The essence of any culture is its people: their faces, clothes, jewellery, the way they live their lives. There are many ways to photograph people and, to tell the whole story of a country, you should explore a variety of approaches.
People are at their most natural when not posing for the camera, but getting good candid shots isn't easy. Staying a discreet distance away and shooting with a telephoto lens is one method. Another is to use an ultra-wideangle and place subjects near the edge of the frame, or you could practice shooting from the hip.
Be sensitive to the fact that not everyone likes having their picture taken, especially if not looking their best, and be prepared to put your camera down and move on if you're spotted and encounter a hostile reaction.
It's much easier to photograph people with their consent, but there's a chance they will look wooden in front of the camera. One way around this is to shoot them going about their normal business. You may have to stick around for a while to gain your subject's trust and reach a level where they forget you're there and start behaving naturally.
A short telephoto lens is great for head and shoulders shots, but wideangles are better for showing the subject in their environment. Getting close to your subject with a wideangle produces a dynamic perspective that gives the viewer a feeling of being close to the action.
Vary the Perspective
As well as using a variety of focal lengths, vary your shooting angle too. Try shooting from low angles looking up, or high ones looking down.
Watch your Depth of Field
The best way to isolate a subject from a distracting background is to select a wide aperture, particularly if combined with a moderate telephoto lens. This will blur the background so your subject stands out.
African dancer, Liberian National Peace & Cultural Festival. By Jonathan Banks, UK.
Fill-in flash is a great tool for improving the lighting on a subject's face, or for creating more impact, but must be used with care. Set an exposure to record the ambient illumination and reduce the flash power output by a couple of stops to make the flash more subtle.