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Scotland by Lou Abecassis


Ethical Photography

Imagine you are walking around Boulder when a group of tourists get off a bus and start taking your photo. They do not ask permission and offer no reasons for taking your photo. An encounter like this would likely make you uncomfortable, and the same is true for locals in your host country. It is normal to want to capture a moment you don’t want to forget, such as locals engaging in a custom or tradition that is new to you. In these moments, it is important to pause and consider ethical photography.  

When abroad, it can be tempting to take photos of locals doing things differently than they are done in the United States, particularly in non-traditional abroad destinations. People are people, not props, so you should always ask someone before taking their picture. When photographing children, ask permission from their parents or guardians. There may be cultural differences regarding photography in your host country. Be mindful of taking photos at certain cultural religious or cultural events where taking photos may be disrespectful. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t take a photo in Boulder, don’t take it abroad. 

Pro Tips:
Before taking a photo, ask yourself the following questions: 
  • Do you have the person’s permission to take their photo, would they like you to share it with them?  
  • Are you being respectful of people’s privacy?  
  • Do you know the local laws about photography and privacy? 
  • Is photography allowed at this location?  
  • Are you putting an individual, an animal, or yourself in danger to get the photo?  
  • Are you being respectful of cultural practices and important cultural/historical sites?  
  • When photographing children, do you have the permission of their parents or guardian? Is the child appropriately dressed? Why are you taking their photo? Do you need to show the child’s face? What are you going to do with the photograph? 
It is important to ask yourself similar questions before posting photos of your experience on social media. Your posts may be the only information some of your friends, family or followers have about a certain country or community. Be mindful of the images and captions you use, and what story they tell. Ensure that your posts do not unintentionally highlight stereotypes or misrepresent local culture. 

Safety & Security

In many countries there are prohibitions on taking pictures of strategic locations such as airports, train stations, major roads, and dams. Avoid taking pictures of all police and military staff installations. Visit TripSavvy for more information.   

Drones & Selfie Sticks

Education Abroad recommends leaving drones at home, and some providers prohibit them. If your program allows drones and you choose to travel with a drone, research and follow the drone laws of each country you visit. Many countries require you to register your drone before flying it. Do not fly your drone near crowds of people to protect their privacy. Visit The Travel Blogs for more important considerations when traveling with a drone, including important packing considerations.  
Selfie sticks are also banned in many popular tourist locations so be sure to research whether they are allowed before bringing them with you for the day. Many cultural sites (including the Colosseum) sporting venues, museums and other popular tourist areas ban selfie sticks.  
Taking photos is a fun part of your adventure abroad but shouldn’t be the whole adventure! Be mindful of when to take pictures and when to put the camera away and live in the moment! 
Thanks to Ohio University for many of these tips.  
Last Updated January 2023
Photo, Scotland by Lou Abecassis