Four Reasons you Should Take Fewer Photos

solo female travel tips

Yes, you did read that right! I really do think that travellers should put the smart phones down and take fewer photos. In fact, it was one of my New Years Resolutions this year. After spending the last two days dodging iPads and GoPros to get a good view of the stunning Iguassu Falls, I thought now was the time for a quick rant post all about why travellers should take less photos…

You Stay Out of the Way!

Greedy, selfish photographers can ruin a picturesque spot for everybody else. My day at Iguassu falls is a great example: these waterfalls are one of the seven new wonders of the natural world, and were so devastatingly stunning I could have stood all day and just stared at them. But here, just like at many other landmarks, my experience was just a tiny bit tainted by other people’s cameras. Iguassu Falls SelfieFrom the GoPro lurking over my shoulder on a stick, breaking into every photo I tried to take myself, to the iPads blocking every view of the falls, to the endless queues caused by people stopping to take selfies in the middle of the path… inconsiderate photographers can spoil everyone else’s experience. If you take less photos of a destination, not only will you experience it more, but you’ll avoid getting in other people’s way. Of course, everyone wants to take photos of a beautiful place, but a little patience and consideration will mean that everyone can go home with a nice shot – not just the person with the longest selfie stick!

You’ll Take Better Photos

Remember those days when there was no such thing as digital cameras, and you only had 24 shots on a roll of film to last an entire trip? Although it was more restrictive back then, it also meant we were more careful with the precious few shots we did have. Now, I find myself taking ten images of the same scene every time I take a photo, to make sure that one comes out ok. Taking fewer photos doesn’t mean taking none at all, I simply mean that you should take your time and line up one perfect shot, rather than a flurry of fifty digital images to pick the best one from later.

Digital Detox Challenge

If you treat your digital camera like a film camera, you’ll spend more time making each photograph fantastic. Being selective will also mean you don’t take random photos of nothing particularly impressive, because later you probably won’t want to look at pictures of a plate of food or your feet in yet another pool!

You’re Photos Can Be Real Memories

Being selective will mean you’ll be left with better photos to remember your trip by. Rather than storing thousands of photos in folders on a laptop and probably never going through them all again, if you take less photos and make sure that each one is good, you can use them as photos really should be used – as beautiful memories. This also means you can turn your pictures into souvenirs – by making a scrapbook, or framing prints of the best shots to hang on the wall.

You’ll See More

This is definitely the most important point. Spending less time behind the camera or posing for selfies, and more time actually experiencing life or enjoying the view, means that you will see more and come home with far better memories. Do you want to remember that time you spent ages lining up the perfect jump shot on a beach, or would you rather remember the amazing time you had on the beach itself?

solo travel fears

To quote a fellow traveller on their Machu Picchu experience: “we got up there, got the photos we needed, and went back down”. To me, that’s not seeing Machu Picchu at all. In fact, although I too took plenty of photos, I also spent long hours just sitting in the park gazing down at the stunning view (don’t forget to read my post about the experience). To go back to Iguassu Falls as another example, today I actually saw tourists walk up to a viewpoint and snap a photo without even looking at the falls, before walking on to the next viewpoint. Others took a quick glance of the view, a quick selfie, and then on to the next stop. If you’re only there to take some good photos for Facebook, is there really any point being there at all? 

Of course, everyone (myself included) wants a nice photo to remember each stunning destination. But don’t let that get in the way of what’s really important: actually living in the moment and experiencing the place you’re in. Otherwise, all you’ll remember is the photo! So, put your cameras away for a minute and really enjoy the view, and when you do point your lens make sure it’s worth it!

Who agrees with me? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Love this post? Please pin it:

Four Reasons You Should Take Fewer Photos

About Emily Luxton

An award-winning writer and travel blogger on a mission to explore the world through deeper, more intelligent travel. Seeking out adventure, cultural exchanges, food experiences and more as she attempts to get to know the world. Lover of the great outdoors, sunsets, good food, and the odd bit of luxury!

36 Comments

  1. I prefer the former. I used to take a multitude of photos for the same places but I’ve wound up spending quality amount of time deleting photos which is not up to my standard, which is completely a waste of my time. In the recent overseas trips, I even ditched my camera at the hostel sometime and simply went out exploring. I do have regrets on not taking photos for the amazing places and events but I ended up enjoy it more.Good post!!!

    • Thanks Julie!! I know exactly what you mean – sometimes I’m do concerned trying to get the best photo that I suddenly realise it’s all I’ve been doing! When i put the camera down I see much more and do much more, too! When we did zip lining, all some f the girls in our group cared about was getting good photos of themselves, while I forgot all about the camera and just enjoyed it! I don’t have any good photos of me zip lining but I’ll remember it forever, so I don’t need them!

  2. It’s interesting stuff! I take more photos now than I ever did. That’s because I used to get home and realise I was missing photos of this and that and feel very disappointed. I’ve never taken a lot of pics with me in them, that drives me nuts when you want to take a quick pic of a statue or something but you cant get it on its own because 700 people want their photo taken with it. FFS!
    With travel blogging too, the more I do the more I realise I need to take more pics to make sure I have the right pics for what I might write later. At the same time, the object of travel is not to get a photo at places you go, rather the experience of going there and taking it in and appreciating it at the moment because you may never get there again! I also agree on pictures of meals. REALLY! thanks a lot Facebook for that one!
    I disagree to a point when you said ‘taking less photos makes you take better photos’ (or to that effect). As long as you’re taking time to set up your shot and considering what you’re doing, the light, direction of the sun, framing etc, then take many photos, because you learn from your mistakes.I guess it depends on how important good photos are to you. If you’re taking a million photos for however many good snaps, you may not realise what you did to achieve the good ones.
    I say – take as many snaps as you want, as long as you’re conscious about what you are doing! Still, some people love taking pics but are not interested in photography, if you know what I mean.
    Anyways, SORRY. GREAT post!

    • I know that for practicing photographers, taking a lot of pics is really important at first as it’ll help you work out what works etc. I’m more thinking of people snapping away with smart phones or compact cameras, taking photos of everything ‘just in case’. Some people don’t even look at the camera while they photograph. If people like that spent more time lining up one or two decent shots, they’d be left with some really good photographs and wouldn’t be stuck behind their phones all day!!

      I completely agree with you about the photos if statues and things! It was the same at the watchman’s hut in Machu Picchu, where you can get that one classic shot of MP – everyone was posing in front of it, making it impossible to get a nice empty photo with no strangers in! Even when it was ‘my turn’, because people assumed I couldn’t possibly be takings photo with no one in it, they just went and stood in front of me anyway. Do you really need to be in every single photo?! Sometimes a landscape looks better without you in it!!

      As you can tell – other photographers have a tendency to get to me!!

  3. Completely agree. Though I’m not extreme as this. I’ll always make sure I have camera handy but once you take a couple of photos, all you’re doing is making duplicates. It also takes forever to sort through and find the ‘best ones’. The best knee being those you will print and actually look at in the future.
    Also, people taking photos with iPads are actually the funniest people to watch. Seriously, who does that???

    • I still can’t understand these iPad photographers – they annoy me so much! I don’t mean to sound extreme – I actually do take a ton of photos myself. But like you said, eventually they turn into duplicates giving you a long, boring job editing later! I just think it’s better to take a few good photos and spend the rest if the time enjoying things than to spend the whole day taking hundreds of snaps and not really seeing anything!

      • Ipads take comparable crappy photos anyways. I can understand lugging around a giant SRL if it will give you photos worth keeping, but ipads are annoying large to bring everyplace and their photo quality isn’t worth what a small point and shoot could give you.

        • Exactly my point! Or at least a smart phone is the same quality as the tablet (maybe better?) and more compact to carry round! The thing about iPads is that people always seem to hold them up to take photos – so they’re always right in everyone else’s way!!

  4. I couldn’t agree more! See your location, feel your location, appreciate what you see, be a traveler not a tourist, plan a few shots, and enjoy the presence!

    Also from a technical perspective … how much do you love your camera? Remember, there is usually a limited amount of shots you can get. All equipment wears out eventually. I want to keep my camera for many many years 😉

  5. I totally agree with this! As great as it is that people can always take a quick snap on their phones nowadays it drives me mad that the whole purpose of being anywhere is to get a bunch of photos there! I have to admit though, I am grateful when travelling with people who remember to take photos, I get waaaaaay to distracted by the moment and would never have any to put in posts if other people didn’t let me use theirs!

    • Haha I know what you mean! So many people we’ve met only seem to be travelling to enhance their Facebook updates! I’ve often had the best time without a camera – like at Barranquilla carnival, where I only had my phone and took about give shots! But yes, I did have to borrow some from a friend for the post I did afterwards!

  6. I understand the angle that you’re coming from. And maybe it’s just that I don’t know enough about photography, but I preferto have as many as I can to choose the best out of. Giving yourself enough time to enjoy the experience is what will make it, not necessarily just sleeving the camera for a bit.

    • I know what you mean, but what In talking about are people that walk round an entire destination with their cameras/phones out and barely seem to be looking at anything. Put the camera down and look at the falls right now, not in a photo album later!! I’m not saying don’t take photos, but get the balance right – see first, photograph second!

  7. Because it is so easy to take pictures, we actually use less of them, they sit on hard drives, on PC’s or on the camera. I try to remember to see the picture I want, then look for the shot. I want more than everything to have the memory in my head, I’d rather lose the picture than miss the view. Take it all in, stand and stare, It’s the only real way to keep it.

    Jim

    • Exactly my point! If you take 100 photos in a single day or just one place, then all that will happen is they’ll sit on a hardrive somewhere and you’ll ‘keep meaning to go through them’ but probably never will! I have 1000s of photos on my harddrive from the last few years and they just weren’t getting used. What I started doing was going through them all, actually printing out the best ones and making photo albums – I find I never look at photos unless they’re printed. So now, I try to make all the photos I take ‘best ones’ so that sorting through them at the end of the trip is much easier.

      • Online book printing is another easy way to do this, we do it now for all sorts of picture collections.

        Jim

        • Such a good idea! Some friends of ours did one for their Thailand trip and it came out beautifully. A really nice souvenir. I love scrapbooking with photos and sticking in all the ticket stubs and things I save (gives me something to do in winter!) but the photo books are much less time consuming and much more professional looking!

  8. good question! I in my other life started collecting post cards (79 countries and 4000)because my old analog 24 print camera was never good enough for the views. As better cameras came along, and I switch to digital cameras, the pictures were better and easier. However, what got me into photos and away from postcards was the overwhelming springs of travel site commenting on travel and the amazing number of cheap photos on them. I said heck I can do the same with my digital so here I come too. Nowdays I reduce considerably the number of pictures I take but see that even for the worst looking picture I get more raves than the best I think I took lol!!! cheers

    • Wow, that’s some collection of postcards! But where do you put them all?! Digital is good because it’s cheap and easy, and makes it possible for everyone to take photos when before it used to be an expensive hobby. But the sheer amounts digital lets you take means people don’t have to be careful and wind up with way too many photos sometimes – like Jim says above they don’t get used! I just get annoyed when I spot tourists only taking photos and not enjoying or experiencing the place they’re in!

      • yes indeed; kept in albums ::) I agree with digital allowing you take more pictures , but also more selection afterward to use the best ones. However, living in tourist cities I by force i’m used to see these folks crawling all over the place to take that picture. if it is too much I start getting cranky lol!

  9. Denise [But First, Live!]

    Gah! My thoughts exactly >.<
    I, too, catch myself doing this. But I always retract and truly take the time to enjoy the moment, regardless of however many pictures I take.

    That being said…I should try treating my camera like an old polaroid, and cut myself the work of sorting through hundreds of photos later =)

    • I agree! It’s something I’m guilty of too, sometimes I’m almost grateful when the batteries die and force me to enjoy the moment instead! The sorting afterwards is the worst part of it, I just have thousands of photos that I’ll never use and it’s a waste!

  10. Agree!!! My sister was always the photographer in the family, and recently she’s stopped lugging her giant camera everywhere because she realised she never saw some of the scenes in real life because she was so busy taking pics!!
    That said, there have also been times that I couldn’t be bothered to take pictures, and now I have nothing left to show of a place except my memories 🙁

  11. I could not agree with you more. My partner is a happy snapper and takes thousands of pictures. But i keep reminding him to see the places we are through his eyes not through a viewfinder. You’ll remember more this way 🙂

  12. A couple of weeks ago I would have defended photo taking but now I have to agree with you! Since our camera broke just before doing the Inca Trail it meant we could only use our phones (which are only really good for panoramics) or when I got a chance I stuck my memory card into my friend’s camera. This meant I had to be a lot more selective though as he was using his camera most of the time himself.

    By not being able to take pics I now realise what a ridiculous amount I do usually take and it means – same as you – I now have just a select few perfect photos 🙂

    Oh and those go pro cameras were always in my face in South America!

  13. I’m glad you agree! Like I said – nothing wrong with taking photos, even lots of photos. Just make sure it’s not ALL you do! Less is almost always more 🙂 I see some people walking along with their cameras up permanently, they’re seeing everything through the viewfinder – put it down and use your eyes!!!

    I never found the Go Pros annoying before but they are everywhere. You’d think such a small camera would be less obtrusive!

  14. The quote you wrote down ( “we got up there, got the photos we needed, and went back down”) is exactly what many travelers do. I confess I take lots of pictures too since I am blogging but I also want to indulge into the place, feel it, breathe it and not go there only because I need this picture.

    • Exactly – it’s all about finding the right balance! If you’re only there for the pictures, you might as well save yourself the trip and look on google instead!

  15. My last trip to Italy was like this although not entirely on purpose. It was so hot and I couldn’t stand to have my camera strap around my neck, so I kept it in my bag alot. I still ended up with some great shots. I also try to stay out of people’s way when taking photos. They didn’t come to Venice to have their photo taken by me! (Nor do I want a photo of them!) I am sure I enjoyed Venice more because of it. Being technology free does include the camera not just the smart phone and tablet. Yes, I do hate people who take photos with their tablets. Why people why?

    • Haha I’m so glad I’m not the only one who finds that annoying. A tablet is not a camera – get it out of my way! I do find I enjoy myself a whole lot more when I out my phone/camera away, much more relaxing and I tend to see more of the world!

  16. I think you can have the best of both worlds.. like you said. Take the beautiful photos youwant to, but make sure you actually stop and take a minute to live in the moment and experience the destination. This is one of the reasons I started my blog. People go sightseeing just for the photo of them being there and do not even consider the history or why the place is significant to begin with. Just like you said with Machu Picchu.

Leave A Comment!