Photographing Two Friends In Bali

Two young boys, very much enjoying a moment of mirth, at a local band practice near Ubud, Bali.

I met these two beautiful boys in a village in Bali, Indonesia. Our two good friends were dressed up for a celebration in which they participated as members of a large Balinese musical ensemble.

Are You Confident Photographing Kids? 

These lads were buddies and I wanted to record the close nature of their friendship.

Being a child at heart, I have no problem relating to kids. Hopefully that shows in the boys relaxed and candid response to my jibes.

Roadside Shrine, Bali, Indonesia

About To Travel?


Framing and Composition

Composition is a critical component in making great photos. As composition occurs inside the frame I think it’s fair to say that what you exclude from the frame can be as important as what you include within it.

By studying the photos in this post you’ll discover the different approaches I took to framing those photos.

You’ll notice that I framed certain images quite tightly so as to isolate the subject from its surroundings and, thereby, focus attention on the primary subject or subjects within the frame.

In other photos I’ve chosen a wider view of the world so as to show the primary subject in relation to their environment. In these particular photos I felt that the environment could really add to the story being told.

In the case of the photo at the very top of this post I was drawn to the close friendship between the two boys.

To better explore that relationship I decided to move in nice and close and frame out what might otherwise have been a distracting background.

A group of    young boys    playing up for the camera at a local band practice near    Ubud    in    Bali   .

A group of young boys playing up for the camera at a local band practice near Ubud in Bali.

Capturing A Moment In time in Bali

In this candid group image good timing was required to record the exact moment when gesture and expression came together in a cohesive and harmonious manner.

I’m so happy to have recorded this fun moment in time that explores the theme of friendship and, in doing so, to have preserved a lovely memory for the boys and their families.

You can tell that these lads had at least as much fun as I did making this photo. The success of the photo is due to the following:

  • My direct, but unthreatening approach

  • Asking permission to make the photo

  • Keeping control over composition, while allowing the moment to unfold within the frame

  • Doing what I can to set my camera before bringing it up to my eye

  • Being aware of the notion of friendship while making these pictures

Ultimately the success of these photos is based upon timing. To achieve great timing you’ll want to get your exposure, focus and composition set before you do or say what's required to obtain a great expression.

Can you imagine missing such a moment in time simply because you'd elicited the ideal response prior to getting your camera set correctly? Yikes! 

I was really grateful for the few minutes I had with these young lads during a break in their rehearsals.

As you can see I did my best to make both candid and more formal portraits.

Portrait of a young boy, in local costume, during a break at band practice near Ubud, Bali.

Aim For Variety In The Photos You Make

Adding variety in the way you go about making photos can be a great way to produce a visually dynamic series of images.

Some examples of which include the following:

  • Color and black-and-white

  • Portrait and landscape orientation

  • Telephoto and wide-angle focal lengths

  • Formal, candid and environmental portraits

  • Changing the camera to subject distance

  • Experimenting with depth of field

  • Photographing from your normal eye view as well as from a higher and lower angle of view


Black and white portrait of a young boy in a village near Ubud, Bali.

How I Photographed This Pensive Balinese Boy

While not a part of the musical group this young boy made for a great subject. With his permission, and that of an adult guardian, I made a few quick photos.

The exposure details are simple. The image was made, without a tripod, at 1/20 second with an aperture of f/4 and at ISO 400.

I employed a Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS lens at 105 mm, on my then Canon 5D Mark II camera, to isolate the young lad from his surroundings and to draw his face in a flattering manner.

Notice how careful focus and a shallow Depth Of Field has rendered his eyes sharp while blurring his shirt and ears.

When processing the image I decided that a black and white rendering was appropriate.

Somehow the often quieter mood associated with a black and white rendering seemed the right choice given the more pensive expression on the child’s face.

And it’s because of the intensity of that expression that I made sure to concentrate as much attention on his face as possible.

That meant minimizing the background in the photo, which I achieved in the following ways:

  • Reduced the camera to subject distance

  • Chose a telephoto focal length

  • Selected a relatively wide aperture (i.e., f/4)

  • Opted for a vertical (i.e., portrait) orientation

  • Removed color through a black and white rendering

Why I Ask Permission Before Photographing Strangers

Balinese people are wonderful. I’ve found them to be friendly, easy to get along with and very accommodating. I’d also say that, as a generalization, the people of Bali are also quite shy and mild mannered.

It’s just not appropriate to barge your way into a private gathering and start snapping photos in Bali.

My own policy is to be aware of cultural sensitivities and, where ever possible, to ask permission prior to photographing people.

Even my candid people based photos are, almost always, made after I’ve gained permission to do so.

Why I Love Travel Photography

One of the things I enjoy most about travel photography is that you never know what opportunities for meeting interesting people and making great photos will appear around the next corner.

That’s exactly what happened on the day I made these photos. I saw this group of young lads, all dressed up in traditional clothing, from the car as I drove into a small village near my base in Ubud, Bali.

It was simply a matter of getting out of the car, introducing myself and asking permission to make the photos. I was back in the car and on the road again within about 5 minutes.

Travel photography is fun and exciting. I really feel alive and that I’m living the life I was meant to live when I’m making photos.

Needless to say it certainly helps, when you’ve travelled so far, to know how to use your camera.

Would you like to get control back from the machine and begin to start making photos that finally begin to realize your creative potential?

Do you live in or around Melbourne, Australia and are interested to learn photography in a private 3 hour one-to-one photography course?

Please feel free to reach out so I can take you through the options.