Travel Photography Etiquette — 5 Tips When Photographing People

Trips provide the ideal time to discover new landscapes, cultures, and customs.  For many travelers, photos are precious reminders of encounters and highlights along the way.  Taking photos of people can be tricky, though.  Here are our tips on how to be polite while photographing people during your travel adventures.

Himba Village in Namibia. Copyright: Reefs to Rockies.

1: Permission is key.  Get approval first and respect people’s wishes.  If someone does not want their photo taken, don’t push the issue.  For children, be sure to ask permission of a parent or guardian, no matter where you are in the world.

Sacred Valley, Peru. Copyright: Reefs to Rockies.

2.  Say “Thank you”.  Showing the photos you’ve taken to your subjects is a great way to say thank you.  You may even offer to send them photos at a later date.  If you do offer to send photos, be sure to follow through with your promise.

Himba Village, Namibia. Copyright: Bill Gozansky.

3.  To Pay or Not to Pay?  In popular destinations, you may be asked for money in exchange for taking their photo.  Some people spend considerable time on their appearance and they expect compensation as a result.  If you’re not willing to pay, be kind and move on to your next great photo.  There are plenty of places where people don’t expect compensation.

4.  Do you need a model release?  You can find a wide variety of forums and blogs on this subject, but the general rule of thumb is this: If you’re not planning to profit from the image, you don’t need a model release.

Island of Mozambique. Copyright: Reefs to Rockies.

5.  How would you feel?  If you’re not sure how to approach a particular person/ situation, just ask yourself how you’d feel if the roles were reversed.  If you wouldn’t be comfortable with the tables turned, that’s the surest sign that the photo(s) shouldn’t be taken.  Not all moments deserve to be captured by a camera.

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