Bad Travel Photography

Many people enjoy taking travel photos.  Cumulatively I’ve taken between 5,000 and 10,000 of them on my journeys, and I’ve seen a lot of other people doing the same.  Based on this experience, here are some examples of bad travel photography.

The 1-Hander (also known as the Too Cool for School) – There’s a reason why most people have 2 hands.  If you’re too cool to use them to hold your camera, then you get the blurry photos you deserve.

The Spy – Taking pictures of people without their permission.  This is particularly egregious if they realize that you are doing it and you do it anyway.

The Bad Pad – I understand why people bring their iPad when they travel, but it was not intended to be used in lieu of a camera.

Patrick taking a photo of a couple in Greece with their iPad
The Bad Pad (by request)

The Bandito – Taking photos when doing so is not permitted (often seen in churches).

The “I don’t know what it is, but get a picture of me with it anyhow” – Posing in front of something without knowing what it is.  (Note – this item, The Bad Pad, and The Bandito were also mentioned in my post The Best and Worst Kinds of Tourism.

The Fly-By – If you can’t be bothered to stop walking long enough to take a photo, it can’t be worthwhile.

The Drive-By – If it’s not worth stopping the car for…  See The Fly-By.

Patrick taking a photo through the window while driving the motorhome
The Drive-By   (Do not attempt this yourself.  Professional driver on a closed course)

The Hold Out — Holding the camera with outstretched arms or high above ones’ head when it isn’t required.  Use the view finder or put your reading glasses on!  Worse when combined with The 1-Hander.

Patrick taking a picture of some Greek ruins holding the carmera with outstreched arms
The Hold Out

The Reach Around – Reaching over or worse around someone else (yes, I’ve seen it) to get a photo rather than waiting for them to move.

The Mosh Pit  – Taking a picture when the background or foreground is polluted with other tourists, especially if they’re in a position to partially block the subject.

Photo of Lion Gate at Mycenae with tourists in the foreground
The Mosh Pit (Lion Gate at Mycenae, Greece)

The “I’m more important than posterity”  — Using a flash when it is not permitted, something done to help preserve paintings or other priceless bits of antiquity.

The Smart Ass – Taking photos with a smart phone rather than bringing an actual camera.  A bit sleazier if this is being done to avoid paying the extra fee that some sites charge to take pictures (even though I don’t agree with this practice to wring more money out of visitors).

Patrick taking a picture with an iPhone
The Smart Ass

The “I’m on the case” – Taking photos with your smart phone or iPad while the case is hanging down below it, making it more intrusive.

The Narcissist – Taking a photo of myself (or my group) with an outstretched hand.

Patrick taking a picture of himself with outstreched arm
The Narcissist

The Monopoly — Standing to stop and review my photos or do anything else while I’m blocking the only access to something that everyone else wants to take pictures of.

The Busy Bee — Spending all your time running around taking photos of everything rather than experiencing the place.

The Cheese Any silly pose, but especially bad if you’re mimicking something in the background.

Patrick posing in an awkward pose to mimic the brightly coloured Thai statues in the background
The Cheese

The Loss of Perspective – Posing in such a way as to appear to be interacting with the background.

Diane appearing to be holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Loss of Perspective

I do try to refrain from these practices but I have been guilty of all of the above at one point or another (even The Bad Pad, but only at the request of others since I don’t own an iPad). 

And finally, the Worst Example I’ve ever seen of Bad Travel Photography… Taking pictures of your blond girlfriend who is posing like a model in front of a Nazi gas chamber.

What are your bad travel photography experiences?

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7 thoughts on “Bad Travel Photography

  1. Hahaha..very funny..
    Loves the classification.
    Agreed on the The Fly-By – it is not worthwhile.
    Been there. It is like you want to capture everything and go snap-crazy. then..went back to check out on it..and turn out to be just blurrish bad image. This happen a lot for me on those type of street market/on a bus/car/food type of images. Everything seems beautiful and colorfull

  2. Not only is the The Fly By essential in Peru, one should actually train in advance for it. Practice going 100 km/hour along mountain passes, while overtaking other vehicles. Solid line of course. Substitue “Peru” for any other country with limited motor vehicle laws and crazy Grand- Prix wanna- be bus drivers.

  3. Being guilty of a few of these, I feel compelled to reply and defend me and my fellow offenders.
    First let me confess my sins….I have on many occasions engaged in The Bandito, The Drive by and I regularly engage in The Smart Ass (the camera version).
    However….I have to disagree with you that these are photography sins (I know you can take it).
    There are many instances where the Bandito is not only necessary, but becomes a social comment. When at a music concert for instance, when the artist has instructed that no photography be permitted, the Bandito becomes a necessary method of recording your experience. I mean, really….you’re famous, people have paid money to come and see you perform and you don’t want your picture taken? Is that reasonable, I ask. I think not. It becomes especially absurd when the artist has created an anti-establishment persona and then in a dictatorial fashion demands no photography. Really? (Exactly what happened at the recent Jack White concert I was at). That definitely warrants a Bandito photograph as comment on the disconnect between persona and behaviour.
    The Drive By is another favorite photography method of mine. (if you set the camera to a sports or kids setting you avoid the blurr…a little tip for anyone thinking of trying it ;). I am often the passenger in the car, so when I see some interesting scenery approaching at breakneck speed, a quick snap of the camera allows me to get some great spontaneous shots. After all, we can’t always pull over off the highway or in an unsavoury neighbourhood to set up a shot. Plus, the spontenaity of the shot is half the fun. Live boldly!….don’t always stop, set up the tripod, check the white balance and ponder the shot before snapping.
    And last but not least…the Smart Ass….Yes…I love my iPhone…and I love the camera on it. Great quality, easily posted up to FB to share with everyone, easily fixed, framed and cropped, and best of all, I don’t always carry a camera, so it’s convenient!
    So, while I agree on most of your sins of photography, I vote for these three to be pardoned!
    Happy travels!

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