Travel Tips | Photographing People

Kaokoland – The Kunene River & The Himba
June 2, 2015
Testimonial | Otjimbondona – Something Special & New
June 5, 2015
Kaokoland – The Kunene River & The Himba
June 2, 2015
Testimonial | Otjimbondona – Something Special & New
June 5, 2015


  • Make friends with the locals. If you’re planning to take photos of them in their private surroundings, it’s always best to have a local guide take you around to converse with them and overcome the barrier of photographer versus subject.
  • Always ask before you photograph someone. Not everybody likes to have his or her picture taken, so avoid conflict by asking first.
  • Some people will expect payment for having their picture taken. This includes the Himba and Herero people, who still dress traditionally and are thus worthwhile subjects. They spend considerable time and effort on their appearance and if you ‘steal’ their image without asking their permission and offering payment, it might make them angry and put you at a disadvantage. The best option is to ask them first and agree on a price before taking the photo.

Elderly Himba woman. Photo ©Ron Swilling

Desert Storm

Herero women. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk

  • Young children are often fond of being photographed, but it’s always best to ask a guardian or parent first.
  • Older people might be more hesitant to have their picture taken. Once again, with friendliness and patience you will achieve more.
  • If you take a digital photograph of someone, show it to him or her afterwards. Many people don’t own cameras and are amazed by the possibilities of technology. This gesture will make them warm to you, and might well result in your taking a great photograph.

After taking a photo of a person be sure to show it to them. Photo ©Elzanne Erasmus

  • If possible, try to send a printed copy of the picture to the person you’ve photographed. Those living in rural areas will truly appreciate it. But don’t promise to do so and then not deliver. If you’re not sure whether you’ll get round to sending the photo, rather not make the promise.
  • Remember that it’s illegal to take photos of men and women in uniform, except when they are performing in a public parade, or something similar. Taking a picture of a police officer on duty is therefore out of the question.
  • When taking photos at a cultural village, at a cultural performance, or on a pre-arranged photographic tour, it’s not necessary to ask permission. To be on the safe side, check with your guide or local companion first.
  • When on an organized tour, many photo opportunities are pre-arranged, making it easy for you to just snap away while leaving the formalities to your guide. Ask your guide about this if you’re not sure.

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