AS several people contact us and ask about tips on taking photos in Iran, this post addresses those questions. Most of you traveling to Iran face these essential questions and similar ones:
• Can I bring my camera to Iran to take photos I like?
• Can I take photos in Iran wherever I want to?
• Is it possible to bring this or that photography equipment to Iran?
• Will your country allow me to bring my professional camera to Iran?
• And so on.
Those are the answers many of you would like to know so that you could plan your trip to Iran. In order to develop an understanding of how photography in Iran is possible, I’m going to offer you 7 practical tips you need to know about photography as a tourist in Iran.
Tip No.1: Use Professional Cameras with Big Lenses outside historic monuments & Museums
As the majority of the world travelers use small cameras or even mobile phones for the pictures they’d like to take in Iran, it grabs a lot of attention to carry big lenses with you when you visit a monument or museum. The people in charge of such places don’t allow such equipments unless you have special permit for them. Therefore, it’s not completely impossible to use such photography devices as professional cameras and/or big lenses in such places of interest.
However, when it comes to professional cameras with big lenses, you can always carry them with you outside monuments and museums without a problem. This is OK as long as you consider the photography dos and don’ts in Iran. You will enjoy the beautiful scenery out there in nature in Iran. So, as it’s alright to register those spots and moments, why not using your devices to take the best shot you can?
Tip No.2: Don’t Carry Tripods inside Museums & Sites
As a general rule of thumb, just like the prohibition about carrying big lenses inside historic monuments and museums, tripods are considered more serious equipments to use for photography. Amateurish photography isn’t supposed to need them. So, they are considered professional equipments. I know you may argue they are ordinary devices every photographer needs here and there, but I must say this is how tripods are looked upon in Iranian museums and sites. Therefore, you have to abide by the rules here.
Tip No.3: Apply for Special Photography Permit for Certain Places
If you would like to use particular equipments like those mentioned at the tips above inside certain sites, you have to ask specific organizations for special permits beforehand. This can be done by yourself, but it’s going to be time consuming for you as you spend limited time in Iran and you lose lots of time applying for photography permits in Iran.
A better way of obtaining such permits is through the tour operator arranging for your tour to Iran before you travel to Iran. If it’s possible to obtain such permits they know better how to apply and obtain them for you and provide you with them before you arrive in Iran.
Tip No.4: Take photos of People ONLY after They Allow You
This is a very easy process as most of Iranians are so happy to take a photo with you or of you that you can easily get such permission. All it takes is a polite question with a friendly gesture. Don’t forget your smile! Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m introducing a general rule. There are many who wouldn’t like to be photographed. That’s why I have noted ONLY after they allow you to do so.
Some are conservative, shy, etc and don’t want to be in your photos. You must respect this and walk away. It’s no use to insist and argue. In some places like villages, remote parts of Iran, religious communities, etc, you have to be even more cautious as women don’t like to see anyone to take their photos. So, it’s better not to take the initiative to even ask. You can ask your tour guide for photography tips in such areas. Of course, sometimes, people themselves may take the first step and want to take a photo with you.
This is highly important to know that Iranians are very curious about the foreign travelers in their country. They may ask where you are from, what you do for a living, etc. Part of that is for practicing their foreign language. Art of that could be for learning about you. Eventually, they welcome you to their country. Most of the time, they come forward to ask about your nationality, where you’ve traveled inside Iran, if you like Iran, which city, etc. This could break the ice between you and them. Everyone smiles and who knows, they may invite you to take photos with them before you apart.
Tip No.5: Don’t Take Photos of Prohibited Things
Traveling with or without a guide, it’s always safer to look around you, ask, etc to make sure it’s OK to take photos of certain places, things, facilities, etc. If it’s not, there must be no-photography signs nearby. Sometimes, there are such signs although you may not see them immediately. Therefore, my advice to you is not to rush, take your time and ask before you get yourselves into trouble.
In general, you’re not allowed to take photos of military sites, police stations, people in military/police uniforms, etc. Sometimes, you may see such no-photography signs at industrial facilities. The common sense says follow the rules and walk away instead of insisting or trying to take pictures secretly.
A simple photography tip inside Iran is that even it could be prohibited to take photos inside museums too. Usually palace museums are like that. In such cases, you can usually find some DVDs or photo albums of the same site, museum, etc for sale.
Tip No.6: Taking Photos of Private Places
Privacy is of ultimate importance to Iranians and they don’t like you to take photos of their private places. If you’re walking in a neighborhood and some house’s door is accidentally left open and you can see indoors, don’t even think about taking a photo of the scene even if nothing seems to be specially important in there. You will intrude into their privacy by doing so. This isn’t tolerated or accepted at all. You must know this when you have a camera on you visiting Iran and you look for interesting sites to photograph.
This is true of taking photos of the people inside their cars. Although the windows may not function like walls, people feel it’s their private place. You’re supposed to respect this and avoid getting into their privacy.
Tip No.7: Watch out When you Take Photos of Yourselves
You may have come from a different culture in which normally people hug or kiss one another in front of camera and in public places. This isn’t common in Iran and creates unpleasant feelings among most of Iranians. You may see some Iranians pose for a photo while placing arms on each other’s shoulders or around each other’s waists, but it’s different from hugging.
This isn’t a rule applying only to the people of the opposite sex. It applies to the people of the same sex too and it’s disgusted by Iranians to see such scenes.
You Will Take Lots of Photos despite Such Facts
Don’t worry! You will soon find yourselves taking lots and lots of photos in Iran that it would amaze you. There are so many attractive things and places, people and moments that you will be blown away by the opportunities.
This isn’t a photography tip, but equally essential: Remember to bring some external hard disk, flash drive, etc to save loads of photos you take with you during your trip to Iran. You will regret if you forget to do so although you can always buy such things in Iran. Yet, there are moments that you realize your camera memory chips run out of space and you have to transfer those beautiful photos, which you’ve taken before, to somewhere safe. You can upload the photos to the cloud, some online storage service, etc, but the slow internet speed in some places in Iran may make you change your minds.
This was an effort to help you with your desire to know how you could be taking photos in Iran. If you have other questions not answered here, please eave a comment below this post.