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5.2 Foreign Culture and Customs

Some cultures and religions are sensitive about cameras. This lesson looks at permission to capture video, release forms, and where to go to find the best images.

5.2 Foreign Culture and Customs

Hi, and welcome back. I'm Cindy Burgess for Tuts+. In this lesson you'll learn how to be mindful of foreign cultures and customs when you're recording video, and where to find some of the best images. I highly recommend that before you leave you take some time to research the customs of the places you plan to visit. These can vary, not only by country, but by region and by religion as well. There are places in the world where taking someone's picture is taboo because they believe you're stealing their soul. In many countries, you're gonna run into trouble if you capture video of military vehicles or facilities. Believe me, the last thing you want is to have your camera confiscated, or worse, be thrown in jail. Talk about an early party. So do some research, read guidebooks, many are available online. Talk to your travel agent if you have one. Ask the concierge or staff working the front desk of your hotel. Ask your tour guide. Contact the local tourism commission. There are lots of resources available. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you find yourself with the opportunity to record some good video, but you're not sure if it's allowed or if local customs permit it, then simply ask politely. Sometimes just smiling and gesturing to your camera is enough. I like to learn a few phrases of the local language so I can greet the person and ask how they are. Most people really appreciate this even if your pronunciation is horrible, and will be more likely to say yes. If they do say no, respect their request and move along. You'd want to be treated the same way if the situation was reversed. Some of the best subjects for video are children at play, but many countries, including those in the Western world, frown on recording video of children without their parents' permission. So keep this in mind. And it goes without saying that you should be wary of capturing shots of any child without clothing, no matter how innocent your video might be. When I was traveling through Peru, I came across a sleepy little village where some children were playing in the main square. They were absolutely adorable in their traditional dress. Rather than whipping out my camera and filming right away though, I took a little time to approach the children. I asked their names and their ages in my rudimentary Spanish. Kids are great that way, by the way, they don't judge. I even played a few little games with them. Their parents were sitting nearby and they were laughing at us, probably at my attempts to speak. And a few minutes later when I asked if I could take a few pictures, they said sure. Needless to say, the kids loved watching themselves on the little screen. Don't be afraid let people look through your lens and even record a few shots themselves. These interactions with local people are why many of us travel in the first place. Now one issue you might run into when you ask permission to capture someone on video is they want money or something else of value in exchange. This is more of an ethical decision. Some people frown on this kind of behavior because it encourages begging. But others argue that we shouldn't expect people in developing countries to let us use their images for free. Especially if we're recording video for commercial purposes, in other words, making money from it. What you decide to do is up to you, just be aware that you'll likely encounter this situation in developing countries. You may wanna set aside some small bills or a handful of coins for this very purpose. Some locations will charge a photographer's fee that allows you to move freely within a designated area and capture images of whatever you like. For example, when I was in Havana, Cuba, I went to the legendary Tropicana Club to see a show. Anyone who wanted to bring a camera inside had to pay an extra fee, but then you were allowed to record whatever you wanted. This is not unusual for stage shows or concerts, but you may encounter these fees with visits to tribal villages or historic sites and buildings as well. One question that often comes up is, do I need to get release forms signed when I'm recording video? A release form is a document that essentially gives you permission to photograph a person or location. It's designed to protect you legally in the event that someone comes back later and says, I never said you could put me in your video, or I never gave you permission to come on my property to record video. If you're capturing video for your own personal use as a record of your travels, you don't need release forms. If you're a journalist and you're recording video for editorial purposes, in other words, as part of a news story, you don't need them either. But if you're capturing video for commercial purposes, you are going to need a release form. Maybe you're recording video in hopes of selling it later as stock footage of a particular location, or you're creating a promotional video for a tour company or resort. The ins and outs of release forms are really for another course, but suffice to say there are lots of templates available online. Just be sure to have a lawyer check it over. So those are some tips on asking permission to use a person's image, but where do you find good subjects for your video in the first place? Get away from the tourist traps, stop filming buildings just sitting there. Go to places where local people gather, like the marketplace, town squares, the docks. I love to capture video of people working, whether their job is catching fish for local restaurants in Holbosh, Mexico, or cooking pupusas in Via de Anclas, Honduras. Even the most shy or self-conscious people forget about the camera when they're working. And here's another thing. Many people are proud of the work they do, and are happy to tell you about it if you show the least bit of interest. Remember those sound bites we talked about? A great way to get some. The marketplace is another target-rich spot to find people going about their daily business. Loads of fresh produce, crafts, artists at work, food, music, all the ingredients of a good video. I find that if you buy a little something, and who doesn't when you're in that kind of a location, the vendor will usually be more than happy to let you record some video. Look for local parades and festivals as well, like this one I literally stumbled onto in Peru as I was walking back to my car. They're usually full of color and excitement and there's a friendly atmosphere. People are out to have a good time and they're less likely to care if you're recording video. These are the little slices of life that make travel so interesting, and they'll make your travel videos that much better because they're authentic. And that wraps up this chapter and this course. Stay tuned, though, for one final word of advice. It's an important one.

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