Taking Photos For Strangers

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Epcot Center

Traveling should be a fun experience.  Even a work trip can be enjoyable if you can squeeze in a little sightseeing or a lunch break downtown in a new city.  No matter where we go – there’s always a photo opportunity.  In the old days, we’d call them “Kodak Moments”.

Traveling solo has really taught me a great lesson in human interaction.  And it involves taking photos for complete strangers.

I’m not a fan of “selfie” photos.  In fact, I absolutely hate the entire concept. Even if I did like it, I could never get just the right shot or approve of the goofy look on my face in the monitor.  Photos should be special, thought out and the end product being a unique piece of art.

Considering I write and produce videos about people and places around the country, it’s a given that I like to share photographs of where I’ve been or in the age of social media – what I’m doing right now.  Since I’ve ruled “selfies” out – the only alternative in most cases, is handing my camera to a complete stranger.

Not so long ago, everyone had a different camera.  Big cameras, small cameras, old cameras – God help us if we somehow screwed up that roll of film and walked out of Walgreens disappointed that a week’s worth of memories were never really captured at all.

Digital, in particular the I-Phone, has made photography simpler for travel shots.  Handing my phone to a person I’ve never met used to mean a 5 minute lecture about what button to push.  Today, odds are that they also own an I-Phone, or at least a similar device where the layout is almost identical.   How great to be able to let them push the button 10 times or more so you can be sure to get at least one good shot.

I decided awhile back that I would make an effort to help others with photos as well.  Since none of us travel with a photographer on vacation – someone is going to be left out of a photo.  Dad may take pictures of Mom and the kids.  A husband may have to take a picture of the wife.  Someone is always being cast as the photographer instead of being part of the memory.

So, I always make an effort to offer up my services to complete strangers who are missing out on being in the photo.  And you know what?  I’ve never been turned down.  There’s always a sigh of relief, sometimes complete shock that you’d take the time to help.  The time is easy – it’s usually 30 seconds to get a photo.  But, what happens after is what’s best.  You usually build an instant bond with someone, or a group of people that you’d never talk to.  Not at length anyway.  In almost every case – you learn where someone is from, if they’ve been to the same place before and sometimes you get a great tip or hear a great story.   At minimum, you get the same in return – a photo taken.   That’s almost never the plan, but if it happens – great.  People almost always offer.

During a visit to the Smoky Mountains, I really made an effort to take as many photos as I could for people.  Maybe I saw it as a game or maybe I was just in an incredible mood after seeing the amazing views up there.  At one point, I was in my car about to drive away from a small parking lot after shooting some scenic photos of my own.  I noticed in my side mirror what appeared to be a Mom and daughter trying to take a “selfie” photo in front of the mountains.  I had already started the car, was about to leave – but couldn’t.  I put the car in park, hopped out and yelled across the lot, “I see you’re struggling with that, do you want me to take your picture for you?”   They were both excited and thanked me several times, amazed that a stranger would offer.

While you travel – seek out opportunities to be helpful and make good photos into great photos.

 

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Bill is a travel journalist, broadcaster and freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Bill travels all across the country doing positive stories, highlighting people and places making America great. He's the host of the weekly Rediscover America podcast and author of the new book 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die! Bill enjoys parks, talking to strangers, eating medium-rare steaks, playing Pickleball and telling good jokes.