Four principles for making travel photos that are adventurous, but not obnoxious

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It’s hard to tell whether the rise of photography has made us more or less sensitive to art. Some people believe that it has encouraged us to be more appreciative of every art form because we have lost the ability (or ability to afford) to travel, and therefore appreciate what we have on our doorstep. Others think that we are now bombarded with so many images that we are numb in the face of them.

And then there is photography itself, which can be considered an art form. Everyone who owns a camera knows how important it is to get good shots, but for some reason no one ever seems to talk about what makes a great travel photo.

Here are four principles for taking photos that will be exciting, rather than offensive:

This is a list of the rules I’ve set for myself to make my travel photos more helpful, and not so obnoxious.


Sharing photos from your vacation is easy. The hard part is actually taking them in a way that makes other people happy rather than annoyed or embarrassed. This post will offer some guidelines for taking pictures that are both adventurous and respectful of the place you’re visiting.

This post is not about improving the technical quality of your photos: it is about respecting places you visit. If you don’t care about that, then this post isn’t for you.

1. Don’t take pictures of people without their permission.

2. Don’t take inappropriate or dangerous pictures.

3. Don’t take flash photography in places where it isn’t allowed, or would ruin an image anyway (e.g., inside a church).

4. Do your best to not be ugly while traveling, either by your actions or the actions of your friends (e.g., no peeing on ancient Italian buildings).

The first three are pretty obvious, so I’ll focus on 4: doing your best to not be ugly while traveling.

Part of what makes travel beautiful is encountering new and unexpected things: people, places and cultures that are different from what you know at home. If we all go everywhere and take identical pictures of iconic landmarks, travel becomes boring very quickly**.”

You’re on vacation. You’ve got your camera. Time to start shooting. But there’s more to it than that.

When I’m shooting travel photos, I try to follow these four principles:

1. Shoot only stuff that interests you. This is the most important rule. It’s not just a question of whether the picture is technically good or nice or anything like that. If you don’t like it, you’ve wasted your time, and you’re annoying people around you. Don’t do that!

2. Don’t show anyone in the photo unless they are part of the picture, or at least have given their permission for being photographed. No pictures of people without their consent! Some people feel uncomfortable about being photographed even when they are part of the picture (e.g., if you are taking a picture of children playing in a park). So get their consent if at all possible; otherwise, don’t take the photo!

3. Be aware of your surroundings and how they will look in your photo; be considerate of other people who may be there as well; and think about how your photo will affect them and what impact it will have on them after they see it (for example, if it’s posted online). Don’t capture anything

A.K.A. “The Way Things Are”.

The pictures in this gallery are the result of a collaboration between myself and some of my friends who have traveled all over the world, from the Arctic to Antarctica, from the deserts of Africa to the jungles of Asia; and everywhere in-between.

I will not list destinations, nor will I mention names for security reasons. But I want to emphasize that these are not random photos that I have found online, then put together into a gallery. All photos on this page were taken by me or my friends.

If you are planning a trip to some part of the world, keep in mind that we tried to take pictures that represent typical scenes or views rather than “Kodak moments” (which typically result in obnoxious pictures). Please do not do any of these things:

1. Be there at the right time of day.

2. Don’t take photos of people without their permission.

3. Don’t bring a huge telephoto lens or a flash.

4. Avoid obvious clichés, such as shots of children jumping into the water or men fishing from canoes.

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