Taking Photos for Strangers

So, I live in Orlando, FL. And if you don’t live under a rock, you know that Orlando is an absolute tourist center. With Walt Disney World, Universal, and SeaWorld, millions of families travel down here to central Florida every year. It's weird, because I used to be one of those families that needed to make quite a commute from Indiana to get to our happy place in Disney. But now, I’m one of the calm, cool, and collected locals who feels free to leisurely walk around theme parks, because I get to come by whenever I want.

Gosh, how did I get so lucky?

People-watching at Disney World is such a treat. The place is simply full of happiness. Families enjoying their time together. Kids gazing on in absolute amazement. And old couples celebrating 50th anniversaries. They weren’t kidding when they said it’s the most magical place on earth.

I’ve loved going to the parks just to hang out on my days off. I love chatting with other locals at the popcorn stand or giving a first visit family advice while waiting in line for Toy Story Mania. But one thing that I love doing, is offering to take photos for tourists.

We’ve all seen it. A family is walking through the park and they want that perfect picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle. (And Disney Buffs, for the sake of this example/metaphor, let’s pretend Photopass photographers are swamped or the family doesn’t want to pay for the official photos.) So they have the kids take a picture, then one with the adults, then mom with the kids, then dad with the kids, then they try to do the selfie of everyone together. Those are the families I love to approach with a simple “hey would you like me to take one of all of you together?”

“Oh my goodness, yes! That would be great! Thank you!”

Thirty seconds later, they have a family picture, and I go on my way. But those thirty seconds helped them create a memory and was an easy gesture on my part.

Sometimes people are hesitant to ask for a favor. Especially from strangers. Especially in a busy place. I know I do it. For whatever reason, I always act so sheepish when I approach someone to take a picture of me and my family.

It seems silly doesn’t it? The human experience is unique, but we have to remember, it is also shared. I mean, how many of you have asked another person to take a group picture for them? And I’m not even talking just in Disney World, I’m talking at other world landmarks, at a friend’s birthday dinner, or in front of that movie poster on the night of the premiere.

I’d venture a guess, that at some point in our lives, we’ve all asked a stranger to take our picture. And I would go one step further to assume that we’ve all taken a picture for someone else. And I seriously doubt any of us were majorly inconvenienced or annoyed to do it. Doing small favors for others is simply a part of existing in society.

A few months ago, I went on a solo trip to Europe. This meant seeing so many wonderful sights and beautiful world landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, the Tower Bridge in London, and the Eiffel Tower. All of these sights were incredible, and of course, like any other reasonable person, I really wanted my picture in front of them. But with language barriers involved and me being a single woman who was highly alert of my surroundings in order to stay safe, I was exceptionally hesitant to approach strangers and ask for them to take my picture.

Pro-tip, if you’re traveling to foreign countries, learn a few key phrases in that language. Normally things like “hello,” “may I have…,” “where is the train station,” and, most importantly, “can you take a picture for me?”

I will never forget standing alone at the Eiffel Tower just marveling at it when a couple approached me and asked if I wanted a picture of me in front of it? Honestly, I was so relieved and grateful! I would’ve been upset with myself if I hadn’t gotten a pic in front of that iconic landmark. And the guy who ended up taking them was even getting different angles and everything. It was such a simple gesture that took up maybe one minute of his day, but I now have these great memories and images of me in front of the Eiffel Tower all because he took the time to notice and offer a simple favor.

I know this may seem crazy that I’m writing an entire blog post about taking pictures, but isn’t there something bigger there? Taking a photo for a stranger represents all the kind things you have the opportunity to do every day. If you stay open and observant of the world around you, it’s easy to find the good. Like taking a picture... just think about how easy that gesture is. Think about how much it means to people to have those memories. Think about how much happiness you can create with a simple moment.

So that’s why I challenge you all to take a photo of a stranger this week. Or hold the door open for someone. Or compliment your server on their hairstyle. Or help pick up a piece of trash on the floor. Or help the little old lady reach the soup on the top shelf at the grocery store. Or send a nice message to someone to tell them what they mean to you.

Take the thirty seconds to make the world a brighter and lovelier place.

Joy stems from little moments. At its core, love is simple. So start with taking a picture of a stranger, and see where that little act of kindness takes you next.


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