A guide for photography in Iran


Thinking about the world of photography brings a lot of breathtaking scenes to mind from all around the world. For every genre and every style, there are a lot of preferences going around in the world of photography. In this post, we’re going to introduce you to the mostly unknown stuff about Photography in Iran.

As a vast country, Iran has Geographical diversity. With two buddies of water at the bottom and top and many mountains and deserts, you can easily see every type of weather in different parts of the country. A cold snowy day in Tehran can be a pleasant sunny day on the coast of the Makran Sea. (You can read more about this in our Iran Climate and Weather for Traveling). This, with a bit of planning, can become an advantage in planning a photography tour in Iran. But before we start let’s talk about the history of photography in Iran.

During the invention of the camera in 1839, the Qajar dynasty ruled Iran. After 3 years a camera was sent as a gift to the court of the not yet crowned Naser al-Din Shah. He immediately took a liking to the new device and it is said that he took the first picture in the history of Iran himself. He is one of the key elements of the flourishing of photography in Iran. After the spread of this art among the people, many more took Naser al-Din Shah’s liking too and the rest is history with many interesting pictures.

Types of photography

As you know there are many styles of photography that are being practiced in the world. Nearly in every one of them, you can find good subjects to put in front of your camera in Iran. You can read about nearly all of them in our article called Photography Travel in Iran.

Portrait photography

Iran is a good place for portrait photography. With diverse ethnicities, there are many different subjects that are worth spending time on. This diversity brings a lot of variety with itself. Many subcultures with their own lifestyle, clothes, racial backgrounds, and beliefs. One of the best subjects for this type are nomads who have kept their way of life intact in the modern days. Tribes like the Kurds, Turks, Baluchi, Bakhtiari, and Qashqai are among the most noticeable ones. Reaching these tribes needs careful planning because of their seasonal migration. The remaining authentic ones live in remote places far from cities and this could be done by a trekking trip or with private cars. Most tribes have now adopted a more modern version of living. It is estimated that in the near future, the migrating nomads of Iran might disappear completely so keep that in mind.


Photography in big cities

Besides this, the main cities of Iran, specially the 5 major touristic cities of Iran (Like Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Yazd, Kashan, and …) can be the perfect place for this type of photography. If you like street photography, the centers of these cities can be the perfect hunting ground. The diversity I talked about in the last paragraph is prominent here too.  Every city has its own culture and customs so you can see different styles and people in every one of them. Also, the grand bazaar of most of them is located at the center of the city so you can spend many hours setting up the perfect shot. As much as this can be a good photography lesson, meeting locals and seeing their way of everyday life can be a different experience. Besides the Bazaar, the main streets of these cities have very different backgrounds. Tehran’s downtown is more modern with eye-catching signs and shops and not much of the old Tehran is left in them but in other cities like Shiraz or Esfahan, elements of their rich pasts have survived and are cherished among the population. If you are interested in having elements of Persian culture and history in your street photography, these cities might be of interest to you.


Photography tips for main cities

Like everywhere in the world, there are some unwritten rules about this type of photo taking that come mostly from the cultural background of the people. It might be different in every country and culture. In Iran, the biggest issue is that people usually don’t like their pictures getting taken without their consent.  Iranians live a very private life, it is integrated into our culture. This has bled into the everyday life of most Persians. But on the other hand, getting their consent is an easy task. Most people will accept your offer with open arms and will be happy to even pose for you. If you have a way to send them the pictures you have taken, you have subconsciously increased your chances of convincing them. If they don’t want to be in your shot, they’ll move out of your way. As a photograph, you have likely framed a photo that might not be in the liking of your subject; in this case, you can spend time finding someone willing or obtain your desired picture by other means.

Besides these unwritten rules, there are two important written rules you must follow. Firstly, there are NO PICTURE signs in some streets or in front of some buildings across town. Pay attention to them and respect the request. Secondly, as a rule of thumb, avoid taking photos of official or governmental buildings if you don’t have the necessary permissions, especially if you have a professional camera. Some of them might have the sign mentioned. Thirdly, using tripods across main cities is usually prohibited.  It needs a special permission slip that can take some days to get. Also if you plan to take pictures in malls and shopping centers, check with the information desk to see if you’ll need permission or not. 

In remote areas, you have more of an open hand to take the pictures you want. Places like Sistan and Baluchistan, and other provinces near the Persian Gulf, are perfect for portrait photography because of their traditional looks and outfits. You can see this in the north of Iran as well across the coast of the Caspian Sea and practically all the remote areas of Iran.

Portrait photography is a powerful tool for showing your art and creations to the world and Iran can easily be your playground. There are many opportunities and subjects waiting to be found in Iran.