Whether you’re traveling to a new place or enjoying a day in your hometown, capturing moments with a photo is an instinctive reaction. In fact, almost every household in Western Europe and the U.S. owns a camera. Taking pictures is not only meant for preserving memories, but also for sharing with family and friends on social media. Whether you’re behind the lens or the star of the shot, it’s crucial to know the modern manners for both sides of the camera.

Picture Taking: Behind The Lens

  1. When someone asks you to take a picture of them, stay still to avoid blurry results. If you know you aren’t the best with the camera, be honest and say so! Use a little levity and gently say they will like the results better if someone else takes the picture. They will not only understand, but be thankful.
  2. It’s normal to be in awe of the scenery in a new locale you’re visiting, however try to refrain from standing out as an obvious tourist ripe for pickpocketing. Unless you’re on a photographic safari, take a few pictures here and there; then focus on the beauty around you. Constantly snapping photos can be a distraction  preventing enjoyment.
  3. When capturing a shot of Norway’s busy Bergen or Russia’s Hermitage from afar, be careful when people are caught in your frame. Even with a selfie, if someone is in the background, you don’t know if that person is okay with being photographed, especially in communist countries or if it’s going to end up on social media. Remember, a selfie is a picture you take of yourself, and yourself only.


Picture Posing: In The Spotlight

  1. In popular locations with long lines, avoid long poses for pictures with monuments or artifacts, such as the Mona Lisa or Statue of Liberty. Others want to take a picture as well, so be considerate. The faster you get a picture, the more time you have to enjoy the view.
  2. Walking around the city of your dreams, you cross the street and see that beautiful landmark, like the Arc de Triomphe, that you just must photograph. Avoid becoming a casualty by having a photo session in the middle of a busy street. Not only is it dangerous, but inconsiderate to drivers. Now that you spotted the landmark, take time to look around, be observant, and select a safe location that doesn’t involve a busy paved road!
  3. The phenomenon of “photobombing” was born in 2005, which is to ruin a picture by jumping in as a practical joke. While it may be amusing to you, others may not see the humor. Stick to your own photos and respect others’ pictures and personal space.

Although using a camera to take pictures is designed for collecting memories and documenting experiences at a later point in time, it’s important to not lose sight of the present moment. Remember to use discretion with photos posted on the internet, as well! Honor World Photo Day August 19 by being aware of the taboos that go in front and behind the lens.

Sharon Schweitzer and Paola Guevara co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Paola Guevara is the International Business Manager with Access to Culture. She’s lived in Mexico, France, and different states throughout the US, including California, Florida, and Texas. As a multilingual third-culture kid, Paola’s been exposed to different backgrounds and cultures in both academic and professional environments. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas with a major in International Business and a focus in French. Connect with her via LinkedIn.

Photo Credit: Unsplash – Jiawei Cheng
Photo Credit: Sharon Schweitzer