A note to all travel volunteer photo takers

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.

machu-picchu

 

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

machu-picchu-2

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.

45 Comments

  • Reply
    Adina
    February 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Hah! Yes – this happens to us all the time. We’ve gotten in the habit of always keeping a Gorilla Pod with us to set up our own epic travel shots. We usually just tell folks thank you, but no thank you – and offer to take a photo for them.

  • Reply
    Andrea
    July 7, 2013 at 2:37 am

    I’ve been known to give lighting tips and move people to get the photos ;) They happily follow along and are very thankful. :) So I wholeheartedly agree with your “be a better photographer” points, especially don’t walk away til they’ve seen the shot.

  • Reply
    Marlyn
    January 30, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Very nice post. I’m also trying to perfect my selfies, you really can’t rely on others to take the perfect shot. Because both parties end up frustrated.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      March 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks! Lets hope people start getting better at it and we can depend on them! haha

  • Reply
    Darlene
    January 25, 2013 at 4:12 am

    I consider it a priviledge when asked to take a pic of a tourist. It’s an opportunity to welcome them to my country and check-in as to whether things are going well for them. Each of us is an ambassador and we can make a difference to visitors from foreign lands :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      March 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Same! Also every time I take an awesome shot I wonder about the life of that photograph and if it shines as the prettiest one from their travels! haha

  • Reply
    Jenny
    January 7, 2013 at 6:53 am

    I really enjoyed this post, it’s funny and this happens a lot. And I know what Cassie means. You had to wait 30 minutes for the sake of being polite. Not many people would do that.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      March 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      It happens far to often! haha Maybe I should write an ebook about it to school people! haha

  • Reply
    Izy Berry
    December 17, 2012 at 6:41 am

    I loved this post :) My biggest frustration is with my close friends and relatives who take really bad shots and I’m not sure how to tell them :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      I think the people you know best are the easiest to tell that they suck! hahaha

  • Reply
    Susan
    December 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Hahaha. Love this. So true! My secret tip: ask Asian tourists. They take the best pictures, and are always so nice about it!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 17, 2012 at 1:42 am

      haha I’ll keep that in mind!

  • Reply
    Giulia
    December 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I feel your pain! I have some “otherwise epic” photos of me that are tragically out of focus or with the actual subject cut out.
    The one at Macchu Picchu made me cringe!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 17, 2012 at 1:43 am

      Its just another thing to remember to always check! Make sure the photo is good before they walk away and dont worry about hurting their feelings! haha

  • Reply
    Alouise
    December 14, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    This post made me laugh. I’ve definitely been on the bad end of some well-meaning volunteer photo takers. Usually I just wait for them to leave and try to get someone else to take the photo, or do the self-shot. I’d feel too bad asking someone to retake a photo. Considering almost everyone has a digital camera it’s nice because you know you can just delete that poorly taken photo and try again. I can only image how frustrating it would be on a film camera to realize a shot (or several) of your roll of film had been wasted.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 17, 2012 at 1:44 am

      OMG that would be so frustrating back in the film days! To think you had this epic photo only to find out later it was crap! So true! haha

  • Reply
    Gray
    December 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Amen, Cailin. You sort of expect this sort of thing from everyday average people. But on my recent trip to the Valley of Fire, I purposely chose a photography-based tour in the hopes that I’d learn something from the tour guide. He made a total rookie mistake every single time he took my picture of front of one of the sandstone formations: He stood so far away from me you can barely tell it’s me in the photo! And I can’t crop it, because then I’d crop out the landmark in the photo. Ugh. I’d have been better off using the arm-stretch method.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm

      Wow! How frustrating is that Gray?! Did you tell him or the company afterwards? So annoying that you went there to learn skills but knew better than the guide in the end haha

  • Reply
    Matthew Karsten
    December 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Funny! Moments like these are why I now take the photo I want first, show it to the potential photographer so they get an idea of what I have in mind. Sometimes I even insist they re-take the shot 2 or 3 times. I’m a total photo nazi. I’m sure they walk away wishing they hadn’t volunteered. :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      Thats a good idea Matt! But unfortunately sometimes as hard as you try you still get crap photos haha

  • Reply
    Melanie
    December 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    What a fun post! We have become experts at selfies for just this reason!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      I’ve forced myself to try to be the best at it too! haha Now I find it annoying when people try to stop me from doing that haha

  • Reply
    Kara
    December 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    What a funny thing to write about. Love it! I have SO been here. As someone who loves taking pictures and think I take pretty decent ones at that, it kills me when people take horrible photos. When I was solo in Paris last summer, one of my favorite things became asking couples if they wanted their photo taken (I swear in a non-creepy way). If I can’t save myself, I might as well save someone else!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      You should of charge people a euro or something for every photo you took! haha
      In Vegas the other day there were people standing near the Welcome to Vegas sign hoping that they could get tips for taking peoples photos even though there were signs posted saying that that was illegal haha

  • Reply
    Wez
    December 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Hahaha I love this post, and it’s so true. I’m kinda glad when people ask me to take photos of them, cause I at least know they will get a fairly decent shot. I just hope I haven’t made any bad photos for other people in my haste :S

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      I like to imagine that the photos I take for people are the ones they print and hang on their walls to display such beauty haha

  • Reply
    Lisa
    December 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one this happens to! It really drives me crazy when I make the effort to take a really good photo for someone and then I get a crappy one in return. I never want to hurt their feelings by telling them it’s crap though so, like Cassie, I’ll loiter in the area until the bad photographer leaves and I can ask someone else to take our photo. I think it took 3 tries before we got a decent one at the Parthenon! :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      Its always so disappointing isn’t it? I especially hate when I can tell before they have even taken the picture that its going to be horrible. haha I seriously thought my sloth photo was going to be good and didnt even check it out to confirm until to late. Rookie mistake by me haha

  • Reply
    Maria
    December 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    O.M.G.

    you stole my post idea! Something about horrible photo takers was resting as a nice draft until I could finally finish it this month. AH! But I have a different angle on it, so I guess I could still take it?

    AWARENESS, we need to raise awareness! ;P

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm

      Oh! haha oooops!
      There is always room for more ;)
      I’ll be curious to see your angle on it.

  • Reply
    Leigh
    December 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    My favorite part of the sloth photo is the looks on your faces, which yes, you can see even with the bad lighting. :)

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      Right? haha An unfortunate moment haha

  • Reply
    Cassie
    December 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    This post is so funny, thanks for including our shot which is certainly not the worst–your dark, shady sloth and the little girl whose head was cut off!?! Sheesh! And you’re totally right, asking people with fancy cameras doesn’t seem to help!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      Thanks for contributing! Its mind boggling how some people are so oblivious! haha

  • Reply
    Amanda
    December 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Oh man, photos like this are the WORST!

    My mom takes bad photos like these. They are always crooked or out of focus or just weird. Mostly because she needs glasses to actually see the screen, yet will never put them on. It’s now a running joke in our family to have Mom take photos, and then poke fun at how they turn out (she’s a good sport about it, at least). I love her, though, even if she will never be a photographer!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Aww your poor mom! hahaha Good thing she is a good sport :) She needs to get schooled! haha

  • Reply
    Thomas
    December 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Brilliant post! I have more fail-photos than I care to think about — lost opportunities indeed! But you know, a lot of people haven’t a clue about staging a shot, so now I always politely say something about what it is I want.

    … and from the otherside: as a frequent solo traveller I find I am often asked to take photographs. One couple kept moving as I was trying to position mysef (with their camera) vis a vis them and the ‘attraction’. As they spoke no English I could not tell them to stop, so I just clicked.

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      You could always use the hand motion for stop? haha It definitely does make it tougher when there is a language barrier doesn’t it?

      • Reply
        Thomas
        December 16, 2012 at 11:29 am

        LOL I tried that :)

  • Reply
    Kate
    December 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    My cousins were visiting me in Chicago, and we asked someone to take our picture outside Wrigley Field. The person then inquired if we wanted the sign in the background! Ha! No, that’s fine, we don’t need the iconic sign, we just thought the nondescript wall looked like a nice place for a photo! :) But, hey, at least they asked, and we did end up getting the picture we wanted – with the sign!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      hahaha at least they asked is right!

  • Reply
    Edna
    December 13, 2012 at 11:35 am

    So funny you mention the Eiffel Tower — I live pretty close to it so I’m always walking past the tourists and sneaking glances at some of the photos they take of each other. They can end up pretty horrendous, ALL body and practically no Tower, or a terrible use of flash that makes the Tower disappear completely!

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      I’ve seen it happen there a few times. haha It is huge but honestly not that hard to fit into a photo properly haha

  • Reply
    kami
    December 13, 2012 at 10:25 am

    that’s such an interesting topic and something that I’m sure everyone experienced. That’s why I always explain what I want to have included in the picture. And when someone asks me I’m waiting until the person sees the photo and I ask if everything is fine and if they want me to take one more. But I’ve also meet people who didn’t know how to hold and work the camera…

    • Reply
      Cailin
      December 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      So many peoples cameras these days have big screens on them too so its hilarious when I hand someone my DSLR and they can’t figure out that they need to look through the eye piece haha

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