How To Take BAD Tourist Photos

16 Aug

Dear Tourist,

You know who you are. You are the tourist (or “traveler”) who can’t work a camera. It’s not your fault. Maybe it’s not your focus. Maybe you don’t have a Canon5DXto-the-camera-limit-max (and you don’t need one).  I am no expert.  But dear friend, I am here to help you take better photos of the strangers who approach you in the street.

What Went Wrong:

1. You Tried To Get The Whole Building In the Picture

I got the whole building in but I look tiny in comparison. No focus. Photo: nearafar

A tip: the focus of the person in front of the building is much more important in the photo than the top edge of the building. I’d rather have some of the building cut off if it means there is a good focus of me in the picture.

My beloved Travelocity Gnomie was prominently featured in this picture, but I was also able to capture where he was without having to feature the whole structure. Photo: nearafar

Option Two:  The building doesn’t have to be that up close. As long as you got the memory of being there, I think that’s what counts.

Self portrait in front of the Painted Ladies, Alamo Square. They're not up close but I still managed to capture it. This shot also took quite a few tries until I was satisfied. Patience is a virtue.

2. You Weren’t Close Enough


This is something I see strangers do when I give them my camera:  they step about five to ten feet back.  Please DON’T. This may be great if you’re taking a scenic view. But all of that foreground in the front is not good.  And again, the main subject is not featured. But at least there’s my evidence of trying to channel my inner-Zeus.

Shooting from the waist up in Oia, Santorini. Photo: nearafar

Solution:  Step about 3 feet away and try to get waist level. Getting the paint colour on my toe nails is not necessary. Waist up + enough of the background = successful photo! Always take about three photos for your fellow traveller.  Said traveller will happily return the favour (well, this one will, at least).

EXCEPTION:  posing in front of fun signs like the Guinness Brewery.

In front of the Guinness Brewery, Dublin. Photo: nearafar

3.  Extraneous Details are in The Way


If you see my bag and coat bundled up in the frame, shoot me (or the main subject) from the waist up.  Feet and ground do not always necessarily need to be in the shot. Or if you see another person in the background, please wait until said person is gone.    It also saves me from going to Photoshop.

See? A good photo can be taken, even if you're wearing denim on denim.

In this photo, the structure wasn’t compromised and you can still see that there’s a good portion of the tourist (me) in the photo. Though, I would crop out the structure to the side.

Hope my tips helped! Would you like to see a part two of this post? What are your photography tips to those travelers you need to get your photo? Or are you all about the self-portrait? What tools do you use if you are not relying on others to take your photos? 

P.S. Come join the fun from near and afar (puns included) on Twitter or on my new Facebook Page.


10 Responses to “How To Take BAD Tourist Photos”

  1. Emad August 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Excellent photos !

    • nearafar August 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

      Thank you! Hoping the bad photographers will take note. 🙂

  2. Corbin Fraser (@ibackpackcanada) August 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Great tips Natalie!

    As for my own tips… Always shoot more than you need. SD cards are cheap these days, so take more photos than you think you’ll need, especially if you think you’re a garbage photographer. Chances are if you take 50 shots, you’ll have 1 or 2 that you’re proud of. Second tip, don’t post all 48-49 of those crap photos to facebook. Its okay to only show of your best couple. It makes you look cool. haha

    • nearafar August 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

      Very true. Remember when they used to be $60 for like 2G? I do need to get more memory cards. Sigh…

    • nearafar August 17, 2011 at 1:15 am #

      I actually didn’t see the rest of your comment. You are so spot-on about not posting all of your photos. I don’t need to see the outtakes. Just your favourite or best shots. It gets sooo boring after a while. Great tips and thoughtful reply!

  3. Yvonne (@JustTravelous) August 17, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    awesome post! that’s why I don’t like to ask strangers to take a picture of me.

  4. Emily in Chile August 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Oh I hate getting your camera back and having a totally crap picture but feeling obligated to tell the nice person who took it that no, it’s great, thanks so much! I’m not even a great photographer, but I have eyes, and I try to take decent pictures for other people…unfortunately I think a lot of them need to read this before they’re allowed to hold someone else’s camera again.

    • nearafar August 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

      I know! It’s the worst feeling. I usually do take advantage of the shooter who asks if I would like one or two more pictures, but usually they don’t care about what you look like in front of the monument you probably won’t see for a while. I’m on a mission to get better photos for all tourists. 🙂

  5. Amer @TendToTravel September 10, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    love this post! I too find it hard asking people to take my photos because of that!

  6. Gerard ~ GQ trippin September 10, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    You’ve touch upon one of my biggest pet peeves! I just may even have to RT this. What I usually do is ask someone else who has a DSLR camera to take a photo for me & my GF. You’d figure they know what they’re doing if they have a big expensive camera (not always guaranteed though). Then I ask for multiple perspectives so at least one shot looks good. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: