Have you ever been traveling by yourself or with friends and you stand in front of that iconic monument / thing / place and a stranger comes up to you and offers to take a photo of you in front of it? Or perhaps you ask the stranger to take the photo for you?

Most likely we have all done this.

Sometimes I actually enjoy offering to people to take their photo for them, I take honor in knowing that they now have an awesome photo of them in front of that thing. Also because of the camera I carry I find people are attracted to approach me as I must “look like I know what I’m doing” with a camera and ask.

Now, I’m curious to know out of how many times that this situation has occurred and you have gotten your camera back only to view the photo and be completely appalled by what you see? This happens probably 9 out of 10 times to me and the majority of the time I’m too polite to ask them to do it again, so I generally wait for them to leave the area and ask someone else or I try to take it myself and thats how I’ve come to perfect the “selfie” photo.

Here are some examples of the horrible photos I’m talking about:

cailin and scott sloth


My friend Scott and I were in Costa Rica and we got the chance to hold Sloths. The guy asked if we wanted our photo taken… this is what we got. Why is it of our whole bodies? You can hardly even tell what we are holding! We are so far away! And the lighting is bad.

Cassie Kifer of www.EverInTransit.com has had a similar experience which she refers to as the Machu Picchu photo fail.



CassieThis pic was taken at the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. My husband and I were excited to finish the steep hike and see this expansive view over the ancient city so we asked a couple that was been sitting at the peak enjoying the view to take a photo of us. When we stepped away we noticed they had placed us in the center, blocking out the entire city in all THREE of the photos they took of us! I was too chicken to ask someone else to take another shot with them sitting right there, so we waited around until they left (30+ minutes later) and asked another hiker to take a photo of us. This time I clarified that we did indeed want Machu Picchu in the shot!

This is the photo they really wanted


anna cailin san francisco


A photo of myself with my friend Anna in San Francisco. Can you see the Golden Gate bridge? Hardly… The ironic thing about this was that I specifically asked this guy to take our photo because he had a fancy camera with big lenses. He looked like a pro… I thought wrong.

When this happened to Lisa Goodmurphy of www.GoneWithTheFamily.com not only did they horribly frame them with this famous landmark behind them but her youngest daughter was also almost completely cropped out!

lisa goodmurphy and family


LisaAs the family photographer, I hardly ever appear in our travel photos so I’m always grateful when some kind stranger offers to take a family shot for us at a famous landmark. Typically, I then offer to reciprocate and I carefully line up the shot to ensure that they have a perfect photo. Then they walk away and I have a look at our photo and my reaction is almost always something along the lines of – “Seriously – that’s the best you could do?”. This photo of our family in front of the Parthenon in Athens is a perfect example. Would it have been too much to ask to have my younger daughter in the photo too?

While in Edinburgh, Scotland a guy offered to take my photo by the castle. I set the camera up for him and said “all you need to do is push the button” he immediately twisted the lens making the photo mega wide and once again including my whole body in the shot, when the photo wasn’t about me but about the castle.

cailin edinburgh


Once he walked away I attempted to take the photo myself how I wanted. I think you can see the frustration on my face in this one.

cailin edinburgh 02

Keryn Means of www.WalkingOnTravels.com sadly end up with one of those photos where they were framed to completely block out the one important aspect of the photo! The building!

The Means Family in Kyoto- May 2011


KerynI was so excited to have this photo of our family in front of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. It’s a stunning sight. You would never know it from the photo of course since the person who took it for us failed to get it in there. Our bodies are blocking it instead.

I’ve even tried to set the camera up for the people and tell them exactly what I want the photo to look like but still rarely does that even work. Just the other day at the Grand Canyon I was setting up my camera to photograph myself by a sign, I had a tripod and a self timer, I didn’t need help and this bus driver almost demanded that he help, I placed my camera on the tripod where and how I wanted it then he proceeded to pick it up and walk with it from side to side…. WTF. He my friends did not get a tip.

And I some how ended up with this “school photo” like picture, sans sign.

cailin grand canyon pose


A photo of myself I did not need or want… and its out of focus to boot! The camera was on autofocus even!

Here is my note to all travel volunteer photo takers. If you don’t know how to take a photo don’t offer to take one or if asked, decline and suggest they ask someone else. Clearly this person wants the Eiffel tower in the photo with them and they don’t want it cropped out nor should they be positioned so they are standing directly in front of it blocking it defeating the purpose of the whole photograph to begin with. Be a better photographer, think before you press that button, ask the person how they want it taken, take multiple shots and don’t walk away until the person has seen the photo and are happy with it.