Photo: Wong's Bar, Bangkok.

Idle banter forum

Giving money when taking pictures of the locals?

Posted by DLuek on 22/1/2010 at 09:50 TF writer

Personally I think it's rude - anywhere in the world - to walk up to someone and snap their picture without their permission. Yet I see tourists do this all the time in SE Asia as though they are at the zoo taking pictures of the lions! Before I point my camera and shoot I try to "test the waters" by showing the person my camera and seeing their response. If they don't mind I always give a little money afterwards, though sometimes they don't wish to accept. I was wondering how others feel on this sometimes touchy situation... To give or not to give for the opportunity of a local's smiling portrait?

#1 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,177
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Posted by wanderingcat on 22/1/2010 at 11:41

taking pictures of the locals

don't usually take photos of local humans unless i know them. the human friends whom i photograph, i ask for their contact details & send them prints protected in plastic covers. if several photos for members of same family, in an album. an Australian guy i met in Laos carries a little portable printer & gives them prints on the spot.

nowadays most of the photos of local humans in my camera aren't taken by me, but by local human friends to whom i lend my camera. the photos that they take + seeing how they take them (e.g. what/who they chose to include, how they position themselves & others) teach me what's important to them, what interests them. get to see things through their eyes, from their perspective, & hopefully learn a bit more.

am SE Asian, & sometimes Western tourists who don't realise that i'm not a local walk up & snap my picture without warning. they usually end up not with smiling portraits but with this :P now that you've planted the idea that falangs can give me money for taking my photo, i should start demanding cash/credit card details from them *evil smile*

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Posted by KazAussie on 22/1/2010 at 15:37

Be aware of scams in Hanoi (just outside the water puppet theatre) where pineapple sellers will place their poles on your shoulders and encourage you to take photos, and then want a ridiculous amount for the photo ... here I am talking about them asking for 500,000 dong... a couple of dollars would be appropriate (with 16,000 dong to the dollar), but these people are just trying to extort new arrivals.

When it happened to us, fortunately it was at the end of our trip so we knew we were being ripped off, we were happy to pay some money but not what they were asking, they kicked up a big stink...

Fortunately some locals came to our rescue telling us that these were "very bad people".

#3 KazAussie has been a member since 18/7/2009. Posts: 221

Posted by KazAussie on 22/1/2010 at 15:43

Sorry missed the whole point of this thread in my earlier post. Never, ever take photos of people without their permission... I agree with the earlier poster, they are not animals in a zoo.

When we did take pictures of people, particularly children, we showed them the photo on the playback on the camera, this resulted in heaps of hilarity as they may not have seen photos of themselves before.

When we travelled through hilltribe areas we had lots of pens and little souveniers to give away as we had heard that giving the kids sweets causes problems. The kids were usually delighted to receive these gifts.

#4 KazAussie has been a member since 18/7/2009. Posts: 221

Posted by Rohan on 22/1/2010 at 17:20

It is always a vexed question. If you want candid shots of local life, you will never get them asking permission or paying money - any shot taken like that is inevitabaly posed. Those are not the sort of photos I usually like to take, and they are almost always cheesy to boot.

I also think the "zoo" example misses the mark. What you are photographing is life. I work as a barrister. I wear a fairly unique and to some silly outfit on occassions for my job. For those who know it, it is the wig and robe get-up you see the lawyers in English dramas wearing. If some Japanese tourist saw me walking down the street and snapped a quick picture, I wouldn't find it offensive. They don't have that in Japan, and I think that a picture is a great reminder of the unusual parts of everyday life you saw. I think a photo of someone in the barrister's robes walking down the street captures this so much better than a posed and artificial shot.

If you intend to use the pictures commercially, it is a different matter, but if they are just your personal souviniers, I don't see the problem.

#5 Rohan has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 63

Posted by MADMAC on 30/1/2010 at 16:38

I'm with Rohan here. When in public, photos are fair game. When in private, they're not.

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Posted by nzlup on 17/2/2010 at 15:23

I'm with DLuek. Show my camera slowly take photos allowing plenty of time for objections & respect any objections. I tried the asking specific permission early on in my idealistic period (decades ago)... got sick of the misunderstanding of what i was asking...

I don't always give money. Some yes eg monks or beggars who depend on donations to make a living or a mother with lotsa kids who obviously needs to feed the family...

#7 nzlup has been a member since 1/2/2010. Posts: 22

Posted by MADMAC on 17/2/2010 at 21:09

Of course, for nude photos, the model is going to want remittance. That's just reasonable.

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Posted by nzlup on 18/2/2010 at 09:21


...and the size of said remittance should obviously be dependant on the size of the model's ......

#9 nzlup has been a member since 1/2/2010. Posts: 22

Posted by Sophia_India on 2/6/2010 at 19:10

I think its good to get your camera out and see how they react, some people are used to it. Especially if they are dressed in traditional clothing etc for the tourists. I think giving money is your own personal choice. Some people expect it and others dont.

#10 Sophia_India has been a member since 2/6/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 45
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