Ask Permission

Photo tip: Ask Permission.

Imagine how you would feel if you were walking down the street of your home town and out of the corner of your eye you saw someone with a 70-200 mm lens pointed right at you. You’d probably wonder why they wanted a photo of you, what would it be used for and where would it end up? You might even try to ‘hide’ by putting your hand up to scratch your face, or getting off the street at the next corner and taking an alternate route. Or, you may approach the person and ask them what they are photographing. Summed up, this is how most people feel regardless of their nationality.

Just because you are in someone else’s country doesn’t mean that taking photos is ok. Yes, as traveler’s and photographers we want to capture things around us. But, it is our duty to make sure that we understand the customs, beliefs and rules of the places we are traveling to.

In most countries, photographing government officials is taboo, if not flat out illegal. Unless of course they are on display for that purpose at a landmark or tourist attraction.

In some countries, such as Peru, many people believe that the camera captures your soul, so they do not want to be photographed at all. It is important to be aware of this and respectful.

Want to photograph someone? Why not ask them if they mind? It only takes a moment and it could lead to a really interesting conversation!

Don’t know how to speak the language? Learn a few basic phrases and watch for body language to tell you whether the person understands and is giving their permission.

If all else fails, use your own body language. Smiling and pointing at a person and then back at your camera is universally understandable … as is the shake of the head side to side for no, or the nod of the head up and down for yes.

2 thoughts on “Ask Permission

    1. Sometimes it is hard to ask if you can take a picture. The language barriers can be intimidating. You just have to remember … What’s the worst that can happen? They say no … and then you’ve done something good because you haven’t made them uncomfortable by taking a photo that they didn’t want you to take! It’s a win-win.

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