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To snap or not to snap? Travel Photography Etiquette 101


Let’s start off with a simple question: why do you want to take photographs on your travels? Is it a way of recording precious memories? Are you hoping to practise your craft by seeking exotic scenes and locations that aren’t available in your hometown? Or is it about connecting with different people through your lens? No matter what your purpose is, one thing is for certain: photography is a great way to tell stories. Travel photos help bring your journey to life, as you recount them to your audience.

Here are some guidelines to go by whenever you embark on a photographic journey to a foreign land. 


1) Research

With the help of the internet, it only takes some rudimentary researching to find out more about your destination. Read up about local customs and plan your routes plus modes of transportation so that you can get to each place efficiently. Make sure you have enough information on how to access difficult areas for photography, or if there are any special events happening when you’re in town.

Canon EOS 760D, Canon EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS @ 32mm, f/8.0, 1/200, ISO 100 by Susanne Nilsson

2) Stay safe

Remember that your life is always more important than a snapshot! You might want to capture a majestic sunrise over a precipice, but it’s never worth risking your life over. Many foolhardy photographers have their travel photographs marred with injuries, or worse still, death. Don’t get yourself or your companions in trouble.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS @ 55mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO 400 by Simon Q

3) Dress appropriately

Travelling to the Middle East, or planning to shoot in temples, churches, or other places of worship? Cover up! It’s the simplest and most effective way to show respect to your host country, by observing their local dress code.

Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF24mm f/1.4L II USM, f/1.6, 1/30, ISO 250 by Soren


1) Don’t forget to ask first

Depending on the location, some locals might find it utterly rude if you don’t ask before you snap. For example, people in Southeast Asia and India may not mind if you take their photo – some may even love the attention and pose for you! But don’t be surprised to discover that in other places, such as Africa or Middle Eastern countries, people tend to avoid your lens. Always remember to ask first. It’s only polite! If they agree, let them see the photo.  They’ll be happy you did! 

Canon EOS 40D, Canon EF24mm f/2.8 IS USM, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO 100 by mant@youcop

2) Don’t take pictures of everything

We know, you love photography. But do remember to take time to explore your destination without the viewfinder in the way! In a museum with beautiful architecture? Take a couple of shots and put the camera away. It’s time to enjoy the sights with your own eyes.

Canon EOS 70D, Canon EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM @ 10mm, f/5.6, 4 sec, ISO 100 by lozwilkes

3) Don’t treat the locals like objects

Taking sneaky close-ups of people in any country – even your own – can be considered intrusive. Always remember that people – no matter how different their appearances or lifestyles – aren’t just part of the scenery. Make an attempt to connect with them. When you get to know your subjects a little better, your photos will have a lot more emotion and depth.

Canon EOS 760D, Canon EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM @ 135mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO 400 by Googol Farmer