Postcards from Cuba – and 5 tips for photography in Cuba

Naturally photogenic, openly friendly and one of the safest destinations we’ve visited, Cuba is a photographer’s dream. Here are some of Christina’s favourite shots from Cuba, plus our 5 top tips for taking photos in Cuba too.

Postcards from Cuba - tips for photography in Cuba

Cuba’s fascinating cultural make-up, its political stance and its recent history has made this Caribbean island nation a unique travel destination.

It’s almost impossible to put your camera down as you explore Havana’s streets. The capital’s crumbling elegance, the Cubanos’ easy-going nature and the omnipresent beat of salsa and rumba music, not to mention the incredible quality of light here, are infectious.

It’s a recipe that makes you want to try again and again to capture the moment that sums up Cuba. It’s an impossible wish of course, but it’s so enchanting, you just can’t stop trying.

Check out our 5-minute video snapshot of Cuba – the city, the country and the beach:

Click here to view the video.

Here are our top tips for shooting in Cuba, plus Christina’s favourite photos from one of our all-time top travel destinations:

Postcards from Cuba

El Capitolio building Havana Cuba

El Capitolio – the National Capitol Building in Havana was built in 1929 and was modelled on the Washington Capitol building. After extensive renovations, it has just re-opened after being abandoned by Castro as a sign of capitalism.

Habana Vieja - Havana Cuba

Old cannons are used as bollards in Habana Vieja – Old Havana – where you can get lost in the cobbled streets.

Trees in Havana Cuba

In 2014, I wandered past this tree at night, and then on our last trip, I found it in the day. It grows ever taller from the buildings, and its leaves provide a dappled light to the streets of Old Havana.

Street signs - Havana Cuba

As a mini project, I began to photograph street signs for Jim to include in a video. It’s so easy to navigate Havana, and there are lots of signs and a grid street layout. A mini project like this can help you to notice the small details, which really bring a place to life.

Street signs - Havana Cuba

So many of Havana’s buildings are in a bad way, but there’s colour everywhere.

Street signs - Havana Cuba

Wires follow their own path around Habana Vieja. Take care when using “power showers” too as you might get a shock…

Street signs - Havana Cuba

Art deco lights and pretty painted tiled signs adorn the corner of Calle Habana.

Street signs - Havana Cuba

Calle Cuba cuts the length of Habana Vieja

Street signs - Havana Cuba

Calle Obispo dates back to 1519, and was a shady path through the centre of Havana. Now it’s one of the most popular streets, busy day and night, with tourists and locals alike (and more than a few hustlers too)

5 tips for photography in Cuba

1. Be respectful

Ask for permission to photograph people if you’re working on your street photography. “¿Permiso?” (‘Permission?’) will result in a nod or a shake of the head, or also likely a proffered hand. Tipping a few CUCs will leave both parties happy.

Just because the scene is amazing and you really want that photograph of a local, remember what it’s like if someone aims a camera at you without asking.

2. Shoot early in the morning

If you just want photos of the architecture without tourists and or locals in your shot, just after sunrise is best. It’s calm and quiet even in the busiest parts of the capital. You’ll also be rewarded with a gentle, glowing light as the sun comes up.

3. Hit town at Golden Hour

Golden Hour – that time in the early evening when the sun’s setting and the yellows and reds really pop – is a well-known photography favourite. In Cuba, you get remarkable effects at this time of day, and it’s also great for lively street photography.

Golden Hour and Blue Hour change from day to day and place to place. This impressive app by AlpenGlow tells you exactly when and where the light will be every day.

4. Be careful what you’re shooting

Each country has different rules, customs and social norms for photography. In Cuba, please do not try to photograph military or police personnel, or government buildings.

You may well be asked to delete the images from your camera or phone, and in some instances the officials have been known to confiscate devices.

Also be aware that if locals ask to have their photos taken with you or by you, they will want money. Not much – just a couple of CUCs – but just so you know. They’re often dressed in bright ‘traditional’ Cuban clothes or toting large cigars, and you’ll see them in busy tourist areas.

5. Bring everything you need with you but be careful what you bring in

Make sure you have everything you need before you go to Cuba. Photography equipment will be expensive if it’s even available or compatible, and the same goes for memory. Don’t rely on internet speeds and availability for back-ups in Cuba either.

Remember that Cuba is still a relatively closed country and they don’t like anything that could be surveillance or media equipment. Don’t try and bring your drone into Cuba – or do so at your own risk. Anecdotal evidence suggests customs officials enjoy confiscating them and other high-tech gear.

Now, on with the postcards!

Garlic in old Havana Cuba

Strands of garlic for sale in Old Havana. You’ll find lots of small markets being pushed around the small side streets, as you can see in the background.

Street dog Havana Cuba

This postcard from Cuba was definitely inspired by the fabulous photographer, Jilly Bennett. When I noticed this good boy taking a rest, I had to stop and capture this moment.

Rocking chair Vinales Cuba

These ornate rocking chairs will always remind me of Vinales, Cuba. On every verandah, you’ll find a rocking chair where you can relax and watch the world go by. And in the small town of Vinales, you’d be surprised at the wonderful sights you’d see.

Cats in old Havana Cuba

My favourite time to shoot is early in the morning. I always felt safe walking alone in the streets of Havana with my camera in hand. I’m guessing that behind this painted door live some very lovely people who care for the neighbourhood stray cats. There was quite a line up waiting for them to get up on this morning.

Coco taxi Havana Cuba

These cute coconut-shaped 3-wheelers are called Coco taxis and are an inexpensive way to get around Havana.

Fishermen at the Malecon Havana Cuba

As the sun sets along the Malecon, fishermen line the sea wall angling for a catch.

Capitol and cars - Havana Cuba

Cruising by the Capitol building in Havana, Cuba

Havana Cuba

On the top floor here you’ll find the only Camera Obscura in Latin America. Invented by Leonardo da Vinci, and best viewed on clear days like this, you’ll see a 360 degree reflection of the city in a mirror.

We love sharing our favourite photos in this ‘Postcards From…’ series. Here are some others.

And if you want more of our stories from Cuba – we have itineraries, guides and information posts all on this beautiful Caribbean nation – click here for our full Cuban library.

Now tell us, which was your favourite out of these postcards? Tell us in the comments below!

Be first to comment