Taking Pictures

Sometimes older kids like to take their own photos. Younger kids can do the same, with less headaches, if they use one of those “disposable” cameras so that you don't find out how expensive it is to repair a Nikon once it has been in salt water. The disposable cameras are found everywhere in Japan or Korea, but are impossible to get other places, so plan/buy ahead of time.

With the rapidly declining prices of digital cameras, you might consider buying a less expensive camera for a younger kid. You can buy one new or even check eBay
for a used one.

Encourage kids to take pictures of things that interest them. Take photos of a Paris swing set to show friends back home (“It is sooo different you can't believe!” or “It is just like home, can you believe!”). The local elementary school near your hotel makes a good subject that can later form the basis of school projects or chats with friends.

Take pictures of places that mean something just for your family: the taxi stand where you stood for 45 minutes waiting for a ride (be sure to see our advice for avoiding a long wait for a taxi), the restaurant in Japan where you first tasted sushi, the stranger on the street in Seoul who went out of his way to lead you to your destination when his English and your Korean made verbal directions impossible.

These photos will often spark memories for your child years later. It is good of course to have a shot of Notre Dame, for even the most cliched family shot (“Now that's young Joe. You can sort of see some famous museum there behind him”) can bring back thoughts of the trip.

Asking Permission

No matter where you are, ask permission to photograph, especially when taking pictures of people. Some guidebooks differentiate between countries where unasked for photos “steal someone's soul” and places where they feel nobody seems to mind.

This is of course garbage.

There is nowhere in the world where asking permission is not appreciated, even if it is technically unnecessary. So, ask in bad high school Spanish. Write a note using the Urdu you memorized on the plane. Gesture and smile when even bad Chinese language is not available to you.

Needless to say, if the subject refuses permission, thank him and move on. Sneaking photos with long lens is just not the right thing to do.

Make the effort, and encourage your child to do the same if she has her own camera in hand. If you wish, ask the subject if he would like a copy of the photo, and then take down an address if offered and send it.

A child met abroad in line for the same park slide in a London neighborhood, she may well acquire a pen pal (perhaps an e-mail pal?) and the need for a return visit years later to meet again.

You're Probably Not a Pro

If you are not a good photographer and, frankly, even if you are, consider outsourcing some of the job to the pros. When you buy a postcard, the weather is probably nicer, the composition better, etc.

But don't stop there. Buy a postcard of the cathedral you saw and write on it, maybe marking the way ‘round to that cafÃÆ'© you should have photographed where you drank hot chocolate after it started raining. Remembering the cathedral's architectural triumphs can fan a child's inspiration for great art; remembering the way that cafÃÆ'© smelled of burnt coffee and how good it felt to be out of the weather can build memories your family can hold as close as those wet clothes felt.