Tibet is a photographer's paradise. Contrary to what many people believe, a fancy camera is not necessary to take excellent photographs. The person who stands behind the camera is responsible for that.
Some people joke that in Tibet even a careless shot will get a picture that is likely to win the top prize of a photo contest. Indeed, Tibet is everywhere full of charm.
Here are some helpful tips for travelers with a hope of photography.
It's a good idea to take enough film and batteries. Try to bring more films, one time more than the ordinary amount according to the experience. You'd better avoid buying films in Tibet, especially in those lonely areas, unless you prepare to buy some fake films.
A pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera is ideal for quick, candid photos. Buy the best lens you can afford; don’t be tempted to purchase an inexpensive lens made by an unknown manufacturer. A wide-angle lens is good for capturing the feeling of temple interiors; for war frescoes, try bouncing your flash to prevent flaring on the shiny murals. You'd better equip the camera lens with UV lens to protect the camera lens and also make the sky captured bluer.
Take necessary technical precautions to protect your camera in case of extreme temperatures due to the harsh climate. Do not let it insolate under the sunshine; do not use the camera when it is unclear or rainy.
Dust is a big concern in Tibet’s arid climate. Always keep your camera in its protective case or in a padded carrying bag, and avoid changing film or lenses in the wind. A lens-cleaning kit with a camel-hair brush is a must. In cold weather, cover your gear at several extra sets of camera batteries, as they may not be available in Tibet.
Photographing in monasteries is generally allowed, however, taking pictures inside the chapels is forbidden or usually charged at extremely high rates to prevent photography. It is offensive to take photos, especially photos of statues in the shrine. Always ask permission before taking photographs in monasteries. Monks at the larger gompas are required to collect photography fees from tourists, usually a flat rate ranging from 10 to 100 yuan (US $1.20 TO $12.00). To avoid an unpleasant scene, don’t try to sneak photographs.
Remember not to take photos in sensitive military areas.
Take more spared balconies, as the low-temperature in Tibet will greatly shorten the duration.
The light in Tibet can be tricky to capture properly on film. Early mornings and late afternoons are typically best for dramatic pictures; the mid-day light in Tibet is often harsh, causing contrasty photos. Try using a polarizing filter to enhance colors and the sky, especially on hazy days. Dial it about one-third of a turn from dark for the best results.
The Tibetan people are as tough to capture on film as the high-altitude lights. they can be rather averse to being photographer, or may demand moneyed. Always ask permission to take someone’s picturesque, and respect a refusal. If it is necessary, you can send them some tiny presents, which is much better than giving them money. In Lhasa, maybe there are some avaricious guys asking you for money when you take pictures in public places. You can refuse to pay money strictly.
If it is possible, take a small tabled-tripod and photoflash lamp which will bring you much more fun for your photography.