Is there a general consensus that I'm not aware of regarding the etiquette of holding foot traffic up to take a photo in public?

This is most apparent where it is a group photo with a public monument in the background, the photographer maybe 2 to 5 metres away usually perpendicular to the general flow of foot traffic on a sidewalk. Thereby causing an invisible but apparently socially powerful barrier to passage.

It seems that the bigger the group, the more pressure there is not to interrupt it. Often happening around public venues/concerts, places of interest, university graduations, public transportation. Busy places.

Personally, unless the photo is clearly about to be taken, I just walk through the foreground. Otherwise, experience has made it clear that there is always some reason not to take the photo 'quite yet', and you'll be waiting for someone to adjust settings on the camera, get the group to huddle more, someone's missing, so and so's phone just rang etc.

What prompts this question is that I think I may be in the minority? Other folks will stand and wait (!), to the point that there is an impenetrable barrier of actual people that I cannot get through even if I wanted to.

Often the photographer will be gracious at the end, but often enough there is zero gratitude and they simply 'allow' the people who have been waiting to continue their way - which is rude, in my opinion.

When should one wait to cross and when should you just go?

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    Proper etiquette goes out the window if you live or work in the immediate vicinity of a major tourist destination. So I can't speak for etiquette, but for me, I would try to avoid the sidewalks that attract the most pictures, and if that's not possible, and in some places, it's really not possible, I would cross and pose for the cameras as I am passing in front of them. In fact, you should just assume that you're a celebrity and that the tourists are there to photograph you, not the sites. Oct 7, 2017 at 19:59
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    Where are you located? Etiquette is culturally specific; your location will help us determine culture.
    – user288
    Oct 7, 2017 at 23:21
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    @Hamlet, I am currently located in Central Asia, but will be travelling through UK, Europe, then USA shortly then for work in Australia and following on for that touring through Asia. Seems this photo thing happens anywhere... Oct 8, 2017 at 9:22

3 Answers 3


If someone is about to take a photo in a public walkway, walking through that would annoy them. It would be polite to wait a few seconds, and then proceed to walk if it may take more time for them to adjust things.

Simply walking through the frame is not nice.

The chances that a whole bunch of people stop and stare is very slim unless those involved in the photo session are, say, famous people.

To get around it, sure, walk to the front and see if the shot's about to be taken, and if not, quickly walk past.

On the other hand, if one is about to take a photo, it's best to have the camera and everything set up quickly so that it does not disturb the flow of walkers in that route.


Etiquette demands the kindest and least disruptive action be undertaken.

You see a bunch of people sorting themselves out for a group photo. Before they have settled into position, and before the designated photographer is aiming their digicam or mobile at them, sprint lightly across the void space that has been created. You'll probably find other pedestrians, who are in a rush, doing likewise.

Once the photographer is standing still and is going to take their photo, wait, patiently, until the snaps have been taken. If a person disregards this moment and strolls between the photographer and the group (I have seen this happen) then they are the rude and obnoxious third party in this scenario. The photographer will have to wait until the trepasser has crossed the "passageway", the group will probably have to recompose itself, and the crowd will have to wait longer before they too can go about their business.

picture of a large group of people posing in the street

Besides, as can be seen in the photo above, there should always be enough space to walk behind the photographer, but the OP might even find it quicker to just wait and cross than to walk around a very busy square.

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    All true. There is an unspoken "wait" etiquette I have seen in travel enough to say it's pretty universal and not just cultural. When you risk disrupting the photo, then YOU become the rudest one in the group because you are rude to the group taking the photo as well as all the people that are patiently waiting, and they don't want you messing up the pic and making them wait longer.
    – threetimes
    Oct 10, 2017 at 15:49
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    May I ask what about the people who initiate the photo in the first place, where does thier responsibility lie? Perhaps they could be patient and wait for people to not be waking by? Nov 11, 2017 at 12:54
  • For my patience I get nothing but warm fuzzies. They on the other hand get the photo they want. Nov 11, 2017 at 12:55
  • "Least disruptive action" might be not to gather 80 people in a busy public place and expect all the people around to notice and wait until you've taken your sweet time to take a picture.
    – Laurent S.
    Jul 3, 2019 at 15:00

Your question has really brought a smile to my heart and so many wonderful memories. My husband and I loved to travel and he was the sweetest man. I used to say to him that no matter where we went he always ran into someone he knew.

During our trips and picture taking over the years, I noticed that if I treated people the way I wanted to be treated it always had a great outcome. We even had complete strangers take our picture and mailed us a copy when they got home.

It will always be quicker for everyone if you stop and wait and let others get that great shot. It's even nicer if you can keep a smile on your face. Even if you are in a hurry, it's always nicer if you try not to show any irritation. While people are repositioning themselves for that next shot it is ok to slip past.

Luckily my husband and I spent our whole lives having fun. From the time we met when I was 28. Until I retired at 51, after working for the same company for 30 years. We spent that winter in Florida. When we came home he didn't feel well. He was diagnosed with cancer, Multiple Myeloma, on May 8th and he died on June 30th. Life is short so start taking those pictures. Don't let the small stuff get in your way. Also, if you happen to be driving through Yellowstone National Park. Be aware that if you pull over to take a picture, every car behind you is going to start pulling over and getting out of their car so they can get a picture too.


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