Ex-media spokesman Mexico Tourism. Deemed expert: NY Times, Wall Street Journal, TX Monthly, Guardian (UK), Contenido, Atención.

From a question to a trip plan, I'll help you as no one else can.

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Photo Tips for Mexico


Got Questions About Propriety?

I've spent years photographing Mexico in depth, the rest of Latin America a fair bit and a little of Europe. Photographers are attracted to the vibrant kaleidoscope of bright colors that is Mexico like night-flying moths mistaking a bright light as the doorway to salvation. Or maybe, to them, porches are just places to get moth-lucky. They (photographers, not moths) want to shoot Mexico but are often unsure how to act, and maybe a little afraid to walk around what they perceive as a poor country with gear that's worth more than a year's wages to a lot of people. Have no fear, Mikey's traversed that trail and is here to keep you on the right path.

Now a Word from Our Sponsor

Oh, before I forget, there's a link to Adorama Photo Store on the right. They are great people, sell only genuine products (unlike some on Amazon) and pay me a couple of bucks off your sale. Please click that link and buy, buy, buy. I get all my photography gear from them.

Photography Myths

The oft-repeated “generally accepted” statement about shooting pictures in Mexico is that you shouldn't carry an expensive camera since it will be stolen in a heartbeat. Like any myth, there is some truth to it, but very little. I've traveled with professional reporters (including a National Geographic photog whose gear was worth more than the trailer I lived in) to small towns, slums and big cities. Not once were we accosted. That said, just as in the USA or any country, high-crime areas are best avoided. I walked into what used to be East Berlin and shot all day. It was a sketchy neighborhood and I did feel uncomfortable, but not enough to leave. Your sensibilities (and general common sense) may be better than mine, so listen to them.

I don't want to be an Ugly American / Canadian

If you resemble that remark, your camera's not the issue. Cameras don't make stereotypes. People do.  Most people are happy to have their picture taken. However, nobody likes being treated like an animal in a zoo to be gawked at. Before you shoot anyone (with a camera!), smile, point to the camera and to them and see how they react. 90% of the time, they will smile back or nod yes. You are ready to go.

Tianguis Electronicos (o Computadores)

Lose your charger? Need a specialized battery for your cameras? Need just about anything electronic or camera-related? Unlike years ago when you were just SOL, you now have options.

  1. Best Buy is in every major city and is often pretty well-stocked. It is hit or miss depending on the city, but you'll find a lot of items there.
  2. Office Depot / Max is even more common and they have limited photo gear and always have SD cards (tarjetas de memoria or simply “SD Cards”).
  3. For really esoteric stuff like chargers, filters, caps etc., there is a second-hand flea market specializing in photo and computer and electronic gear. I lost a Lumix charger once. Found a new one there. Needed batteries for my Nikon. Yep. And so on. Just ask around for the Tianguis Electronico or even Mercado Electronico and you'll find one. From what I've read, these marts exist in Asia too. OK, sometimes the gear is stolen. Then you have a moral dilemma. But how would you know? Well, if you see your camera that went missing a few days ago, I guess that would be a clue. Seriously, if your gear gets stolen, try looking at one of these markets.

Will your gear get stolen?

Anything anywhere can take wings and fly. Sometimes, no matter how diligent we are, things happen. I've got a couple of tips for making your gear as safe as you can, short of using a safe. If your hotel still offers safes (most don't anymore, there were just too much of a PITA), you could try that. I don't because I'm not smart enough to remember the code. Be as vigilant as you are in your home country. I never leave my main camera bag in the car when I am stopped - not even for more than a few minutes. Many times my bag was worth more than my car. That's the sign of a real photo addict.


Don't worry about losing anything from your hotel room (I exclude hostels from this category). I don't mean to put everything on the help, but that's where our minds go. Outsiders could break in and boost your stuff, though that is exceedingly rare. The staff can't leave work with packages, so it is unlikely (though not impossible) that your big gear will walk. That said, I put extra gear I'm not taking with me on a shoot in a locking suitcase. Sure, locks can be picked, but generally that is enough deterrent. And again, hotel employees aren't allowed to leave with arm loads of stuff. I know the combination to my one lock. I am that smart.

In your RV, it's rare anyone will break into your unit, though, just like in the States, it happens. Investing in a good deadbolt for your door is the best insurance you can have. After that, anything that deters a thief is good. Using a bicycle lock to attach your camera bag probably helps a little bit, though most thieves are smart enough to cut through any fabric. Again, locking your gear in something substantial is your best bet. Got an ice chest? That'll hold a lot of photo gear. If you can't secure it, cover it with “stuff” so it looks unappealing.

Photographic Equipment Insurance

I don't get any commission for referring them, but I think Lockton Affinity is a great photo equipment insurance company. If you are a member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America), one of the perks is that you automatically get some insurance coverage through the reputable firm of Lockton Affinity. For many that is enough. For thoseof us with a serious gear-buying habit, you can buy more from Lockton at a reasonable price.

What's that you say? You own a house and your gear is covered under your homeowners policy? Sort of. Check if it is in force when you travel out of the country. Check the deductible. Since that is based on your total coverage, chances are it is higher than an equipment-specific policy. And find out how difficult they will be to deal with. What requirements do they have to prove a loss?

Here's an example. I am a klutz. I fall down. Once in the Copper Canyon, I toppled off a boulder (but I got the shot!). Smashed my Nikon bodies and lenses lenses pretty badly. Some of the equipment sort of worked, but I won't win any awards for the images I took. I called L.A. from Creel, Chihuahua. They seemed to really care and told me not to worry, I could submit the claim when i got back (which would have been 60 day later). Since it was an accident, not a theft, I didn't need a police report, or even a statement from the amused witnesses. I sent the cameras back to Nikon, they gave me an estimate. I sent that to L.A. They paid after a reasonable deductible.

The next year, in Zacatecas, I fell not once, but twice - once on a city street and once in a mine. This timeIi left one of my bodies at the hotel.(Camera bodies, that is). So I was feeling pretty smart, until the second fall. You can't plan for everything.

L.A. didn't disqualify me. The didn't laugh. They paid the repair claim. They renewed my policy. So check them out. And don't fall.

There are other insurance companies that insure photographers. I am not saying anything about them in comparison becasue Lockton is the only one I know.

I hope these little tips come in handy and help you to enjoy real photography in Mexico.

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