Guatemalan Cowboy

The Guatemalan population is made up of a diverse meld of people, and there is no greater place to watch the mixing of cultures than in the Chichistenango market.  I went into my morning at the famous market with the goal not to buy cheap souvenirs (sorry friends), but to try to capture the people that make this market so special.  Although the majority of the shops and stalls are run by indigenous people, the swath of people that stumble, push and pull through the market is impressive.  I sat down and chatted with a number of people hoping they would let me photograph them.  Some did, some didn’t, thus is life.  The Guatemalan cowboy that is photographed below allowed me to snap one shot before telling me that he was in a hurry and turned to walk off.  As he took his first step I fired this shot, and couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.

Guatemalan Cowboy

Guatemalan Cowboy

 How Did I get this Shot

Photographing people is terrifying. In fact, it’s a lot like approaching someone you like and asking for a date.  The truth is, that getting a picture and getting a date have a lot in common.  To allow someone to let you take their picture you can’t just barge in and ask, you need to build a relationship.  You need to step in and be confident, funny, assured of yourself and most of all polite and friendly.  In the end, you may or may not get the photo, or the date, and you can’t take that personally (it’s not you, it’s them).  Some people don’t want their photo taken, just like some girls aren’t looking for a boyfriend, but if you put yourself out there and make an effort you’ll be rewarded in the end.

For the photographers this photo was taken on a Canon 60d with a 70-200mm f/4 lens. The specs are f/5.6 at 1/125 seconds, ISO 100.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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9 Comments

  1. Yes, good point about building a relationship. That is just better than walking up and saying “Can I take your picture?”

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  2. I agree with you and Stephen AND you get the added bonus of meeting someone new – all kinds of possibilities in that from friendship to just learning something about locals others would have missed for not having spoken with the person.

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  3. Great comparison of it being like asking for a date and about building a relationship. Even if they say no to the photo, it gives you the chance to chat with an incredible person however briefly.

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    • @Peggy – That’s a great point, the photo often overshadows the chance to interact.

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  4. Great tip about establishing a relationship with someone. That would also make me feel less like I’m just using someone for a shot.

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    • @Scott – It’s so true… but the whole time you’re having the conversation, just like a conversation that will lead to asking a girl out, you’re thinking… when do I drop the bomb that I want a picture haha.

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  5. There is an adventurous thrill to shooting candids with a wide angle or normal prime. You must sneak up without them noticing you and your camera and take there photo from close-up. I guess it is the thrill that hunters get. You can ask people if you can take their photo, or get acquainted with them, but then you lose the naturalness of the scene and the photo often looks posed. BTW, great photo!

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    • @Jason – You are right that it can be fun, and the images you can get are raw… but it’s also theft in a way. In Guatemala, taking a photo of an indigenous person without permission has cost people their lives. Some people don’t want their photo taken. Indigenous people in Guatemala believe that when you take their photo you are taking a piece of their soul. Even though you might lose some of the rawness you have to ask people permission before you shoot them. Ask for permission then let them carry on their day and photograph them once they’ve forgotten about you.

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  6. Great picture!! You are absolutely correct about the people shots. It’s easier when it’s friends or family…..but with complete strangers, it’s a whole other ballgame.

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