Kids just love to see photos after you've taken them!
For many of us, taking great photos when we're traveling is the most important souvenir we can bring home. There are so many memories to capture and save for a rainy day at home. Landmarks, nature, the view, your food and people. Often when we travel, we find ourselves more daring than we normally would've been at home, but it's important to remember that there is such a thing as travel photography etiquette.
Whether you use your iPhone or DSLR to capture memories, these photography tips will come in handy when you're on the road.
1. Be quick
If you absolutely need to block the sidewalk or you're "occupying" a popular touristic posing spot, get your camera settings ready in advance and take your photo as quickly as possible. If your photo didn't turn out the way you wanted or you'd like to try a different pose, let others get the chance first and get back in line. Another idea is to get there early and beat the crowds.
2. Ask for permission
Maybe you think it's embarrassing to ask in a foreign language or you're afraid of getting a "no," but you should always ask for permission before you take photos of people. Asking can be done in many ways, the easiest is just to signal with your eyes or camera that you're interested in taking a photo of them - you will usually get a quick nod, smile, shaking of the head or some other body signal to let you know if it's OK or not. No dictionary needed.
Most important, if you get a no, you should respect it and move on.
Many times, taking the effort to ask and get the permission to take the photo can open up opportunities for interesting conversations, and you can take your time getting your photo right (instead of rushing along and "pretending" to take a picture of something behind them). Think how much more fruitful it is to bring home a photo where you actually know the story behind it and the name of the person in the photo.
I later chatted with these men, making this photo more memorable.
3. Show your photo
Most people are curious of how their photo turned out - wouldn't you want to see a photo someone just took of you? Especially when photographing kids, showing subjects the outcome of your photo can end up being even more fun than taking it. Kids are kids everywhere, and kids love posing and making funny faces in front of the camera. Like clockwork, they will most likely break out in a thunder of laughter and screams of excitement when they see the result - think of how much joy you can share.
If you're traveling with a polaroid, giving away a copy of their photo can be a greater gift than you can imagine.
4. Respect the culture
Be sensitive to cultural customs, religion and people's privacy in general. There are situations where snapping photos is not appropriate; if you're ever in doubt, consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed. It's not a zoo and you should respect people's privacy.
I've seen some travelers walk straight into stranger's homes to snap photos of the local living conditions. Just because someone doesn't have a fenced yard or a locked door, doesn't mean you can just walk in! Other examples of situations where it can be very tempting to take photos (but ultimately should be avoided, or at least given a second thought) are funerals, religious environments where people are praying, and encounters with the sick or injured.
Take photos in busy places without being a bother.
5. Don't get in the way
Do not interfere with people trying to do their job or go about their daily business. You are being a nuisance and being disruptive, which in the end makes for rushed photographs, less pleasant facial expressions, and an overall less positive experience.
The popular fish market in Tokyo, Japan is a good example of a place where people are trying to do their jobs and earn a living, but do not benefit from having you poke around in their fish or snapping pictures of snappers. Be respectful, don't touch, and stay out of their way so they can do their job!
6. Obey the rules
Wherever you are, keep an eye open for signs that say "No Photography." Many churches, museums and cultural places will ask visitors to avoid taking photographs. You should absolutely respect this request. Sometimes, you'll find photos are allowed as long as you do not use the flash; if you're ever in doubt, it's probably best to ask someone working there.
These rules of thumb aren't meant to scare you away from taking interesting travel photos, but it's about respecting the people around you. Most of the time all you have to do is ask!
What has YOUR experience been with travel photography etiquette? Have you encountered individuals who break any of these unwritten rules? Share your stories!