On occasion, when I go to tourist hotspots, people sometimes give me their cameras and ask me to take pictures of them. Most of the time, those are digital camera (e.g. smartphones), and it makes sense to take multiple pictures. However, I may be handed a traditional film camera. (I'm experienced in photography, so I know how to operate different types of cameras.)

I read How many photos should I take If I'm given a camera to take a picture?, but none of the answers there address my question. Most suggest taking multiple "trial" shots and having them reviewed by the people being photographed. However, none of those are options with film cameras, where there is a direct cost associated with each picture (exposures on the roll of film), and it's not possible to have the photos reviewed (until the whole roll is shot and they get the roll developed).

Like the other question's author, I also get self-conscious thinking that they're thinking I'm taking too long, because with a film camera, I take my time to make sure the shot is just perfect.

How can I find out how many pictures I should take normally, if I'm handed a film camera? I don't believe the other person would receive it positively if I ask them directly how many to take (it could come across as a hateful comment about the fact they use film, of which I'd had many, or even if not hateful, as me making a judgment on that fact), but that could just be my self-consciousness. I also do not want to be perceived as someone who's naive at taking photos or using a "real" camera (when I've handed an actual camera - film or digital - to anyone, I often see them struggling how to use it, as usually they've only ever used a smartphone to take pictures, and I don't want to come across that way).

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    Flagging as off topic. this is a hypothetical question that seems unlikely to actually happen in this day and age interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3110/… Oct 25, 2019 at 10:21
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    @AlexRobinson I sometimes carry around DSLR and people ask me to click photos, both from my camera, and theirs. And I am not aged yet either. So not so hypothetical. Given the cost of films, it's an appropriate question to ask for photographers as well as asking here, as it might involve some talking too.
    – anki
    Oct 25, 2019 at 11:24
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    @baldPrussian There is a clear goal in mind; that close reason is for questions that don't specify a clear goal. Also, if that's the case, why was the other question well-received while mine isn't?
    – gparyani
    Oct 25, 2019 at 17:44
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    What would be unnatural about saying, in response to ‘could you take a photo for us?’ Something like ’sure, just the one or a few in different settings?’?
    – user9837
    Oct 27, 2019 at 17:47
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3 Answers 3


Without asking, I don't think you can get this information.

This is a frame challenge. What we are discussing is a situation with the following characteristics:

  • Someone else has handed you their equipment so that you can take a photo of them
  • That person will have a non-obvious amount of resources relevant to this (ability to buy/develop more film, for example)
  • That person will have non-obvious, not-necessarily-predictable feelings about things that you do (like taking a certain amount of time preparing a shot, or asking about how many photos they'd like you to take)

What your question asks about is a random individual's subjective resources and feelings, which is simply not something a gaggle of people on the internet can answer for you in any meaningful way. I also think that in such a brief, superficial encounter with a stranger (as you are describing) there are essentially no ways to reliably get this information without asking the stranger about it, directly or indirectly.

By declining to ask, you are removing the only reasonable way to get this information.

That's not to say there is nothing you can do to feel out the situation. In my younger days, film cameras were the only option, and I have experience taking this type of photo for others and having others take such photos for me. The most common experience I had with that was that the photo-taker would announce their plan and give a moment for the other person to object. Saying something like

OK, I'll take a few pictures so there's a better chance of a good shot when you get the film developed

gives the owner of the camera an opportunity to agree, or not. "Oh no, I'm low on film, please just take one!" is an example of a negative response (though not one I've ever heard in this situation). If they don't object, taking 3-4 pictures at most is common in my experience.

But while this may be a practical approach, it does not address the goal in the question of proactively finding out how many photos a stranger would like you to take. In pursuit of that goal, I think that you are being far too self-conscious.

"How many pictures should I take" is a low-intensity question with immediate, obvious relevance to the task this stranger has asked you to carry out. I have a hard time imagining that a person would feel offended by it while also being a person that you could realistically have a normal interaction with (I don't think the question would cause an otherwise pleasant interaction to suddenly become hostile).

If this situation is sufficiently troubling for you, and you truly do not want to ask how many photos a person would like you to take, then the most comfortable solution for you may be to simply decline to take photos for someone in this scenario.

  • I am not sure this is an appropiate comment to make. But I feel some people may feel uncofortable telling you to take only one picture even if they have a lot of film. Because you are offering to help them. I know I would, heh.
    – Mykazuki
    Oct 29, 2019 at 23:08
  • @Mykazuki I think that it's a fine comment to make. I'm still uncertain how the OP can get the information they want without asking for it, in some way or another, but I appreciate the perspective on how the camera owner might feel about being asked. I hadn't thought about that particular response, but it seems like one that could definitely come up.
    – Upper_Case
    Oct 30, 2019 at 2:24

Since you consider they could get offended by asking them directly. Then, when they hand you the camera you can tell them how nice the camera is or how much you like take pictures with that kind of camera, I mean film, or how you love to develop film. Something along those lines.

I am guessing you actually like it, and I think many people love it like a sort of "dying art", I would actually like to learn it. I think it is kinda romantic. Plus not every digital camera actually can compare to a good analog one. I think the person handing you a camera like that probably knows that.

Afterwards, since you feel sometimes it can be odd if you take time, you can comment how you have experience with this cameras, and tell them what you are doing so the picture is great, basically narrate the process. If you take too long, it may be still unconfortable, but no one will take it wrong because you are really making an effort for them.

Then once you took that one you can ask them, do you want me to take another in another position? or some other suggestion you may feel like making. That way if they don't want to, they tell you right away, and if they were feeling bashbul about asking for more pictures they will feel encouraged by you asking.

The point here is to create some level of rapport during the whole interaction so you and them can feel more comfortable talking further, etc.

I haven't encountered this specific situation, and I would probably run away from it, I am not that great with cameras. But since I am not that great with cameras I actually have done what I suggest with the Digital cameras. Because I am afraid the picture won't come right, or that I am taking too much time. So I explain them what I am doing, set brightness whatever and once I am done I ask them if they want more pictures.

Personally I think this kind of approach can work in any situation when someone is asking something from you, and you are afraid that asking if they want more help could sound rude. Whether because they may think you are telling them they are clueless, or like in this case, they could feel attacked because they are using an old fashioned item.

You could summ it up like this: Accept the initial request, build rapport during the interaction, then ask for further interactions (take more pictures, offer help in other way)


If they have a digital camera or phone, I take one or two shots and then ask if that is OK or do they want me to take more.

With film though, you should think about what you are doing and take your time. One correctly exposed, in focus, well composed photo is better than a whole lot of out-of-focus, poorly composed photos that then cost $1 or more to get developed and printed. No one wants 6 blurry pictures of the family at the Eiffel Tower, with only one leg of the tower, mom's head cut off in 2 of them, and some random backpacker striding past in 2 others.

I have 40+ years experience as an amateur photographer who has been asked many times at tourist sites to take pictures of others. I grew up using film and took care over exposure, focus, and composition so as to not waste expensive film. On the rare occasion I handed my camera to others, I had the same expectations.

Now that I use digital, it is far easier to take many images, and then review and delete. However, still take care over what I am doing and as a result I rarely feel the need to take more than a few shots.

Only a couple of weeks ago, some tourists asked me to take their photo using their phone. As usual, I took care over what I was doing. I made sure they were all in the frame, you could see the Notre Dame (in Paris) behind them, and there were no interlopers walking through the frame, before I pushed the button - twice. They said it was a great photo.


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