How Pinterest Has Ruined Travel Photography

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 10.25.20 AM
Pinterest sent me this promo today.  Here’s why I’m screaming at the computer screen.


I got this promo from Pinterest today.  Photos like these are ruining travel photography and Pinterest is to blame — or maybe the readers of Pinterest are to blame.

Notice the young lady mugging for the camera in the promo for Barcelona?  She is sitting on a bench in Park Güell in Barcelona.  I suspect there are fifty other tourists around her trying to get the exact same shot with their cell phones.

I suspect there is a tourist on her right that is trying desperately to get the same photo.   Some tourists bring shopping bags or small suitcase so they can change clothes in each photo.  Selfie sticks cross and get in the way as people jostle for the same spot.

Ten years ago, photographers would have been lined up at this same location in Park Güell.  They wanted a photo of the undulating benches made by Gaudi with the park below and Barcelona on the distance.  The photographers would have stood at a distance so all the elements were in the frame.  Traveling companions would have wandered around the huge square looking at the scene and exploring.

The Park Güell, gardens, Carmel Hill,  Barcelona, Catalonia.
Group gathered around one of the famous fountains at Park Guell in Barcelona.

Today, everyone is a photographer and everyone has a camera.  Today, everyone with a cell phone has to sit or stand in “the spot” to get a selfie.  Then they get up, let their friend sit down and take a selfie, then both pose for a selfie, then they change clothes, sit down again to pose, then change pose . . . you get the picture.

In October I led a photo tour to Spain.  We visited Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and Barcelona.  The photo opportunities were amazing and we had so much fun.

The Park Güell, gardens, Carmel Hill,  Barcelona, Catalonia.
Me on one of the benches at the Park Guell

I never got a photo of the lovely undulating benches at Park Güell because the benches were lined with tourists taking selfies.  People were not photographing the benches made by Gaudi in the 1900s.  People were photographing themselves sitting on the benches made by Gaudi.

Scroll up and look at the Pinterest photo of the lady standing on the Parasol in Seville.  Such an amazing public art installation in the heart of Seville.  Thanks to photos like the one you see above, the place where that lady stands is now “the spot.”  Tourists will line-up to stand in that exact location, mug for the camera, smile, duck-lips, peace signs with the hands, change clothes, stand with their friends, etc.

I’ve seen these same thing happen all over the world.  At Machu Picchu it is nearly impossible to get the iconic photo of the ruins because people are lined up taking selfies with the ruins in the background.  A group of 10-15 friends arrive and then stand in the same location for a half hour while each is photographed individually, then in small groups, then in larger groups, then with another camera.

At Angkor Watt in Cambodia people stand around the lovely courtyards to take selfies.  Then they change clothes, rearrange the group, change cameras, etc.  The more people move into the courtyards and repeat the process for the next 15 or 20 minutes.  They are not viewing the magnificent ancient architecture — they are photographing themselves in the ancient structure.

Tourists, sunrise, Angkor Wat, cambodia, crowds.
Crowd gathered to view the sunrise at Angkor Watt in Cambodia.  The pushing and shoving is something to experience.  People will push in front of you unless you are standing right along the water.  

The views of lovely blue domed churches in Santorini have been blocked by the hordes of tourists.  People perch on white walls and angle to get their selfie with the blue domes in the background.  Then they hand their camera to their friend and the friend tries to get “the shot.”  Twenty minutes later that group moves and another gets into position.

Photography changes and it has changed now that everyone has a camera.  I do miss the days, though, when people were more interested in the location than themselves in the location.


Author: kathyadamsclark

Professional photographer leading workshops and tours.

8 thoughts on “How Pinterest Has Ruined Travel Photography”

  1. Hi Kathy,
    I feel ya. Though such sites are deservedly amazing, the crazy crowding and rudeness suggests that it may be time to seek lesser known locales. Thanks for bringing this topic to the table. Best, Bill


  2. Yeah – a couple of months ago we were at the Arc de Triomphe across the street trying to get a lovely shot of that (the traffic was very light for some reason) when a Chinese man stepped in to the street to be out in front of us and then stood there deciding on what poses he would strike while the French traffic is dodging around him and all of us who didn’t want him in the photo waited. I finally started yelling at him. We ran in to big groups of Japanese tourists in the Hermitage where dozens of them would line up to take pictures of each other in front of exhibits and you couldn’t get close to them. Australia is the worst, though – there are buses of Japanese at every significant site doing the same thing. It was so bad I finally started researching the cultural reasons for it.


  3. I think you have scratched a little of what itches. And I know you don’t lay the blame just on Pinterest. Note the image you posed from Barcelona Park Guell. And I know this was deliberate. The folks on both sides of you are entranced by their “devices.” So many things have changed in social mores, manners, interpersonal relations in recent years. It used to be taboo to have a smart phone open and used at a restaurant when dining with your partner/spouse and/or friends. I remember the “old days” when I told a friend to either put it away or I’d take it away. Ah, the “old days” … about three years ago, I think. When we hold family dinners, I make it clear that while we’re all together at the table, it’s a “device-free zone” … put them away or off. And I find that members of the family of all ages have a hard time doing that.

    So, we have people looking at and using their smart phones instead of looking around, engaging in conversation, etc. And we can instantly let our “friends” know what we’re doing and can use apps that allow an image or thought to be there just for a few seconds and then disappear into the void. You and I have seen scores of people sitting on the steps of, say, a cathedral in Spain with 90% of them looking at their smart phones … gotta be current on Instagram, Facebook, emails … rather then taking in the scene proud them replete with vendors, people going to and fro, signs, flags, and ….. the cathedral and its surroundings.

    But I’ve also seen a degradation in what I could call common courtesy and manners on trips I’ve been on, including the most recent one with you. Tour groups barge ahead of you, their leaders oblivious to others. And there seems to be a sense of entitlement that some individuals and/or groups have that their needs take precedence over anyone else’s.

    Oh, I could rant on. It’s complicated. It’s not going in the right direction. Arggghhhh.


  4. One more, Kathy. Carol and I were at Multnomah Falls in Oregon and after waiting for people to move out of the way to begin a vertical panorama shot, I decided to get involved with folks who were posing, some doing selfies and some having others take their photo. I “volunteered” for one couple and actually laid down on the stones to take their photo for them. 7 or 8 couples or groups later, I was able to do my pano. I don’t mind volunteering to take the photo for nice folks, and realize they may have come from a long distance to view the location. I DO get a bit annoyed when they step in front of my tripod and take over.


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