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How To Get Someone To Take Your Photo

Image: And don't forget to smile!

And don't forget to smile!

This post isn’t for everyone. I’ll admit there are a fair number of outgoing, gregarious extroverts out there who have no problem walking up to anyone in any country and asking for help. For those of you who fit that mold, you might want to consider skipping this post and forwarding it to a more shy friend. I know this may seem painfully obvious to some readers, but I have been asked this very question enough times to let me know others out there will benefit from a quick read.

For everyone else, this post will outline some simple tips to help you overcome the hesitation to hand your camera to someone to take your picture. Arm-length self portraits are fine up until a point. Even when traveling with someone else (otherwise known as your personal paparazzi) there comes a time when you both may want to be in a photo together. If there is nothing around to set your camera on for a self portrait, it’s time to ask for help.

Set Your Camera On Auto

Step one: make things easy for the photographer. All cameras have some type of auto feature, usually highlighted by a big green rectangle. This mode will be the easiest on an unsuspecting photographer because there is nothing they have to set. Further, if your camera has some type of face detection feature, turn it on as well to help insure your smiling face is not over or under exposed.

Scan The Crowd

Next, look around for your likely target. Some good candidates include:

  • Families (that aren’t over burdened)
  • Anyone not in a hurry
  • Someone who has just taken a photo themselves

Personally I get asked to take many photographs because I am lugging around professional gear. I look like I know how to take a photo and that is who you ideally want. The mere act of holding a camera in your hand and scanning a crowd will help point you to someone willing to help.

Make Eye Contact And Smile

Do you know how much easier life in general is when you follow this rule? Be open and friendly and make eye contact, good eye contact. The type of eye contact where you actually remember the person’s eye color. Why is this important? It helps weed out those who really don’t care to engage you or want to avoid you. It also makes you more likable.

Ask

All there is left to do is ask. “Excuse me. Would you mind taking my photo, please?” I know, horribly easy. If you don’t speak the language, consider learning the phrase (and others) before you leave. Google Translate is a good place to start although I can’t vouch for how accurate it is for each language listed. Or, if you really don’t know the language, sign language is your best bet. Raised eyebrows with a point to your camera is all it usually takes. Oh yeah, keep smiling. If your camera has a plethora of buttons, be sure to point out the shutter release when you get a taker.

Trust Your Instincts

Some people fear everyone while traveling. They hear the horror stories and that is their impression of any given location, even though they take the time to visit. While I’m not a fan of paranoia, it is important to trust your instincts while selecting a photographer. Not every stereotype out there is true, so I can’t even begin to list who to avoid. If you have even the least bit of hair standing up on the back of your neck, move on to someone else. Trust yourself.

Always Say Thank You

Sure there are a number of societies out there where thanking someone is not custom, but for the most part, a kind “Thank You” is always appreciated. Again, learn the phrase before you go. Here’s a fabulous list with 465 listed ways to thank someone.

For you introverts out there who despise asking for anything or disturbing others, I hope this post gives you a little push to get yourself in the photo the next time you travel. It really is this easy, just go do it!

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Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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