Avoid Strangers in Your Travel Photos


Avoid Strangers in Your Travel Photos

It’s annoying isn’t it? You have your lens pointed out at the most incredible and uninterrupted view somewhere that you’ve spent a fair bit of money to holiday at… and someone ruins it. Someone wearing a fanny pack, binoculars, a camera and a sun visor has pulled her children in and her husband is being shooed away to take the photo, not ever having noticed you standing there patiently waiting for the perfect no-people photo.

Do You Remember the Most Impactful Photo?

Assuming you are not one of those people who are selfie-obsessed these days, you take along a camera to actually photograph the places you have gone to, so you can remember those moments later. There may be no more Utopian shot for any photographer than the one where there are no people. Just take a moment and think back to any iconic historical photos of say, Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower and you’ll quickly realize the ones with the most impact have nearly no people in the photos. How in the world did the photographers achieve such a feat? There are two ways to do this, one is to cheat and use Photoshop to “shop” the people out. The other way is to show up when nobody else would want to.

Timing is Everything

Here at On the Beach, we even have a time schedule we keep just as everyone in South Africa does. People here must work the same as anywhere else, so things tend to revolve around working hours. The commuters will be up by 5am and on the road by 6am at the latest to avoid being caught in bumper to bumper traffic in the busiest city centres like Cape Town. Less so in quiet Wilderness, but you’ll notice all the local shopkeepers checking in to their businesses and places opening up as the birds greet the new day. You can get a feel nearly anywhere for how active the place will get throughout the day, during the week and on the weekends so you can plan your time best.

Want Those Tips?

While Wilderness is on the more quiet side, it is still along the famous Garden Route and is frequented by tourists; perhaps not as much as some other locations like Mauritius, but certainly enough that these tips will come in handy when you need that perfect no-people photo. Sometimes you can’t do anything about all the people, they’ll be there no matter what and you won’t be able to get them to move even… there are even tips for that instance. Here’s how to beat the tourists out for the most perfect holiday picture.


Go Early!

Go in the mornings, before the place you want to see opens even (if there are opening times) and if it’s out in the open areas, just go very early. You don’t have to be a morning person, you just have to be able to prioritize the perfect photo over a little lost sleep. Go to bed the night before very early, you won’t miss anything when you’re cuddled in the sumptuous bedding at On the Beach early or no. In the morning, be sure to set your alarm with a reminder like, “GET UP NOW!” or “Call the taxi service now for pickup in 45” something that will get you moving. Going early in the morning is easily the best tip on this entire post.

No to Weekends or Holidays

Don’t do this to yourself if you’re looking for a photo-quality moment, you won’t get it. If you’re a parent you will already know why. Weekends and holidays are the only break you get to spend with your children and family all together, so you make the most of it when you can. If you’re not a parent, then surely you have known enough of them in your time to realize the truth of this point, and why that will prevent a photo from being taken in optimal surrounds. Children are little better than animals to herd when excited somewhere new, so if you’re going expressly for a peaceful, quiet and tranquil photo where it’s just you and the subject of the photo… those are the WORST times to try to get one.

Go on the Off-Season

This one is another great tip, because South Africa, while moderately cold in winter, is still absolutely gorgeous. Not many shops close completely to wait out winter, and you’ll find a lot of off-season special rates waiting for you too. Best part of going on the off-season? Photo opportunities abound like crazy, because there are less people coming to visit, there are far more chances to get that photo without people in front of it. You want to try to show up between February and October to avoid the tourists, since most of them come during the Christmas holidays; easily the busiest time of year for tourism and for the amount of people out and about.

A Different Perspective

Here’s another awesome tip: Disposable cameras and different people

What those two things can do for your photos is actually quite a lot, and very reasonable as well. You don’t want to hand your expensive Nikon camera to a stranger to ask them to snap a photo of you in front of the thing, or to snap a photo of the thing itself for you, so get a disposable old-school camera and just see what other people think of the same view as you. Most people are apt to center the object of the photo in the middle of the lens, but the best photos have the subject off center. By offering your camera to different people, you’ll get new perspectives as well. Try it with children, the results are amazing. I had a child lay on the sand in Hawaii, pointing the lens out to sea at sand level, telling me that you have to lie down for the best pictures, because you can hear the ocean from down there and it tells you what to do. While I never heard the ocean speak when I tried it, I can’t actually say the little boy was right when I got the film developed. His photo gave the picture personality and captured real motion, from a perspective not seen normally. Or consider a statue or other famous structure, which is normally photographed face-forward or from the front alone. By simply going around the corner, or standing at an angle, or behind it – you can get just as gorgeous a photo, and one that is less the token photo you’re expected to come back with, and more of one which is as unique as you are.

Patience or Persistence

Have one or the other, or both, but definitely have at least one of these things. Sometimes you’ll have to wait out people, and get them to leave the shot before you can get one, and that may take a very long time, so come prepared with a picnic lunch, sunscreen, and a book. Your other option is to just ask people to move from your shot and take the chance you’re not seen as rude. This doesn’t always work well depending where you are, and it’s best to be polite in public, so while I will ask strangers to take photos of and for me, I draw the line at actually asking them verbally to move out of my picture. Be patient and persistent and you’ll get that photo. Just know it will be a wait as you start out, and you’ll not suffer later when you realize you are in for a long wait.

If I Cant See You…

Then you can only see me! So if you’re running low on time, and you still want that photo you have coveted so much since arriving – but people just won’t leave, then you have to block them out of the photo. You can do this easily enough if you have a tripod and aren’t having to selfie style take the photo. Just set up the camera, and position yourself in front of the people in such a way that it looks natural, and done on purpose. Your head and shoulders are the broadest parts of the body, so try those first. By blocking the people in the background with your own body, you can make it appear like you’re alone there even if there are plenty of people around. Try to circle the place and find the best place with the least people to block out and work from there.

Cells & Selfie Sticks

Nobody leaves their house anymore without their cell phone, and most of those phones come stock with an incredibly powerful camera. If yours is one with a great camera, then you don’t even need to go buy a high end photography camera with tons of options you can’t figure out. The other good point there, is that cell phones mount onto selfie sticks. While I am no fan of those things personally, they do have some uses when taking travel photos – namely the ability to get up higher than other people are standing to get that uninterrupted view. Most cell phones have something like their earbuds which have a button on the cord that you can use to take photos without having to push the button on the screen. By combining both things, you can easily make it appear you are all alone somewhere that is packed with people.

If You Cant Beat Em…

Sometimes though, you can’t get away from the crowds. Sometimes you wouldn’t want to anyway. There are parts of South Africa full of vibrant cultures, where there is laughing, dancing, singing and it is definitely the people who make it shine, who give the place personality and a sense of being truly alive, and that is worth capturing. Sometimes we shouldn’t avoid people altogether from the photos, but make them the subject of them. If you plan to do this while in Wilderness, just be sure to get permission from the person you are snapping it of. Some people have some severe fears about photography culturally speaking so it’s important to remain sensitive to other cultures when traveling.

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