How To Take BAD Tourist Photos Part DEUX

14 Nov

Sometimes, there's moments where you don't need a photo with every monument even if it brings you good luck. Like Juliet's statue in Verona. A tourist photo gone wrong.

Dear Tourist,

You may have heard from me before. When I told you that you were taking really bad photos that are to be treasured memories.  But I’m back. Because I found more bad tourist photos from my past. So please let’s channel our inner Susan Powters and STOP. THE. INSANITY. I’m no expert, but I searched through my photos for went went wrong in the past and how I’ve corrected my mistakes and how you can prevent from taking bad photos of fellow tourists. We all just want a good travel photo! (Well, I do.)

A tourist photo gone wrong in Verona: Juliet's Balcony and visions of a cliched travel photo in ruins. Wha Wha.

What went wrong:

1. Your photographer wasn’t patient enough and you had to battle other tourists for the “money” shot. 

I waited to get up to Juliet’s balcony. Yes, that Juliet. I’m not likely to be there any time soon. But thanks to the jerks lovely couple who wanted to check their photo AFTER they got their photo taken ON the balcony and probably someone nagging me to get off the balcony or my photographer for us to hurry up, we ended up with the picture below. See that face? That is a face of someone who was trying to get the Juliet wave in but held up her arm for a tad too long and was not happy with said couple. No tragic Rome ending for me. Just a tragic tourist-trap photo ending. That said, five years later, I am HOWLING at this photo.  But to the photographer (even if a friend of the tourist): please just wait until the couple leaves until you can get the money shot. That said, I should have “shushed” them. But I am a polite Canadian.

A much better photo that captures intrigue and is a great travel memory. Plus, you can actually see me in the photo!

Solution: Find an unexpected background. Bonus: no tourists! 

So the Juliet balony photo was a bust. But what we didn’t know coming into the site that just outside the balcony there is a tunnel which was scrawled in a graffiti of love letters from couples around the world. I’m learning that I’m becoming quite the graffiti-as-background fan, and jumped at the chance to take a photo of an unexpected background with a history. As a result, this is a much more compelling photo than the Juliet disasters above.


My friend Silvio and I in front of the Collesium in Verona. I don't think I need to explain what's wrong with this photo.

What Went Wrong: 

2. You took a photo in front of scaffolding. 

I love the power of cropping in post-production, but come on! It’s a simple mistake.  Plus all of the people in the background. Plus, it’s not the Collesium. Well, it is but not the one in Rome. This one is in Verona.

Despite the thousands of tourists that lurk around the Collesium, I still managed to get the shot I wanted with minimal background noise. How? Anal retentive art direction and a patient photographer.

Solution: Make sure there is no scaffolding in the frame (Banging hand against head. Palm Plant.) 

Also: get up close. Don’t be afraid to art direct your travel partner (I’m less inclined to over art-direct strangers but I still do it).  And if you have to, set up the frame yourself already zoomed in so you can get the desired shot. Strangers: don’t be afraid to use the zoom function on a tourist’s camera. As long as you get a good photo, I’m happy. That said, there’s some situations where it is unavoidable (like at the top of the Duomo in Florence. Unless they fixed it).

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Not exactly straight on but you get the idea. Plus, it's St. Peter's Basilica. Sigh.

What went wrong: 

3. You took a photo of a building straight-on and not at an angle. 

Sometimes, buildings look great straight on but it will look the same as countless of other photos. It’s not original.

Shooting from an angle can work. Gino and Carlo's Restaurant in Little Italy, San Francisco.

Solution: Shoot from up, down, and on the side. Get the details up close and make em’ guess.

Sometimes, I take a straight shot for memory, but if I want an artistic shot or want to print my photos,  I’m shooting at an angle; I’m on the ground taking it from a perspective that from looking below up. Or I’m taking a detailed shot of a building. Making your viewer guess is part of the fun. It also gives texture to your photo album.

Any photo disasters that you regularly see tourists do? Discuss! 

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4 Responses to “How To Take BAD Tourist Photos Part DEUX”

  1. Jenny Serwylo March 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    I think the worst tourist shots are ones where subjects are in the middle of the photo, with the attraction in the background (or, even worse, sticking out of their head! I’ve got an unfortunate picture from London that looks like I’m wearing a Big Ben hat…) Try to place yourself to one side or the other of a picture, with the attraction hanging out behind you. I’d much rather see the roofs of Prague than my thrice-stained tank top in the middle of the shot.

    Another tip that kind’ve follows the same vein: take pictures for people! If you have a good eye for photography and see a couple trying to do a shot of themselves (or splitting up to get a shot), offer to take the pic yourself! You’ll give them a great photo to remember, and usually they’ll offer to take a picture of you with your camera.

    • nearafar March 6, 2012 at 1:39 am #

      Ha ha Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment Jenny and the camera tips! I always try to take photos for those struggling to ask someone they may not trust. It’s being a good travel citizen. 🙂 I’d want someone to do the same for me too.

  2. Mayda June 5, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Very awesome points! We all go through the perfect picture conundrum but I like how you’re able to pinpoint the most annoying aspects of travel photography.

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