Does TripAdvisor Take The Shame Out Of Picture Taking?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

One of the most challenging aspects of “trip reporting” can be the picture taking. It’s not that it’s difficult as such, but rather:

  • It can be tough to get pictures without tons of people in them (whether it’s an airplane cabin, airport lounge, or hotel club lounge)
  • It can be tough to take pictures without being looked at like a complete freak
  • Post-9/11 some US carriers seem to view picture taking as a “security threat,” which makes it even more important to be subtle with picture taking
  • There’s the general challenge of having to take pictures in low lighting conditions, with limited time (like during boarding), etc.

While those challenges do exist, I feel like I should point out a trend I’ve noticed over the past several years. I feel like when I took pictures in hotels a decade ago, I’d get looks as if I’m a freak, both from hotel staff and from other guests. Like, it’s one thing to take a picture of a hotel’s lobby, but when you start taking pictures of specific things at a breakfast buffet, you typically got looks like:


Maybe it’s just me, but over the past several years I feel like it has gotten progressively easier to take pictures without getting looked at like a complete freak. And I think we have social media and the likes of TripAdvisor to thank.

You have people who photograph just about every meal they eat on a day-to-day basis, so by comparison taking pictures when traveling (even if they’re pictures of completely random things) isn’t that strange.

Speaking specifically of hotels, I can’t help but feel like there has been a huge shift in perception from hotel staff. Hotel management places such a huge emphasis on the value of TripAdvisor and online reviews that it seems like pictures are encouraged at all stages of the travel process, as the perception seems to be that if you’re taking pictures you’re going to share them online.


All of this is simply to say that previously I felt like service was almost worse if you took pictures. The assumption being “um, has this person ever traveled before?” In the meantime it sometimes seems to be like hotel staff are trained to view picture taking as a sign that someone is posting on TripAdvisor, etc.

The other morning I was taking pictures of a breakfast buffet, and when one of the staff saw it they came over to open the lids on one of the dishes so that I could get a better picture of it.


Bottom line

This isn’t a trend which has changed overnight, but rather something I’ve progressively noticed over time. And it’s great for anyone who writes online reviews. I no longer feel like I have to be embarrassed or hide my picture taking, but in many ways it’s almost worth embracing. Which is great news!

Has anyone noticed a similar trend regarding the perception of picture taking when traveling due to social media and TripAdvisor?

  1. I am very curious how your shots of airplane cabins almost never have other passengers. Do you always board way early?

  2. With the development of Instagram, Snapchat, facebook, etc., etc. the vanity factor has really exploded. There was a great video of some college girls at a baseball game in Arizona taking selfie after selfie after selfie as the broadcaster wondered if they were ever going to watch the game. It’s all pure vanity, but because you get these absolutely ridiculous duck lip selfies of people sitting on the toilet you’re not likely to get odd looks for taking a picture of food, or 1st class cabins, or airline lounges.

  3. I have noticed the same and I myself like to take pictures of a plate when it looks very good before I eat. My biggest problem today is not with people taking pictures of hotels, food, etc… but taking selfies. Some people got addicted to take selfies and post online all the time. Most weird is when they decide to take selfies using an iPad.

  4. Even when I flew Singapore suites last month, the FAs seemed to be going out of their way to make sure my pictures looked good, from having me wait until they poured the champagne and then setting the bottle and glass nicely on the table, to even offering taking pictures of us and taking several of them to make sure they got good ones. They clearly notice when someone is writing up a trip report (which also influences the service quality and makes them be at their best).

  5. Fully agree!
    As i love taking pictures during travel i can give you a tip for hotels:
    – If you want to make picture of the breakfast in full ornate, go asap as it opens so that it hasn’t turned into a battlefield yet
    – ask if there are any historic/legendary/orginal stories at the hotel, staff will let you proudly see some memorablia/special room/art work etc.
    – try to see if the sun is illuminating a space during sunset/rise that makes the picture look warm instead of sterile overcast

    And with many average joes/normal person reviewers/critics now voicing their opinion online/private/public (as soon as you wield a camera) any alert person working in the service industrie might see it as a moment of a service/product delight/failure and being able to attend to it.

  6. There is defenitely a trend on making pictures of almost everything. And i really do appreciate it when people put these up on tripadvisor together with an honest review.
    What i dont get is the selfies, familyphotos and close ups of carpet stains on tripadvisor! Come on!
    People are interested how the grounds and the rooms are of a property. Not how you look like in bikini at the pool!

  7. Back in the age before social media, I worked for a major airline and did competitive analysis as part of my job. I always traveled on competitor airlines with camera (and film), tape measure, and notebook. Some colleagues said they always got funny looks from the flight attendants, and would invent stories as to what they were doing. I would be completely honest about what I was doing – documenting the airline I was flying on as a benchmark of quality. The flight attendants would often help me take pictures (including bringing out entrees I hadn’t ordered in order to document), hold the tape measure to measure seat pitch, etc. Nowadays, everyone is taking pictures.

  8. @Cory
    There was an update to that where actually the stadium was announcing on the big screen to take selfies and post them to the twitter. So those girls were just participating in part of the crowd game the stadium was playing, not just vainly taking selfies of themselves. I think the announcers’ station had released an apology to them, though I could be wrong about that.

  9. I was in Thai first recently and the crew escorted a couple of middle aged Thai gentlemen into the first class cabin and took photos of them sitting in the seats and in the lounge. I imagine their Facebook friends were impressed that they flew in first that day 😉

  10. My last transatlantic on US (RIP) the captain invited my wife and I into the cockpit for selfies in the pilot seat. Yes, we were on the ground and prior to take off. Done as a thank-you for being a good customer. Got some pretty cool selfies.

  11. Ben, Have you not watched the recent 2015 South Park episode “You’re Not Yelping”? It encapsulates the current phenomenon of people taking photos at restaurants and reviewing the restaurant on Yelp. Same can be said about Tripadvisor too any other review sites. In a way, it is good that we get to rate and rank our favourite Hotels on Tripadvisor, and rate and rank Airline seats on Seatguru (owned by Tripadvisor too by the way) so that other people know what they are paying for. But there are certainly pitfalls too in regards to fake reviews. But overall, I love it because Tripadvisor and other review sites (Expedia) helps inform me on which hotel i should book.

  12. How you get treated depends on what you look like, Lucky. You’re a Western White guy. Things might be a bit different if you “look” and “sound” Middle Eastern…

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *