Since You Asked

In Rants and Sermons, Travel by David48 Comments

Once in a while the subject of taking beautiful photographs of beautiful people gets complicated by the inevitable discussion of money. Specifically, “Should you pay people for a photograph?” Or more personally, “Do I pay people for a photograph?”

I’ve given various answers to this over the years. It’s not a simple question with a simple answer. And I won’t answer it for you now either. But, bearing in mind that I am not a photojournalist, and I don’t pretend to be, and therefore am not restrained by the same ethic or methods, let me give you my current thinking.

I walk into a small village, inevitably it’s some corner of the world that’s condescendingly called “the third world.” I have over $10,000 of camera gear in my bag. I’ve spent between $2000 and $10,000 just to get there. The person I approach lives on $1-$5/day. I introduce myself. I spend some time. They offer me chai. Sometimes a meal. They stop what they’re doing and they talk to me. I finally ask them if I can make their photograph,  something I will take home and show others, something meaningful and valuable to me. I take their time in order to do so. And sometimes they ask me for a dollar – and for the life of me I can’t even think of something I can buy at home for a dollar. An apple? A banana? I can’t even buy a bottle of water for a dollar. I wouldn’t tip my waitress so little as a dollar.

But I say No. Why would they even ask me that? What audacity! If I did this for one person, I’d have to do it for all! And think of the other photographers! Soon we’d all have to pay a whole dollar – maybe two! – for something from which we get great pleasure, and on which we place great value. Did the time I spent with them mean nothing to them? I gave their child a candy to show what a kind person I am, is that not enough? All I asked from them was ten minutes of their time while they were cooking dinner, tending their crops, feeding their flocks, carrying firewood, fetching water, before I put a model release in front of them and asked them to sign away their right to compensation, in a language they don’t understand – and they signed it, bless their illiterate hearts.

A dollar? I don’t think so. I knew this would happen. Such greedy people. If only they could get over their need to survive, to feed their children, to pay for malaria medicine,  school fees. If only they could be grateful that I’ve wandered, uninvited, into their lives, and asked them for something for nothing, without reaching out in hopes of getting something to lighten their load.


Are our portfolios getting bigger while our hearts get smaller? Are we more concerned about losing a few dollars than we are about losing our humanity? Would we rather be artistic than kind? Is it unfair to exchange something of value for something of value? What would you do in their shoes? More bluntly, just who do we think we are?

The way I answer these questions differs when I feel I’m being suckered or manipulated. There are plenty of scams out there, but get away from the touristed areas and you’ll find they thin out. This kind of bait-and-switch, where they insist you make their photograph and then insist again that you pay them, isn’t what I’m talking about. That’s a game, and I’ll play it with as much zeal as they do. I’m talking about honest exchanges.

I know, it’s complicated (is it, really?) But, “It’s complicated” is a poor excuse for a lack of compassion, kindness, and generosity. Whatever you do, don’t close your heart. It’s hard to be human, much less an artist, with a closed heart.

*I’m in Italy for a couple more weeks, so please don’t take a lack of response to comments as disinterest, I’m just not planning to log on. That said, as with the last post, Let Them Steal, I’m not writing to seek consensus, but to raise questions. If I felt agreement on these issue were important, or that my opinion were the only one,  I’d just keep my mouth shut. Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments.


  1. Love this….your writing (books and blog) has encouraged me to engage more in the relational aspect of making portraits when I’m traveling. It’s much more rewarding (and mutual) to take a few minutes to chat with someone, get to know them as a fellow human being, and ask if you can take their portrait than it is to try to sneak photos of strangers without their noticing. I had some amazing conversations with some great people that I met while meandering the streets and markets in Guatemala last year, and I was even able to email some of the people their photographs. I’m going back this year and plan to take prints along and be on the lookout for my friends… 🙂

  2. I think that value and relationships are key. When I work in villages in West Africa, we take the chief a gift, as a thank you for welcoming us into their village. When we run soccer camps, we provide food to the youth, as a thank you to them, but also their families for letting them take the day off of work to participate. It also lets them know that we care about them, as more than bodies.

    Afterwards we will often leave a soccer ball for the village. those relationships go a long way towards helping us to grow, but also towards being able to photograph and film freely.

    1. Author

      You might have missed my sarcasm, Lois. I am making an argument for paying value for value, not, as my sarcastic voice intoned, avoiding payment. And yes, in some fashion I do sell the photographs. When I feel informed constent has been given.

  3. As a matter of law, when we engage in a contract there has to be a “consideration”, an exchange of value for the contract to be valid. Typically the minimal value in the US is a dollar. A model release is a contract. The individual photographed is relinquishing his/her rights to control their image in that photograph in return for whatever consideration is given in return. If asked for a dollar, I would give a dollar. No big deal.

  4. Thank you David for this interesting and important topic. I am going to assume that the majority of photographers who have commented are white westerners. I am going to ask why we as photographers even feel the need to travel to these far off lands to capture images of the “other”? Was it asked of us, is it truly important, are you adding anything at all by your presence and your images? To pay or not to pay is not really the issue I think. Is it ethical to begin with-period. I travel and I rarely photograph people, even though I am a portrait photographer. It feels too exploitive to me and I question the need to have an image of someone who is simply different than I am. In this I have to follow my heart.

    1. You’re right, you do have to follow your heart. But ethical? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my travel as an ethical question. My photographs are not the reason I travel, but the record of the relationships gained in my travels. It’s a large, beautiful world and the wisdom gained in connecting with other people, far and near is too great to be missed. What do any of us add by our presence? It has nothing to do with being white, but with being human. And I go not specifically to add, though I hope I do my part, but to participate. To exchange. To see old friends. I don’t make photographs of people because they are different than me, but in some ways because they are much the same. I see no exploitation here.

      1. Very well said….. there is no “other,” we are all brothers and sisters, no matter our skin color or circumstances.

        Even the so called “animals” are really our kin, we are all one connected “web of life,” on this magical jewel of a planet.

        I choose to celebrate our commonalities and our differences.
        Viva la Vida! (live the life!)

      2. I may have misunderstood what you were doing there as you mentioned having had a model release signed. My questions were not intended as an attack but merely to look past the obvious. Yes, it is a big, beautiful world out there filled with beautiful people and I love to participate in it as much as anyone. Moreover, I don’t see travel in and of itself as unethical, I do a fair amount of it myself. The images ARE beautiful and I appreciate your honesty in your post. I do, however, have a little resistance to hearing over and over that it is all about the connection. As a woman I am all about connection but I don’t photograph people in order to connect to them. Truly connecting with someone usually takes a bit of time. I am sorry to sound argumentative but I’m just gonna put it out there anyway.

        1. Author

          No attack inferred, Amy. I’ll read this over again and reply later, but I don’t read any argumentativeness on your part. Thanks for being part of the discussion. I’ll chime in when I have a moment.

    2. I think Amy asks a good question – two actually. OK, an assumption and a question.

      Yes, I am a white western male. I have lived in the UK all my life, That has shaped my ideology and perspective. And living in such a rich and wasteful society has naturally shaped my interests.

      Now the trick question is as to whether my presence adds anything. Yes, no and maybe would be the correct answers here. I should expand on this and will if asked, but I feel a blog post of my own coming on.

      I cannot speak for anyone but myself, and I am not a full-time photographer, but the reason I travel to far-off lands not to photograph the crap out of everything that will amuse/shock the folks back home but to, in order (1) improve my understanding of the World (2) capture images of things that move ME, and (3) have a series of memories that I can look back on when I’m in my twilight years.

      Exploitation, of any image, is really an matter of intent. If an image is taken with the aim to capitalise from it, or marketed as such, then yes, it is exploitative. But otherwise it can be educational and insightful. An image of a car crash can be both sensational and educate against drink driving. Intent and presentation is everything.

  5. Wow – thank you, David. As always I am humbled and in awe. It is what moves me to do what you do. God has put it in my heart. May I be wise, compassionate, considerate, and tell their stories well. Thank you!

  6. This is an issue that I’ve struggled with. In the end my answer was to bury my head in the sand and not take photographs of people. Not really an answer. Now I’m planning a trip to a part of the World where not taking portraits is a real limitation and so I have to confront this.

    Reading the article makes me fell happier that its OK to do what I want to do, which is pay a small amount. I guess it is all about being intelligent in what you pay and when you pay it.

    Now if only I could get over my fear of actually asking people 🙂

    1. Dave – My article could have been much shorter. In sum: it’s all about relationship. Don’t sweat the fear – just meet people, seek the experience and the connection, then make the photographs – or don’t – that feel right to you, and with the consent, or even the collaboration with the people you’ve connected with.

  7. I am an amateur photographer, just recently starting to travel. I love giving back whether it be by sharing the photograph I have just taken and sharing a laugh, buying goods from the person I have photographed or sometimes handing over some money if asked for the 20+ photographs I have just made. The memories and photos are my souvenirs to treasure and share too.

    On a recent trip to Vietnam an elderly lady wearing a conical hat and very few teeth walked down an alleyway selling lottery tickets. She was a perfect subject and I took lots of pics. She wanted me to buy a lottery ticket so I did. I actually bought three and gave one back to her for good luck and one each to the local couple who were standing at their front door. I happily, in fact very happily wandered away. A few minutes later there was a tap on my shoulder. I jumped and turned around. The lucky lottery lady had followed me, she put down her lottery tickets, took off her hat and stood up very straight arms by her side and faced me front on. She was giving back to me by posing for a photograph. This memory and connection we had still brings tears to my eyes. Whilst we could not communicate in a common language we shared so much together.

    I had similar experiences on my travels throughout SE Asia. I think if there is a genuine connection a dollar or two shared is not a bad thing. Being set up and then harassed when you have fallen into the tourist trap is entirely different.

    I love to print photos and share too but sadly this is not always possible.

      1. Thanks Barbara, I am really enjoying your photos from India and Peru. They make me want to a book a flight straight there! I will check out the rest of your gallery soon. I

  8. Good morning

    This is my first post here, been reading the blogs for several years.
    I thing this is an interesting point. I am a westerner, living in China (Shanghai) for the last 12 years, I consider myself a fine art photographer, a catch all phase which means what I am not.
    1. Wedding photographer
    2. Photo journalist.

    In other words – I strive to print imagines. It is all about the print. If I succeed is a matter of opinion.

    Consequently – I take shots of people among other things that interest me.

    To the point of the blog, When I am in China, and take series of shots on the streets, I then go back home – bring them up – edit, and process. Then print a couple of A4s. Then return within a day or so and distribute the prints. These are generally, if I might take the liberty as nice as if they went to a studio, The people are moved beyond words, I give them the prints, then watch them smile and spend about 2 – 3 minutes refusing any token of appreciation they want to give me, I tell them their smile is more than enough. I give them two prints, one to keep and one to give to a son or daughter or their parents,
    These are poor working people, some in shops selling brushes, food etc. in a 10 foot by 6 foot store front – just getting by, happy or unhappy in their lives is not applicable, but this is a non solicited ray of sunshine, As I sometimes look back and see them running around showing the prints to their neighbors or family, if feel it is genuine.

    The original payment issue – is something completely separate in my mind. I truly believe as important as money is to people, small tokens are something entirely different, they didn’t have more or less money before our encounter, and now they have an image.

    I only wish that my life takes me on this journey that when traveling to “third” world locations, I can go with a small printer, and leave a trail of photos in my wake.

    Sorry to run on.


  9. A bit late to the party and most of what I’d want to add has been said.

    What I would like to add is simply the question “why”? Why am I here in this situation? Why am I making this exposure?

    Though some images may end up in portfolios, I suspect that this is not the “why?’ for most of us. In most cases we are wanting to communicate in such a way that it invites a group of people who have a capacity for compassion to consider taking some appropriate action that will benefit those we are visiting. We are the matchmakers. And I question if it is possible to do that well without developing some sort of relationship with both groups.

    Good relationship involves mutual beneficial exchange. But the commodity that is exchanged can be vary. In some situation money may be appropriate but I would recommend investing in the community take priority over an individual in this case. Something else may be better for the individual, healthy food might be one option (candies may be welcome but the availability
    of dental services in many situations suggests it is not the wisest choice).

    And don’t underestimate the value of simply giving a print. Recently our family were visiting friends who were doing free medical clinics and water purification education in rural villages. As a group we were already giving (and this was reciprocated with very interesting fruit) but the 10 cent prints of photographs my daughter and I had taken brought many smiles and I hope will be treasured for years to come. With relatively high mortality rates (which the clinics are addressing) you never know how precious such a photograph could become. My wife grew up in slightly better conditions but we only have one photograph of her before
    high school and none of the housing she grew up in.

    The key thing is appropriate sharing.

  10. Hi David,
    Since you’ve written an excellent piece which covers all the arguments very eloquently and I totally agree with you, there’s nothing I can add to that except for my own experience, for what it’s worth.
    Yes, I’ve paid a few dollars here and there in the past years – mostly to hindu sadhus – but I rarely meet somebody who asks for money for a photograph. In my experience, that only happens in the really touristy places, which I tend to avoid. And of course, there’s always kids taking a chance.
    I spend most of my time in the middle-east and honestly, I’ve never met a muslim man asking for a dollar for a shot. They’d hand me their last piece of bread and refuse to take anything in return. I tried to give something in return, like paying for a simple cup of tea, but that only seemed to insult them. That might be a coincidence, or it might be a cultural thing.
    Again, I totally agree with you. If you spend time with your subjects, which I do whenever possible, and in the end you even get a nice picture – why not give something back? I prefer to send them a small print when I get home, but if it’s a dollar they want, who am I to refuse that?
    Thank you for this post. You’ve been inspiring me since I first decided to start taking photography serious.

  11. I have not yet had the opprtunity to cross paths with this particular moral dilemma so cannot speak with a voice of experience. I do look forward to having such an opportunity and hope my actions will be very much with a generous and open human heart. I think I will rely on my dad’s guiding words when the moment arrives… “If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.”

  12. Photography is about giving as much as taking. You summed it up beautifully David. Thanks so much for that inspiring post! I hope you’re having a good trip thus far!

  13. What stands out most for me here, more so than the question of pay or don’t pay, is the way you’ve described your approach to the photo. I know a couple of the other commenters that I’m (virtual) friends with take the same approach, and to my thinking, that is more important than money. As you said

    “I introduce myself. I spend some time. They offer me chai. Sometimes a meal. They stop what they’re doing and they talk to me. I finally ask them if I can make their photograph, ”

    That’s the key. You’re not just running in, pointing a camera at them and stealing their soul, and moving on. The connection, the relationship, the conversation all come first. I remember hearing Ami Vitale say something along the lines that she’ll often arrive in a new place and for the first day or so, just go around without a camera meeting and talking to people and beginning to develop that relationship. If more photographers (and general tourists for that matter) gave a higher priority to the human connection than the photograph, the issue of pay or don’t pay would never be an issue.

  14. I think what David is trying to say is “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” When photography becomes about me and not the person in the image, it becomes a selfish activity (and the photograph will show it in most cases). It’s a subtle difference sometimes, but it’s impossible to care about someone else when your only worried about YOU. Money or no money, care about the person you are photographing first and foremost. If that involves giving money, then do it. And ultimately there’s no right answer to every situation.

  15. Giving back in some way is important and as David said following Mitchell Kanashkevitch, relationship is the key. I would add giving time also. Giving time, sharing stories, laughters or helping in daily chores.

    Money ? I prefer not get money into that relationship. And it worked very well until now. But of course, often I have the luxury of time.

    P.S. I would discouraged people of giving candy. Often in situation where dental hygiene is not a priority or a possibility, candy do much damage to kids.

  16. I have often found that those most in need were almost offended when I offered them something. They shared freely and were proud to do so.

  17. I believe one of the things you wrote in Within the Frame is that it is about relationships. Meeting these people, spending time with them, getting to know them and their world as much as possible. Not just getting the picture and leaving.

    I do not travel, yet. I hope to, and am working towards it. This is, by far, the best post on this topic that I have seen! Very well said!

    1. Eric, you’ve just said what was moving around my head while i was reading the post and all commnets. This is the one of the things i remember from that book and i’m trying to implement that in my life (sometimes it’s not easy to do so).

  18. well honestly David, I think you are making it so complicated, its sure not about money as when I go to Nepal and people would come and ask for some money after I take a photo of them, all it toke to make them happy is few Rs which is a fraction of $ but that made them happy so why not? I would give that money even if I am not taking the photo so what the big deal,
    and on the other hand can you really take a photo of a Sadhu in Nepal or India without giving them some money? most of the photographers make money out of these photos so why not the person in the photo?
    in the end I dont mind giving some if the person asked and was kind enough otherwise I will not be even taking his photo

    1. Sorry, but this is typical white rich man approach.
      You making it worst for all non-western photographers in these areas.
      I remember how to I spoke to Kenyan local photojournalist who said that this approach is complicating his work. He is often ask for ,,couple of dollars,, when he is taking pictures. But hey, he is few hundreds a month, not thousands like rich westerners.

      And handing out cash on the street have a well documented negative effect on society. Look how many children are begging on the streets in developing countries just because they make more money on the street than their parents in the work.

      David and others at least write that they try to show that it is not hand out.

      1. Tomas, thank you for the comment, but with all due respect, my first consideration is not for photographers, western or non-western. My first concern is kindness and relationship. I don’t give cash or candy to kids. And I don’t encourage it. I encourage photographers to connect with people, to spend the time, and to be humans first and photographers second. If you told me that fire-fighters were making journalists jobs harder by helping people and therefore getting in the way of making better photographs I’d tell you you had your priorities wrong. It’s a poor analogy, I know, but it’s not so far off.

        Your suggestion implies that the job of a journalist is more important than the basic obligations of a human being. Journalists cling to an ethic of objectivity. In some cases they do great good. In others they do none. I cling to an ethic of subjectivity. Humanity deserves more than passive, objective, observation. We’ll just have to differ on that.

        Lastly, my kindness has nothing to do with the colour of skin – either mine or anyone else’s. The appeal to “a typical white man approach” is offensive and racist and avoids the topic by making it one of race, which it is not.

        1. David, I think you missunderstood me.
          I commented on Basels post, mostly on the part
          ,,all it toke to make them happy is few Rs which is a fraction of $ but that made them happy so why not? ” and ,, can you really take a photo of a Sadhu in Nepal or India without giving them some money? “.
          Which I understand as supporting begging and teaching those people that photographer is a walking wallet.
          And yes, sorry, but this is for me a rich-white-man-in-africa/india approach.
          Maybe because I coming from the country which not so far ago was for many westerners ,,developing country,, as well I see it from other point of view.
          Look, in this situations I always ask myself:
          Would I give money to this kind of person at my home country or any western country?

          In your home country (US, Canada, Uk, whatever) would you pay a stranger on the street for taking his picture?
          Like american with baseball cap USA? Is the same cliche as holy man in India isnt?
          I doubt that many would pay american, or even considered it rude if he ask for that.So why to pay in India?
          I look at all the people as a citizen of the same world.
          For me the most humane and ethic way how to deal with the people in developing countries is the same way how I would with locals in my home country.
          We are not the same, but we are equal, arent we? I think this approach give the most dignity to these people.

          Common, poor people are everywhere and paying beggars in the streets never helped. Sorry, but i think many photographers who pay in developing world just because that ethno cliche photos they want to show off in their portfolio, not because they care.
          Dont get me wrong, I am not speaking about you David. I follow your work for a while, have some ebooks and so on so I know this is not your approach. I speak generally, and yes Basels post reminded me of this approach.

          Your analogy with the firefighter is way off. I am not saying, we shouldnt help people in need. I myself support few ngos and help as I can my friends in developing world. But giving a holy man in India few bucks for the picture is not a way to help. It has nothing to do with relation creating and intercultural understanding which you (and me too) support.
          Using locals as proper model as you did in Kenya? Allright, than pay them. It is work and should be payed. So far I understand that you did so we agree again.

          But street and journalism photography is something different and yes, Basels approach ,, give them few bucks so I have a photo of holy man” is a rich man approach.
          And yes, it makes a street photography harder for those who cant afford to give ,,few bucks,, so easily. Like local photographers.

          I hope that this made it clear and now we understand each other. Again, as I said, my comment wasnt targeting your work or blogpost.
          Tomas, Slovakia

          1. Author

            Thanks Tomas, I’ll read this over and reply again when I have a moment. I probably misunderstood and I apologize – sometimes time prevents me from reading as carefully as I ought to. A little lazy on my part, sorry. I’ll reply when I’ve got a moment. Thank you.

          2. First sorry David for the confusion, and Tomas take it easy dude, first of all I am not rich and I am not even white lol I am from Middle East and let me tell you something:
            The Saduhs usually wait in temples for people to come and offer them something (money or food) in return to their pray, don’t you think prayer should be free? I think so but this is how it is, on the other hand theses guys makes their living that way, they don’t get salary in the end of the month and they only live on these small donations, so do we have to tell them how to live or we have to respect the way it is?
            Sure giving money for street kids dose promote beggars in a way but do you really think that these people beg for money because its more than they make or because they make nothing at all? I am not saying its ok to use that to get a photo or pay a chilled in the street all I am saying is we have to take it case by case and what may seam to be right in one case may not in other case so we have to give wisely when we do.
            In the end this is what I think and I hope we can agree to disagree 🙂

  19. “Whatever you do, don’t close your heart. It’s hard to be human, much less an artist, with a closed heart.”


  20. Love your take on this and I especially love the line, “Are our portfolios getting bigger while our hearts get smaller?” While I haven’t ever paid anyone for letting me take their photograph (mostly because I’ve been a photojournalist and it wasn’t ethical) I’m not opposed to the idea — in some ways, it’s almost freeing.

    Have photographers become a bunch of penny-pinchers, so afraid for their bottom lines that $10, $20, or even $100 on an trip is too much to spend to create great images? We wouldn’t think twice about hiring models for an assignment in our home countries, what makes traveling different? Do we view people from other places as less human? More like artifacts in a museum or animals on a safari?

    Of course, some might argue that the real evil lies in creating a dependance on photographers’ money — much in the same why some charities and nonprofits have been accused of harming local economies by handing out easy money or free goods. But I think there’s a solution to this problem too. If you’re going to pay someone to take their photo, make sure they understand it’s not a handout but compensation for work. Don’t say I’ll give you a dollar if you let me take your picture. Offer to hire them for an hour as a model. Explane what you’re doing, engage them, pay them for their time just like a modle back home.

    I imagine, the benefits could be huge. Worried about getting a model release? Not anymore. Feel bad about disrupting someones life to take a photo? Now you don’t have to. Need someone to add human scale to a rugged landscape? Now you’ve got them. Concerned that people won’t have the patience to let you set up your awesome portrait lighting? Worry no more.

    The consideration of payment for a photograph shouldn’t just be a question of pity but one of mutual benefit. The relationship between photographer and subject — even when they come from vastly different economic backgrounds — doesn’t have to be one-sided. Paying someone for a photograph can help you create better images and help them earn a little extra money for their work.

  21. This subject, is a subject that pop up in my mind every time that I see, for example, in calendars like the 365 days of whatever picture is available. Specially the third world topic.
    The reality is that when we search for topics like this(pay or not pay for a pic), sure, why to pay for it when the only thing that I’m asking for is just a picture?
    The real question that we, photographers, need to ask, is what I’m getting after that I get the picture? after that I publish a picture? after that people get so fascinated with the image that eventually you end up buying it?
    Is that fare for both sides?
    Like you say David, there are a different answers for different situations, but the reality is that this people never ask us to travel 5000 km, they don’t care how much our cameras costs, they don’t know what we want. But instead, we know exactly what is our mission.
    So when I talk about those calenders, I wonder how much money get the people that tuck the pics, some times in exchange, offering a candy to the subjects, paying a meal or just saying thanks for their time. Is that ethically fair???
    Thanks for bringing the subject to the table.

  22. David, you put it wisely, really. Covered quite a few aspects. I’ve also experienced that “scams thin out” as you get away from the beaten paths. “It’s complicated” is a poor excuse… right!

  23. Hey mate!

    One of the better ways I’ve seen this question discussed. I think its’ complicated in the sense that sometimes it’s better not to give a dollar, but, something of more value or to do something for those people that have gifted us a look into their world.

    There are also many things that come to mind. For example, I think that in those cases where the people are genuinely nice and hospitable, it’s not so much paying for the photo, it’s just helping out in a tiny way.

    There is a very fine balance though because the whole thing about “who do we think we are?” goes both ways. We can also say “Who do we think we are that we can throw money around and basically play God in some situations.” I’ve sort of learned it a very hard way in a situation which ended very, very sadly.

    I do love the gist of what you’ve written. Bottom line is – kindness and compassion are something that should not be forgotten, but, ignorant kindness and compassion can literally lead to killing someone.

  24. Pingback: “Should you pay… | Fotografie Stephanie

  25. Ah yes… this question.

    Probably the most asked question I get and you did a splendid job of answering it.

    I would point out that there is a different between PAYING someone who wouldn’t give you the time of day to stop and let you take their picture and GIFTING someone something (ie, showing gratitude) whom you have spent hours with. I’ve visiting many cultures where a parting gift was the norm.

    I prefer to pay with my time, candy, meals, etc. We are always ‘paying’ (or we should be with time, friendliness, etc)in a sense and I’d prefer it to be in a way that builds a relationship, trust, friendship, and doesn’t ruin a future experience for a future traveller.

    I’m generally against outright paying and the negative results of this are definitely well documented… but gifting someone a dollar who obviously needs it and whom I’ve spent time in their world with doesn’t bother me. it’s the Give Dollar -> Take Photo -> See Ya’ Sucker that is bad.

    Hope all is well,

    1. Author

      Agreed. Couldn’t have clarified it better, Brian. All is well. In Venice with the flu, but I can’t think of a better place to be sick. 🙂

      1. That’s good stuff. The last time I had the flu I passed out in a Hong Kong subway car.

        Venice is better.


  26. David,
    Thank you for this post. You asked us all the right questions and got us to formulate an answer in our heads. I loved your analogy about giving and receiving something of value. If we are truly interested in their story and life more than our portfolio, shouldn’t we also be compassionate to their need? Keep thinking and writing (and of course photographing), you have a gift and valuable insight.

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