The spring of 2007 marked my 21st birthday and of course, I celebrated with a memorable trip to Las Vegas. The weekend (which landed on spring break no less) is still fresh on my mind, not because I did something crazy. It also marks the day my mother bought me my first point and shoot camera, a Panasonic Lumix.
Fast forward to 2010 when I purchased my first DSLR. It was $900 total with extra batteries and carrying case. Maybe a little steep, but it was then that I realized something very important. Even a ‘professional camera’ was now affordable to a guy like me. I rejoiced at the thought that the layman would soon fill our internets with wonderful pictures from around the world.
Unfortunately, the cheap camera revolution has caused as much harm as good. While we do have stunning pictures by otherwise amateurs, contrary to popular belief, a camera doesn’t make a douchebag into an ‘artsy’ person. It just creates a ‘douche photographer.’ If you want to catch on this trend, check out these tips on how to be one too!
TL;DR: Cheap cameras lead to idiots with cameras.
1) Take a Group Picture in a Crowded Area
Visiting one of the most popular places in the world? No problem. Who cares is there is barely any room to move around, YOU have a camera and THEY don’t. Your group will never remember this moment unless you take 10 minutes getting into the right pose. Just make sure you wave your hands frantically to get everyone else out of the way. Done, but it wasn’t perfect? Take another, no one will mind.
2) Take A Close up of that Local
Visiting a country where the locals are very different from you? Quick, snap some pictures! But don’t settle for non-intrusive pictures from a distance of from an angle where you aren’t bothering, YOU have a camera. Get as close as possible and take face shots without asking. Nothing makes you more integrated into the society you’re visiting than harassing someone like an amateur paparazzi. If you feel a bit bad, don’t! Just toss them a dollar. This leads to good habits.
3) Ask Others to Take Pictures of You
See all of those camera-less rookies walking around. They are not just going about their day and trying to enjoy the moment. They are waiting for you to grace them with the chance to take multiple shots of you in front of that monument of sorts. Don’t just ask for one picture, that’s far too considerate. Ask for one, then another, check it, criticise, explain what they did wrong, and ask for a few more. Don’t worry, they weren’t doing anything important.
Serious Note: I really don’t mind taking pictures of others, but its people who ask for a bunch that gets to me.
4) Make People Move For You To Take the Perfect Shot
In places that are popular with visitors, it is important to make some ground rules of what belongs to whom. A person without a camera is entitles to what is directly in front of them. This means, it would be somewhat rude to walk in front of them if they are looking at something. Wielding a camera makes you entitled to so much more.
Did you visit a village where only one other person is visiting? Don’t hesitate to ask him/her to get out of your way. Better yet, are you in a crowded event? Make sure people realize that your camera is there and you are willing to inconvenience everyone else for you to get that shot. After all, the people who see your pictures don’t care who you pissed off.
5) Bring Your Tripod Everywhere
No, you aren’t a professional photographer and aren’t shooting wedding photos. But hey, tripods are as cheap as 40 bucks these days and that gives you inalienable rights. One of the best ways to mark your territory in a crowded place is to open up that six foot tripod (~1.8 meters metric-system Nazis). It does not bother anyone for you to be pushing through the crowds with tons of equipment. After all, they should know that you are serious about your photos and videos. Without a tripod, how ever will you get that perfect photo of fireworks? It is not your fault for taking too much space and bothering about a hundred people behind you. It is places like Kyoto which ban the use of tripod in most places that don’t appreciate real photography. And seriously, who cares if the legs of the tripod are destroying the pyramids in Mexico. Not your problem.
6) Always Use Flash, Just Keep It on Auto ON
Any good picture you have ever seen online has flash. That picture of the Hong Kong skyline in the middle of the day, flash. That wonderful picture of children playing in the streets of Saigon, flash. Seriously, don’t even consider a camera that doesn’t have an “auto on” feature on the flash because you never know when the perfect situation might arise. What are you supposed to rely on? The sun?!?!
7) Especially Use Flash on People’s Faces
Did you come all this way to visit a rural tribe? They enjoy nothing more than a thousand candelas of light in their face to show your awe. People routinely ask: “I don’t think I came out well, please flash that camera in my face again?” Bonus if you are chewing bubble gum and looking rather disinterested as you’re doing it.
Serious Note: As incredible as that sounds, I did witness that twice in Myanmar (down to the gum) and countless more times in other trips.
8) Alter Your Photos, You Want to be Perfect
Did you go to a place that was drab and not as nice as expected? The internet world doesn’t need to see that. Thankfully for you, there is a solution. Take the pictures in “RAW” format and alter them to the point where the picture looks ten times better than the actual place. No, that’s not dishonest at all, its “artsy.”
Serious Note: The reality of Langkawi was probably somewhere right in the middle of the two photos above. I still find the second one somewhat dishonest though.
9) You Aren’t Being Disruptive, You’re Just Curious
If you come about a school in South East Asia and the children are just too cute, QUICK take a picture (and don’t forget the flash). It really doesn’t matter if class is in session or if school in general is disruptive enough as it is with 50 students to an instructor. The teacher will understand that you are just delighted to be there and welcomes you making his/her job harder by grabbing the attention of the few children that were paying any. In a few seconds, you’ll leave anyways and kids always jump back into their books after being disrupted.
10) No Photography? Doesn’t Apply to You
If you come about a museum or painting with an explicit “no photography” sign, they are talking about… well you, and you know it, but who cares. One… or two… or three pictures isn’t going to hurt anyone. Following local laws are for locals, not visitors. Everyone is doing it anyways.