Travel Photography Etiquette for Traveling Families

My family doesn’t get to travel often, but when we do, we try to make the most out of our vacations.

That’s why it’s so frustrating to encounter those annoying travelers who take forever to snap their photos in a historical landmark without giving other people the opportunity to have their photos taken there, too. Haven’t they heard of “etiquette”?

Aside from giving our fellow travels some common courtesies, we also have to respect the local communities. Different countries have cultural norms that differ from our own, and we can’t just ignore this fact as we travel. We have to be sensitive and respectful of other cultures, and this includes being mindful when taking travel photos.

Traveling families, particularly parents, need to understand that observing photography etiquette is just as important as taking great vacation photos. As tourists, the last thing we want to happen is to upset our fellow travelers and the locals, disrespect their culture, and come across as insensitive, arrogant people.

Here are some rules of photography etiquette for traveling families:

Don’t Spend Too Much Time Taking Photos

To get the perfect shot, it takes so long for some people to adjust the manual settings of their camera, unmindful of other people who also want to take pictures at the same spot.

People get that you’re with your family, and every photo counts. But please be sensitive enough, especially if you happen to be taking too much time snapping your family photo.

So that you can quickly tweak your camera settings, it’s best to bring a camera that allows easy adjustment according to your desired setting.

Every time I take photos of my family’s vacation, I bring my Nikon COOLPIX 900 because it’s not just compact and easy to carry but also quick to adjust. While the COOLPIX 900 has a full manual control, you have the option to use it like a point and shoot, making it perfect for capturing spontaneous moments with the family without having to take time adjusting its settings.

And to avoid re-taking a photo a lot of times, make sure to compose your subject properly and get it right on the first shot. You don’t want to wait forever for your turn, right? So refrain from making others wait, too.

Wait for Your Turn

Photo by EthanChiang / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0big thank you

If you want to shoot a stunning view, but other families are still taking their photos or are lining up to have their pictures taken, let them finish first before you take your turn.

That way, your family doesn’t crowd the area and get in the way of other families taking their photos.

If they’re taking much time and don’t seem to mind other people around, a respectful and gentle “excuse me” can do the trick.

Don’t Block the View

Photo by David Santaolalla / CC BY 2.0

As much as you want to revel in the beauty of a place and take a bunch of photos of it, there are also other families that would want to snap a photo without you photobombing it.

Also keep an eye on your children—they might run around and unintentionally ruin other people’s photos.

Always remind your kids to stay away from families or any group that are taking photos.

Always Ask Permission

Want to take a photo of locals?

You’ve got to ask them first if it’s okay that you take their photos.

Consider that in some cultures, being photographed by a stranger (in this case, it’s you) can be really uncomfortable to a local.

The same rule applies to places. If you find a beautiful spot that’s privately owned by a local, make sure to ask permission if it’s okay to use it as a background for your family photo. Locals are often accommodating and friendly to tourists, so don’t be shy to ask.

If language is a barrier, ask the help of your tour guide, or better yet, learn some of the basic words in their dialect.

Be Culturally Sensitive

Beyond being tourist attractions, shrines and temples are sacred places of worship to the locals.

You don’t want to distract them while they’re praying or meditating with your camera flash or the sound of your camera shutter.

It’s also disrespectful to block their way just because you’re trying to compose a perfect shot of a statue.

If your family has to take photos in a temple, better do it outside. If you’re lucky, monks will let you take photos inside. Just make sure that you get an approval like a nod or a smile. If you think it’s inappropriate to take photos, don’t do it and just follow your gut.

Follow Photography Rules

Some places have strict photography rules that every visitor has to follow. Watch out for signs regarding taking pictures.

If you don’t see anything, it’s best to ask a guard or someone who knows the place if it’s fine to snap a couple of photos.

For example, in museums, you can’t use your camera’s flash because it can affect the artifacts being preserved. If you don’t want guards to lecture you about their rules, just abide by them.

Avoid Taking Photos Inside Stores

Stores are located in public places, but that doesn’t mean you can just snap away. You may find it harmless, but many store owners feel otherwise—they find it disrespectful when tourists take photos of their product displays or even just the facade of their store.

We experienced it ourselves on our visit in Macau. My family tried to pose in front of a Louis Vuitton store; shortly after, the guard walked towards me and signaled that taking photos was not allowed. He asked me to delete the photos, which I immediately did to avoid being questioned by the security.

Always Say Thank You

Whether your photo was taken by a local or you posed with some people, don’t forget to say thanks. Be respectful and grateful to people who played a part in your family’s memorable travel experience.

A simple “thank you” will definitely put a smile on their faces. Always remember that you and your family are guests in their country, and it’s your responsibility to adjust, relate, and connect with the locals to the best of your ability.

When you plan a family trip, research the cultural dos and don’ts of the country or city you’re going to visit. Make sure to orient each family member on the beliefs and rules they should always keep in mind. This way, you won’t offend anybody during your trip.

A collaborative article with Liz Pekler. Though we agree with (almost) all she says, her opinions are her own.

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