Dear photographers, this is when you should NOT take photos

Nov 16, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Dear photographers, this is when you should NOT take photos

Nov 16, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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All of us DIYP writers and readers are photographers and/or filmmakers, right? So, why on Earth would we ever want to stop capturing the world around us? Well, no matter how much you love photography, there are situations when you just shouldn’t take photos. When is it best to leave your camera in your bag? I’ll discuss some of these situations in this article and I hope you’ll agree with me, at least up to a point.

Before I start, I believe it’s important to point out that it’s different if you’re paid to take photos. In this case, of course, it’s your job to take them. But, in all other instances, I believe these are the moments when you should forget about your camera.

1. When someone needs help

Ever since camera phones became popular, people have filmed and photographed those in need of help instead of doing something to help them. Sadly, many people do it to mock others (shame on them), and photographers often use the moment to get some powerful images.

But even if your intentions are good, if you want to make some impactful photos and then give a helping hand – skip the photographing part. When someone’s in pain or asking for any kind of help, forget about your camera and do what you can to help them. Of course, if you’re paid to cover tragic events, you should take some photos. But sometimes even in these situations, the photographers choose to help instead of taking pictures.

2. During personal moments

Here, I’m talking about both your own personal moments with the people you love, as well as other people’s intimate moments.

When you are sharing deep thoughts, feelings and impressions with someone, don’t ruin it by taking out your phone or camera and capturing it. I know you want to save the moment, but if you’re dedicated to it 100%, it will be saved in your memory and heart way better than it would be on camera.

When it comes to other people’s personal moments, it’s like getting into someone’s private “bubble” with your camera. For example, you see a couple looking into each other’s eyes, smiling, being all beautiful and deeply in love. You may want to capture the wonderful scene, but maybe it’s better not to. You may ruin the moment, and it’s kinda like stealing it from them. Yes, I know: if you saw them, it means they’re in a public place and they can’t expect privacy. But still, they have their own micro-world, and your lens has no place inside it. Photographer Aleksandra Milinkovic describes one of these personal moments on her blog, and you can read about it here.

Now, there could be some exceptions to this. There were cases when someone accidentally photographed an engagement and the couple was thrilled. There are moments that are personal but happen once in a lifetime so it’s wonderful to have a photo of them. I can’t go on forever with the examples and exceptions, but I believe your gut will tell you when it is okay, and when it isn’t. Just pay attention to it.

3. In the theatre (or cinema)

Again, if you’re paid to take photos of a play or performance, go for it. But if you are a part of the audience, please leave your camera in your bag. The clicking of the shutter and the light of the flash or LCD screen distracts both the audience and the actors. So instead of taking photos (or god forbid, selfies), put your camera down and enjoy the show.

4. At concerts

This is something I can relate to. As a matter of fact, it’s what inspired me to start writing this article in the first place.

It happens all the time – the band shows up on the stage, and suddenly, everyone’s phones are up in the air. Very few people let the music take over. Instead, they take photos and videos, prevent themselves from enjoying the moment, and block the view for others.

I admit, I’m guilty of taking photos at concerts and posting them to Instagram, so I can keep track of the dates when I attended. But, I take one photo right after the beginning of the concert, then put my phone in my bag and just enjoy the show. At some of the best concerts of my life, I didn’t take a single photo. But I still remember them vividly and smile when I think of them.

Of course, if you’re a concert photographer, shoot away. That’s why you’re there, and you know how to behave so you don’t ruin the show for others. But if you’re only there to listen – for god’s sake, just listen! You won’t look those photos and videos again, anyway.


As I said, while most of us want to capture as many special, meaningful or impactful moments as we can, sometimes we should just skip it. I don’t think things are either black or white, there are many shades in between. But, I believe these are examples of situations when your camera should be left at home or in a bag. And if you think you should take the photo after all – be moderate, kind and respectful.

Now tell me, do you agree these are the situations when the camera should be left behind? Would you add any situations? Feel free to share your thoughts and to agree or disagree with me. I’m looking forward to hearing what you guys think.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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32 responses to “Dear photographers, this is when you should NOT take photos”

  1. Andras Oravecz Avatar
    Andras Oravecz

    You are not talking about photographers, but rude people with cellphones

    1. Linda Gayle Griffin Avatar
      Linda Gayle Griffin

      I beg to differ..
      Some photographers..
      Don’t know when to cry uncle

    2. Dunja0712 Avatar

      I’m talking about both. And not about professional photographers, but those who do it as a hobby (like I do, most of the times).
      Sometimes, even the nicest people can’t feel when they should put the camera down. And rude people … well, that’s a whole new category, regardless of what they shoot with. :)

      1. Bostezo E'Chocha Avatar
        Bostezo E’Chocha

        That’s just your point of view!

      2. Timothyf7 Avatar

        Looks like you stepped on the toes of the “Me” Generation! LOL

  2. Mike Musto Avatar
    Mike Musto

    Don’t tell me what to do, bro

  3. Henry Rodgers Avatar
    Henry Rodgers

    Can’t turn back the tide at this point. People are unconsciously entitled and inconsiderate. Photographers are only people in the end.

  4. mike r Avatar
    mike r

    Out of the four points, only #3 holds water.

    If Kevin Carter had listened to #1, the world might not have learned of the famine in Sudan for years still. The same applies for so many other brave and selfless photojournalists who every day have to choose between being another pair of hands helping a scene, or forcing themselves to step back and tell the story to the world.

    Likewise, some of the most moving, affecting, and riveting images have come from deeply personal, intimate moments. Off the top of my head, Angelo Merindino’s chronicling of his wife’s battle with cancer comes to mind. Almost every shot is of an incredibly difficult, personal moment, and that’s exactly what gives the series its power.

    Finally, #4 really only applies to phones and people who shoot without any regard for the people around them. If you’re viewfinder-shooting your camera with a small lens that you aren’t getting in peoples’ way and you’re conscientious about your shooting, there’s no problem with it.

    And actually, on second thought the same can apply for #3. If you’ve got a silent leaf shutter camera, or have your SLR on mirrorUp mode (and therefore equally silent), your shooting shouldn’t bother anyone. As long as you’re not breaking any house rules, why shouldn’t you shoot?

    At the end of the day, photography—much like life itself—has no room for absolutes. You’re free to live your life as you so choose, but to somehow imply that there are “rules” other people need to follow simply because you don’t agree with certain practices is, frankly, a little arrogant.

    1. The Weary Misanthrope Avatar
      The Weary Misanthrope

      There’s a big difference between photographing the effects of a famine and, say, standing there taking pictures of a person being attacked by a wild animal or a person who is injured and needs immediate help to save their life. Another good example is how when a fight breaks out, instead of helping to break it up before someone gets seriously injured, people whip out their phones to take videos.

      1. JOhn C Avatar
        JOhn C

        I’m not getting in the middle of someone else’s fight with other people or an animal. I’m also unlikely to go into a burning building etc in most cases.

  5. k sand Avatar
    k sand

    You have a point or two but I take exception to public displays of affection. Nobody has a micro world, invisibility bubble, forcefield or whatever.

  6. Kim Griffiths Hamm Avatar
    Kim Griffiths Hamm

    As a paid photographer…there is always an exception to the rule. I am thoroughly enjoying events as I look for unique” to me” ways to capture it. on a personal note I had friends gather on my doorstep to sing me happy birthday, I wanted to video it when one friend grabbed my phone and said “just live in the moment” I would have much rather relived that moment over and over…shared it with others and had it for years to come…to each his own except weddings….Dont frustrate the photoghrapher she is trying to do a job!

  7. Kevin Shoesmith Avatar
    Kevin Shoesmith

    I’m not sure how this article even got published it’s that off-target. Just for a start, I’d point you in the direction of Magnum Photos’ archives to illustrate how every one of your points is dead wrong when examined in any detail. There are exceptions in extreme cases, of course, but otherwise your guidelines here don’t stand up even at a fundamental ethical level.

    1. Taylor Handy Avatar
      Taylor Handy


  8. Oledirtyb Avatar

    I hate the article! Some of my best shots are candids.

  9. Joe Fioramonti Sr. Avatar
    Joe Fioramonti Sr.

    Good article, now if only some of these people will listen.

  10. Wade Courtney Avatar
    Wade Courtney

    I agree with number 1 and number 3, but the rest? Meh.

  11. Jeff Hayward Avatar
    Jeff Hayward

    I disagree with #2. It’s a public display of affection, and also some of the most honest human interaction.

    1. Jeff Hayward Avatar
      Jeff Hayward

      Also, I wonder if the sample used for #2 was a candid ?

    2. Tim Brakemeier Avatar
      Tim Brakemeier

      And they forgot #5: In Restaurants

  12. TIto burbano Avatar
    TIto burbano

    1: its art, its journalism, it’s a payday for professionals, so I don’t agree. But agree abt cellphones. Wtf could the use that img for, world star?

    2. Don’t agree, weak argument.

    3. Agree to a point, but if its my kid in the play, I’m recording that motha plucking ship.

    4. Weak argument. But indeed, it can be anoying_

    I know this article is geared towards hobbyists, but for art and even journalistic reasons, I’d say snap away.

    1. joshsouzaphotos Avatar

      Cellphone photos taken by photojournalists end up on front pages of newspapers more than you’d imagine. lol

  13. tom rose Avatar
    tom rose

    Dear Authors, This is when you should not write utter tosh …

  14. Yo Homie Avatar
    Yo Homie

    I agree because I see your intentions and, unlike 99% of the comments thus far, I’m not applying this advice to wildly extreme cases.

    But some advice that I’ve learned: on the internet, modesty only invites criticism. There isn’t an hope if you expect people are going to be reasonable here.

    I admire the reminders, because despite what some people have disagreed with, there are professional photographers who have gone down that road of not being able to put the camera down and have learned the hard way. Taking photography into an obsessive documentary habbit. Moments to be remembered are ruined by focusing more on photography and forgetting than your pictures are worthless to you and they won’t remind you of anything if you were too busy fumbling with equipment and concentrating on composition.

    Just don’t let yourselves get to the point where you will find yourself regretting rather than remembering, or where it starts affecting others negatively.

  15. Tamara-Rebeka Lukic Avatar
    Tamara-Rebeka Lukic

    I think people are missing the point. As you mentioned in your first paragraph, you are excluding the paid photoshoots so if someone, just because he wants to, takes a picture of my partner and me locking lips in a nice nook in a garden then that’s not ok…. but if i paid someone to do it then of course it’s fine. Live in the moment and enjoy it and if u have time later then snap a picture. Imagine a guy proposing to a girl and the girl in mid knee bend says oh my god let me take my phone out I gotta record this…wouldn’t that just ruin the moment? Also the point of helping others, I agree with you and I get what you were saying unlike some. If it’s a life or death situation alway choose life and the well being of another over a good shot, now that excludes times when there are people on the ground who are already helping and you can afford to be a bystander. It seems these “don’t tell me what to do” people are without a moral compass and just greedy to be the next big thing….it’s like they are saying – if a person was up on a bridge and ready to jump to suicide, we should all just take photos instead of talking him out of jumping or calling help because that one photo might make me a world famous name…. I agree with the other points as well but i’m going into essay teritory here and should just stop :)

  16. Jason Jones Avatar
    Jason Jones

    I actually agree with these. With #2 I think that if the photographer had asked permission to use the image then I don’t see it being too much of a problem. If they don’t and then go on to make money from the image then I think that that is unacceptable.

  17. Trino Pam Avatar
    Trino Pam

    Henri Cartier Bresson would disagree with such mediocre opinions.

  18. River Raven Avatar
    River Raven

    Well, common sense should prevail, but seldom does. I agree with the circumstances outlined here; particularly where a person in need of help is concerned.

  19. oldwhale Avatar

    Here in the deep south of NW FL, attendees to funerals often take photos. Maybe it’s like family reunion time. I don’t know. But I don’t want to remember the corpse in the casket, that’s for sure. I refuse to go to funerals here.

  20. WolfNippleChips Avatar

    How about an article on “When no to get drunk and pretend you’re one of the singer in the band”. That’s the sole reason I no longer go to any concerts other than Jazz or Classical. If I want to hear 6 sorority girls blaring out an out of tune rendition of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, I don’t need to drop a couple hundred of dollars for a ticket.

  21. Joe Avatar

    I agree with you 100 percent people need to use a lot wisdom when taking pictures

  22. tom rose Avatar
    tom rose

    “should” is a devious word, a favourite of people that want to control everyone’s behaviour. It is the attempt to impose a personal morality on the rest of the world. It is the arrogant presumption that you know “best”.

    I will take whatever photos I want to take, with whatever degree of consideration I think is right for the unique situation … and not follow general prohgibitions that someone else tries to impose on me.

    Neither you nor anyone else gets to tell me (or anyone) what we “should” or “should not” do.

    Or, to be more accurate, you can try, but prepare to be ignored.