5 Practical Tips for Successful Street Photography on Vacation

Street Photography

This a guest post by blogger Ivan Oakthorn

Are you planning a big vacation to a land of clear skies and exotic eyes? Have you ever thought there was more to street photography than pointing your iPhone at a landmark, then running it through Instagram? Do you want to take photos that help you learn more about the local lands, preserve your memories, and inspire you to travel more? Do you want to create photos that will make your friends jealous? The right travel photograph is worth more than a thousand words: it can instantly transport you back to your vacation reminding you of all your wonderful memories.

However, because candid photography often captures intimate moments, it is important to make sure that you do not place yourself in danger. When you’re traveling abroad, it is sometimes difficult to understand what is allowed and what is not. Not only do candid photographers encounter cultural/legal challenges when traveling abroad, there are also physical challenges involved in maintaining their equipment. These five practical tips will help you make the most of your next trip!

#1 Obey Local Laws and Customs

candid photography

Please use common sense when taking candid photos abroad. A little sensitivity can go a long way. It is generally not a good idea to photograph fights or arguments between people (otherwise YOU may become the new subject of the fight). People can also be reluctant to have their children photographed. A smile and apology can fix a lot of mistakes, just don’t be obnoxious. More importantly, BE VERY CAREFUL about photographing law enforcement or the military while abroad. For example, it is never a good idea to photograph the police in China. If they ask you to stop – do it.

#2 Bring Reliable Equipment
Like it or not, street photography is an equipment-intensive pursuit. However, there is a dirty little secret between manufacturers and review sites: you do not need the newest camera, and you do not need more megapixels. What you do need is a reliable camera. I mean, seriously, how bad would it suck if your camera just died in the middle of a trip you’ve been planning for the past year? If you have any doubts about your camera, get it checked out beforehand. You may also want to consider bringing a backup camera if you have one.

#3 Accessorize!
Not only do you need reliable equipment, but you may also need to be smart about planning your accessories. If you’re traveling to Western Europe, this may not be a big issue, but if you’re going on safari, please prepare in advance. This means bringing plenty of extra memory cards (and/or a computer to offload your pictures), backup batteries in case you don’t have many chances to charge, a spare charger, and the right electrical adapters so that your chargers will work when you get there. Make sure you have a durable, waterproof camera bag. Here are some more pro-tips on accessorizing.

#4 Be Aware of Your Surroundings!
Be aware of your surroundings when taking candid photos. Often, you can become so engrossed with the task at hand that you may wander into the street (or the street may wander into you in countries where traffic laws are especially lax). Similarly, photographers make a great target for pickpockets if they never take their eye off the viewfinder. For more tips on safe travel photography, click here.

#5 Keep Your Camera With You
When you fly, always bring your street photography gear with you as a carry-on. Otherwise, it could get damaged or stolen in transit. Plus, your bags may not end up in the same place as you. When you check in to your hotel, be sure to either take your camera with you or lock it in the safe.

If you follow these five practical tips, you will be in the best position possible to take amazing pictures, without having to worry about the safety of yourself or your gear.

Ivan Oakthorn has traveled extensively in Europe and Asia and has learned these street photography tips the hard way. He also blogs about candid photography whenever he gets his chance.

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