25 Days to Green Travel: Day Twenty-Two - Photography

How to Take Culturally Sensitive Photos

Being a green traveler means more than just taking public transportation, sleeping in a eco hotel, and using a water bottle; it also means being respectful and responsible when taking pictures.
Every traveler who takes photos and every photographer who travels needs to be sensitive to the local culture. Here are some tips to help you:
Understand the cultural context. Before you head out of your comfort zone, learn about the local culture including religion and customs. Here are a few resources:
Learning about the local culture, Go Green Travel Green
Etiquette for the world traveler, Vayama
Etiquette customs and protocol, Kwintessential
Check for laws or policies prohibiting photos. For instance, churches, temples, mosques, and museums may prohibit photography. Also be conscious in high-security buildings and structures (including military bases), which might also ban photography.

Get permission. You may want to get permission before taking someone’s photo. Digital Photography School has a great post about asking permission to photograph people. Two key points from that post are:
  • Ask permission of someone if they are the main focus of the photo.
  • Asking doesn’t have to be verbal. It can be a smile and a gesture that indicates you are asking, with them smiling or nodding in response.
If the person says no, respect that. If anyone says they don’t want their picture taken, respect their request and go somewhere else for a photo.
Watch body language. A person doesn’t have to say “no” to mean they don’t want their photo taken. If their body language indicates they are uncomfortable, leave.
Be mindful of children. Shots of children tend to really capture a scene; but be careful when taking kids’ photos. If they are the main subject of the photo ask the parent or guardians permission.
Consider the implications of the photo for the person (or site) pictured. Could the person in the picture be subject to violence or political repercussions because of the photo? If so, you may not want to take their picture.
This is the twenty-second post in Go Green Travel Green’s 25 Days to Green Travel series. You can see the complete list of articles in the 25 Days to Green Travel Index
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