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Thursday, October 9, 2014 (read 8622 times)

Taking Pictures in Spain

by David

When you come to Spain you are going to want to bring a camera to capture those images that help form your memories. With so much history around you and spectacular views in just about every part, finding a picture won't be your problem. You're biggest problem will be finding enough space on your memory card to store all the photos you have taken. But taking pictures isn't about shooting everything you see, instead there are some basic rules of etiquette (and some legal fine print) that you should follow to avoid misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations. Here are some things to keep in mind when taking pictures in Spain.

Taking Pictures in Spanish Churches

In cathedrals and popular churches the use of cameras or video cameras is routinely prohibited . As you can imagine, flash photography is strictly prohibited in all churches. In smaller churches you may use a camera (without flash) but you should be prepared to put your camera away in case someone tells you that it is not permitted. If there is a church service in progress, using a camera is strictly forbidden, if only out of respect for the people worshipping inside. One exception that comes to mind is the Cathedral of Santiago de Campostela. On Sundays, mass is done with the giant botafumeiro (the thurible or censer) that is swung within cathedral filling it with a pungent and dense smoke. A popular ceremony, it is not uncommon to see pilgrims and non-pilgrims taking pictures and selfies without any problem, but always try to be respectful of the people there attending services.

Taking Pictures of People

The Spanish value their privacy and taking pictures of strangers on the street is generally not accepted (socially o legally). If you want to take a picture of someone on the street, you need to ask for permission. You will find that they may be more willing than you expect and probably won't mind their brief movie star moment. You should also be very careful of taking pictures of young children as well since they are specially protected by Spanish privacy laws. Some street performers like living statues or street dancers make their living from tips given as a "fee" for having their picture taken. If you snap a picture of one of these performers without giving a tip, you could be in for stern lecture if not something more. Street musicians, on the other hand, are more permissive and usually don't mind if you take a picture, but giving a tip is a small gesture you can show them since they don't have the easiest job in the world. A nice thing to keep in mind is that if you cross paths with a celebrity, you don't have to ask permission and you can take as many pictures as you want—until they get angry and pull a Sean Penn on you. With people shots, just remember that in Spain the rules are easy; taking pictures of people like you and me requires their consent. That's it.

Museums in Spain

Like most anywhere else, flash photography is strictly prohibited due to the damage that prolonged exposition to this light can produce in delicate works of art. There are some museums that permit the taking of photos (with limitations) like the Reina Sofia Museum. Here, non-flash photography is permitted except in the Sala Guernica, the hall that houses this massive piece of protest art from Picasso, and some other specially designated areas. Photography is also prohibited in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Check when you enter a museum if you can take pictures. There are usually very clear rules written in various languages as well as very self explanatory images as to what is and what is not acceptable. In general, for museums that do permit photography, they prohibit the use of tripods, monopods and any other device that acts to stabilize the image.

Police Stations, Police and Military Installations

If you are traveling around Madrid with its many ministries, police stations and uniformed police on the street you may come across a situation where a picture with these elements may be something desirable. Police can have their picture taken when they are on duty, but it is a good idea to inform them beforehand of what your intentions are. This may change since the government has been trying to change the law so as to forbid the taking of pictures of on-duty police. For now, as long as they are working and in a public space you shouldn't have any problem. Torrejón de Ardoz, outside of Madrid, is the Spanish Air Force's most important air base with its squadron of f-18's and various other aircraft (military and diplomatic) that can interest fans of plane spotting. For taking pictures around a military installation It seems that from the outside there isn't a problem, but I have heard stories (not verified by me) of military police giving people a hard time for photographing the inside of installations from outside of the fence. Whether true or not, the exercise of common sense has to rule here.

The Everyday

Now that we've gotten specific places covered what else is good to know? How about taking photos of things you've never thought of? With old towns and villages and a diversity of people and settings, you can find something special in those things we take for granted. Taking pictures from your car (with clean windows, of course) offers some unique views as shown here in this article. Bustling streets, farm animals you come across, doors and patios are all fair game and offer you a unique souvenir of your travels through Spain. With a combination of ingenuity, creativity and a little communication in Spanish you are sure to take some great and memorable photos of things you probably never thought of.

Photographer's Paradise

From Barcelona to Seville, Valencia to Salamanca, you will have no shortage of material to choose from—it's up to you to decide what images (memories) you want to go home with. Fortunately, thanks to the digital age we are in you don't have to worry about making every shot seem like it's your last like when we shot with film and each roll was a costly investment. Today, with a large memory card and a digital camera we can error without worry. So get over here and go crazy!  

Keywords: travel to spain,spain pictures,churches in spain,spanish museums

Posted In: Tourism, Culture


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