. "I'm SO not photogenic... I'd rather organize my closet than be photographed.."  Even as a photographer, I feel the same way.  Luckily, it doesn't have to be painful.  I hope you'll allow me to take you through my thoughtful process to ensure a completely relaxed and comfortable photo session and your authentic self WILL shine through.  I promise you that :)

3 Reasons to Hire a Vacation / Beach Photographer & Happy Spring!

Spring is here!  Technically speaking, that is.  Somewhere beneath the last few inches of snow (here in the North, anyway) I promise you, Spring is near :) 

By mid-March, my summer dreamin' officially begins, and by dreaming, I also mean planning: up north weekends, beach days, camping under the stars.  Northern Michigan books up quick and you only need to learn that lesson once.  

What are you most looking forward to this spring / summer?   

lake michigan family photographer

3 Reasons to Plan Vacation / Beach Photography Sessions

1)  It's Worry-Free:  You can finally relax at the beach or pool without worrying about capturing your kids having the time of their lives or whether your camera is ingesting water and sand. (Guilty of the latter.) 

2)  YOU (the most important reason):  If YOU are typically your family's everyday photographer and collector of memories, you will actually be in the photographs.  You will not have to explain to your kids in 10 years, as you are looking back at your vacation photographs, that you actually were there.  They will see you with them, living it up, together.

3)  The Digital Aftermath:  Following your beach/pool/hiking/fill in the blank adventures, sitting at the computer, editing hundreds of photos, and creating a tangible masterpiece might sound daunting, or outright dreadful.  Handing the job off to a skilled photographer to create a thoughtfully designed, archival, story-telling keepsake, while you revel in the memories in your lazy-boy, might just sound fabulous.  

grand rapids family photographer
lake michigan lifestyle photographer
lake michigan vacation photography

Just think:  Some of your most carefree and happy moments on this earth will not just be documented, but an artful story will be curated and preserved for years to come.  You just have to show up.  Deal?

lake michigan beach photography
lake michigan beach portraits
lake michigan lifestyle family photography

If you are hoping to plan a relaxed, documentary photography session this summer, please contact me soon.  I'm also down with 'day in the life' sessions or capturing your family's 'vacation days,' from Michigan to California and beyond.  

If it's feeling too early, we can even pencil in a time-frame - leave the details for later.  Just don't miss out - summer will be here before we know it, and my schedule books up quick with photo sessions... and my own lazy beach days.  ;)  

(Things might also be a-changing around here at Teri Genovese Photography and session availability is limited.)

lake michigan beach portraits-2
lake michigan beach portraits -3

Sifting back through photographs from last summer, I realized one year olds at the beach make a pretty spectacular combination.  Hope these made you smile and look forward to the much greener, sunnier days ahead!  

hopeful words for a new year..

I have to admit, I’ve been proceeding cautiously into this New Year, until I read the following passage a dear friend in Los Angeles shared with me from her local Japanese newspaper:

"Unlike the 2013 Year of the Snake, which gradually shed its old ways,
the Year of the Horse will charge forward with unbridled energy.  
Seeds planted during the Snake year
will enable dreams and goals to finally come to fruition.  
Everything is possible and anything can happen."

2013 was a tough year for my family, but the gratitude and strength that I now feel is astounding.  To think that 2014 will “charge forward with unbridled energy” is exactly what I need to believe and I instantly wanted to spread these hopeful words to all of you. 
Cheers to a new year, to new beginnings, and for our deepest desires to come true.  

Here's a couple of moments from my recent California sessions that I found quite fitting for the "unbridled energy" ahead.


wishing you a peaceful and memorable 2014!

lake michigan's light | family photography

sometimes it rains unexpectedly.  and you realize, you remember, that it's only with the rain and clouds that such magnificent light can emerge.  

Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography
Lake Michigan Family Photography

A special thank you to this sweet, gorgeous family for braving the drizzles and allowing me to witness and document a glimpse of their life and love.  It was a beautiful and memorable evening on Lake Michigan, for sure!

Meet Laura of Real Food Wellness | lifestyle portrait and branding photography

There are a few people in this world who commit to their work with their whole hearts and Laura Burkett of Real Food Wellness is one of them.  Specializing in holistic health counseling for women, Laura is so much more.  I know firsthand.. she is medicine for the soul.

Laura Burkett of Real Food Wellness  |  Holistic Health Counselor | headshot and branding photography
Laura Burkett of Real Food Wellness  |  Holistic Health Counselor | headshot and branding photography
Laura Burkett of Real Food Wellness  |  Holistic Health Counselor |  headshot and branding photography
Laura Burkett of Real Food Wellness  |  Holistic Health Counselor |  headshot and branding photography
Laura Burkett of Real Food Wellness  |  Holistic Health Counselor |  headshot and branding photography

p.s. If you'd like to receive daily inspiration for living more mindfully with a food and health twist, follow Real Food Wellness on Facebook.  You won't regret it :)