I have spent the last forty-two years shooting assignments around the planet, and most of the time I’ve been fortunate enough to have an interpreter with me. Someone from the company I’m shooting for will go with us and if I have someone in the photograph, they can explain to the subject exactly what I want him to do.
Even with the interpreter explaining to the subject what I want him to do, it still can lose something in the translation. If I only have a few minutes of great light left, it can get a little on the stressful side of normalcy.
So, what do I do when I want to set up a photo with a person that doesn’t speak English, and I’m losing the light? If I’m lucky enough to have a trasnlator, I simply tell him to tell the subject to change places with me. You tell them to “do what I do”. Then, I actually act out what I want them to do. It’s a lot easier than you might think.
If I don’t have a translator, which is often the case I just motion them over to my camera (that’s ALWAYS on a tripod) and have him or her look in the viewfinder and I act out what I want them to do.
They get it immediately!!!
In each of the photo below, I moved the worker from the dark and put him in the shaft of light. That is, after I had them both look into the viewfinder, and I acted out what I wanted them to do.