If you are anything like myself and Chris, there are many, many times in your traveling life where you’ll be forced to do one of three things:
- Ask someone to take a photo of you and your traveling partner.
- Take a selfie of yourself and your traveling partner.
- Use a camera timer to take a picture of you and your traveling partner.
For a long time, Chris and I avoided all three of these options and just switched off taking photos of each other in the places we were visiting, but I soon came to realize … that blows! I wanted both of us in these photos, so I was going to have to suck it up and figure out the best way to go about that.
Having tried all three, I have to say that asking someone else, however awkward and annoying you might feel about it, is absolutely the best way to go about it … with some etiquette caveats, of course. Selfies, particularly if your traveling partner is much taller than you are (as mine usually is), can sometimes come out like this:
Hmmmm … definitely not our best. And camera self-timers are great in a pinch, but it generally takes quite a few shots before you get everything lined up right and have everyone smiling with their eyes open at the exact second the camera takes the photo — let’s just say it can be a bit time consuming.
So, that leaves you with the dreaded travelers conundrum — asking someone else to take your photo. However, if you don’t want your awesome photo to end up like this:
^^ Thanks, lady who took our photo directly in front of the Machu Picchu ruins after we had hiked Huayna Picchu. It’s not like you could have told us we needed to move over to the right a bit in order to get the full effect …
… there are some caveats I would always follow.
The Travelers’ Guide to Asking Someone Else to Take Your Photo
1. Don’t be hasty. There’s really no rush. Take your time to scope out the crowd and see who seems to be taking the most thoughtful, well-placed photos themselves. If they’re careful about the shots they have on their own camera, they’re more likely to be careful with your shots, as well.
2. Be polite. I’ve never actually encountered someone who wasn’t happy to take our photo, although there usually is a bit of nerves that can come along with it. (Hey, it’s a big deal to take a photo for people in a place they may never, ever be again!) Don’t crowd people while they’re busy first experiencing a site, don’t ask the single mom chasing after her kids and don’t ask the couple that you’ve noticed bickering all throughout your tour. I’ve found that apologizing for the interruption tends to go a long way, too, as in: “I’m so sorry to bother you, but would you mind taking our photo quickly?”
3. Show them how to use your camera. Don’t wait until you check the photos someone has taken to realize they didn’t know how to use your zoom — give them all the important intel up front to avoid any confusion. Make sure the camera is already on and ready (sometimes ours goes into hibernation mode when it’s on and hasn’t been used in a while, and it takes a couple seconds to reboot, which tends to confuse people. I’m aware of this now, and try to make sure the person taking the picture doesn’t have to worry about that) and tell them any and everything they need to know about the flash and your zoom.
4. Be very clear about what you want. This is perhaps the most important part of asking anyone to take your photo — what is it exactly that you want? Perhaps if I had thought of this before having that woman take our photo in front of Machu Picchu, I would have remembered to clarify that we wanted the entire ruins in the picture … not just the trail off to the side. Sigh. Do you want your picture horizontal or vertical, or both? What specifically in the background do you want captured, and where do you want to be in comparison to that background? Does it kill you when people cut your feet off in photos? It doesn’t hurt to ask them to take a couple shots, too, just to avoid the inevitable blink or weird smile that can ruin a photo. Politely inform your snapper of how you want the picture to look, and that will help them frame the perfect shot. Believe me, people want to do a good job, so as long as you’re friendly here, people won’t mind a little direction.
5. Don’t be embarrassed to check it. Most people will offer this anyway, but don’t be afraid to really check the photo after it’s taken. If it’s not exactly what you had in mind, just say: “Oh these are great! But would you actually mind just taking one more quick one that gets that waterfall in the background?” If that’s too embarrassing, wait for that person to leave and start over again with someone else.
6. Always reciprocate. It’s just common traveling courtesy to reciprocate the offer back to someone who has just taken a photo of you. Of course if they accept, be sure to go through all the caveats in reverse so that you can be sure you’re snapping exactly what they want, as well. An even better idea — ask them first if they’d like you to take a picture for them. After you’ve already helped them out, they might feel more inclined to do the same for you.
It may seem like a lot to go through to get one photo, but at the end of the day, if you really don’t think you’ll be making it back to that once-in-a-lifetime place, it’s totally worth it.
Do you guys have any additional tips of your own when it comes to asking people to take your photo for you when traveling?
Bis bald, friends — and happy travels!