Tourists: they’re everywhere. You can spot them in a flash. Why? Usually they’re taking photos of everything. I don’t like to call myself a tourist, but rather try to use the word “traveler.” I’m afraid to associate myself with this stereotype of people who tend to disrespect cultures and order food loudly in slow English.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to differentiate myself from photo-obsessed tourists as an artist/photographer/filmmaker/whatever. Sure, I’ll take photos of things like the ground, close-ups of mosaics, local animals (bees), and interesting people instead of using a selfie stick in front of popular attractions. However, this still doesn’t take away the discomfort I feel when I take out my camera now.

Everyone’s a Photographer

We all have nice cameras now thanks to advancing smartphone technology. I’m sure you know someone with an iPhone X whose reasoning for buying a $1k phone is that “it has such a good camera.” 😒🤔

I get wanting to have a nice camera on you always that can fit in your damn pocket, but your photo game did not increase because your phone is able to manually focus and edit in the right areas somewhat automatically.

It’s extremely annoying when Joe Shmo is prancing around on instagram with the hashtag #iphoneonly commenting that my photos are good. I like to leave snarky responses like “Well I didn’t purchase a $200k bachelor’s degree for nothing.” I did, but that’s not the point.

When Is It Acceptable to Take Photos?

Is it okay to take a photo of this guy’s dog? What about that mosque? Can I photograph my friend as she looks beautiful solemnly watching ducks float across a pond? May I take out my phone mid-conversation to snap a photo of this strange plant I’ve never seen before? Hold on, this is a really good angle. I need this shot.

I tend to ask the people I’m with out of respect, but it still feels weird. Do I need to ask? I don’t know.

Why is This Rude?

It’s like taking photos now means they will be shared with the world, shared on social media. We have no control over what happens to those very real snapshots of the real world once they are shared with everyone.

Every photo has the chance to go “viral” and end up on television everywhere in the world because of the virality of social media now. That’s somewhat terrifying. That’s violating privacy. That’s like sharing a beautiful, intimate photo with the world may sometimes be wrong.

Advancing technology is moving so fast without manners and etiquette having the ability to catch up.

We can tell that using a selfie stick in front of a tourist spot is silly and a bit inappropriate, but where do we draw the line? In the same way, if we’re viewing the same photo on social media later, we’re bound to give that photo a like.

It’s not that photos are bad per sey, but where do we draw the line based on how and why that photo was taken?

Photo Credit: Visual Broadcast