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Photography in Bolivia

Digital or slide film? That is the question. Let's face it, these days digital is definitely the more convenient option, and for most of us, it's all we need. With digital cameras, it's okay to get snap-happy since most memory cards on the market today can hold hundreds of photos, and you can transfer them onto a USB flashdrive or burn them onto a disc in most major Bolivian cities. Keep in mind, however, that lithium batteries are not easy to come by in Bolivia so you might want to pack a few from home. The same goes for power chargers. No one wants to reach a mountain summit only to find that their camera is dead; pack everything that you will need to keep your camera happy.


Does anyone still use slide film these days? Remarkably, they do and the extra work they put in really pays off. If you're up for the challenge, slide film can produce gorgeous, detailed photography. There are, of course, a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, although it is available, slide film in Bolivia is not always easy to come by and can be expensive. Developing film in Bolivia may also result in lesser quality photos. Your best bet is to pack film from home and develop it when you get back. But do remember that certain airport security screeners can damage film, so carry unexposed film in your hand luggage.


If you've gone digital, chances are your camera has an automatic setting that will do all the work for you. Slide film users, on the other hand, should take the bright sunlight of the Bolivian highlands into account and use a faster film. During the day ASA 100 or 200 should suffice. The best times to take photos are in the early morning and the late afternoon when the sunlight is less intense. In contrast (pun intended), light can be hard to come by in the forest so you'll need a slower film if you head to the jungle. Given the humidity of the forest, it's also wise to keep all equipment in a protective bag.


You can take as many pictures of the mountains or the salt flats as you want, they don't mind. People, however, can be a different story. Most people in Bolivia do not have a problem getting their picture taken, but understand that some may feel superstitious about it. If someone prefers not to be a part of your photo collection, please respect their wishes. Only take photos of people you know or with whom you have built some sort of relationship.


Lastly, for some Bolivians posing for photos is an extra source of income. Many children will dress up in traditional garb to attract the eyes of tourists, but before you snap, know that you will have to pay money for the picture—a fact that your models may not tell you until after you have taken the photo. If someone is eager to have their picture taken, the image will likely cost you a few cents.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Bolivia: Social and Environmental Issues, Tarija When to Go, Holiday and Festivals Listing, Safety, Mizque and Aiquile, When to go, Box: Responsible Jungle Tourism, Amazon Tours, Bolivian Dress and When to Go.

By Emma Mueller
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry...
13 Jul 2009

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