People often look to souvenirs to remember an amazing trip, we look to beautiful photographs taken by our cameras. Travel photography is like travelling in a time machine, freezing memories from a journey so amazing that you can just look back at it and enjoy it for years. It may also help others find inspiration.
Every destination has its own look, culture, people and history. Each destination tells a different story to those who are keen on listening. Photography is an art that is learnt over time with practice, reading books, watching online tutorials and regular practice can help you improve your craft by leaps and bounds.
- Wake Up Early, Stay Out Late
You have probably heard of the phrase ‘The early bird gets the worm’. This phrase is true for photography as well. Light is one of the most important ingredients of photography- the warm and soft early morning glow makes for some amazing pictures.
Waking up early ensures that you are among the first people at the scene, so you can avoid the tourist rush and get great pictures at your own pace. You can avoid random strangers walking into your frame knowingly or unknowingly.
Sunrise is not the only time that is great for clicking pretty pictures. Sunsets are equally beautiful. The hours before sunrise and after sunset are called the ‘Golden Hours’. They leave a beautiful, soft and warm golden glow all over the sky that is brought out perfectly in photographs. The ‘Blue Hour’ is the time right after sunset when the city and street lights light up and the sky is darkish blue in colour.
2. Scouting The Location Beforehand
Being well read about your destination helps a lot in the actual process of seeking beautiful photographs. Reading up involves going through travel guides, articles, online write-ups and blog posts. It not only gives you a sense of the destination but also a sense of the kind of photos that you can click that will come out looking the best. Knowing more about your locations will help you seek interesting locations and compositions.
Instagram and Google are the best tools for this cause. You can go through multiple posts and get an idea of the iconic locations. Actual postcard racks can often prove to be perfect examples of what kind of photographs you should be looking to capture.
Once you have a sense of your shoot location you can go ahead and research your location with respect to the best shots that can be taken there, vantage points, tourist traffic and weather conditions to ensure a smooth and fruitful trip.
Wandering around without any plans or preparations has its place, but sometimes it is better to have read up and studied the location a little beforehand, so as to ensure that the time that you have can be spent solely focussing on getting aesthetically beautiful photographs.
3. Talk To People Before Asking For A Picture
Photographers often find shooting local people in foriegn countries to be a daunting task. What if they say no? What if they don’t understand? What if they get offended? It takes time to get comfortable with this practice. Time does not ensure that you will never get nervous.
The key is to interact with people. Strike up a conversation, be courteous. Try to build a rapport. Ask for directions. Buy a souvenir. Be generally friendly before asking for a photo, it seems much less invasive.
Always ask for permission before taking clos-ups. It is a good choice to spend some time learning how to say ‘Can I click your picture?’ or ‘Can I have a photo’ in the native tongue, the effort is always appreciated. It is a great way to make a new friend.
People can always refuse to let you click their picture. They may ask you to pay them, it is up to you whether you want to or not. It may happen quite frequently or not at all, it is not a problem. Thank them for their time, smile and move on to the next person and try again. The more you get rejected, the easier it gets to ask.
4. Rule Of Thirds in Photography
It is the most basic and classic rules in photography. Understanding and using this rule in real life can help you get balanced compositions. The rule dictates that you break an image down to its thirds horizontally and vertically, so that it splits into different sections.
The objects of interest are to be placed in areas where the attention of the viewer can be drawn easily. It helps in framing the image in a way that seems visually pleasing to the viewer.
For instance, placing a person on the right or left vertical third depending on the other objects of interest in the image. Placing the horizon on the bottom third instead of placing it right in the middle because it will make the picture seem split in half.
Most cameras are equipped with a ‘grid’ feature to make understanding this rule easier for novice photographers. The rule of thirds grid is displayed directly on the LCD.
5. Carry A Lightweight Tripod
More and more upcoming photographers have started using tripods these days. A tripod allows you to hold your camera at a particular height and position. Once the camera is fixed in said position, it gets easier to focus all your attention towards capturing the perfect image. A high quality image can be ensured by adjusting various settings while the camera is kept steady. Advanced settings like HDR, focus stacking and panorama can be used with relevant ease with the help of a tripod.
A tripod gives the photographer more creative control over the manual settings and the composition as a whole. This does not necessarily mean that you have to carry your tripod everywhere. But it certainly helps in a lot of situations.
A tripod makes a huge difference while shooting flowing water, sunrise-sunsets, self-portraits, tack sharp landscapes and more.
6. Experiment With Composition
Experimenting with the composition will almost always end up with a better shot. It is acceptable to take the first shot simply standing up. But it is advisable to experiment a little, laying down on the ground to get a lower shot, climbing on top of something to get a higher shot. Experimenting with different angles is the most effective.
Shooting from varying distances is equally effective. Starting with a wide shot, then a mid-range shot followed by a close up shot. One should never be satisfied with the first idea of an image. It is important to shoot three or four alternatives.
Elements other than the object of interest should also be focused on. A powerful foreground, midground or background can seriously affect the quality of an image. For instance, if your subject is a bird then the foreground could be an interesting rock or a stream or something similar.
A lot of photographers practice focal compression as a form of experimentation. It involves using zoom lenses to make the object of interest look much closer than it is in real life.
7. Make Travel Photography A Priority
People often assume that just travelling to one place and getting a couple photographs is good enough. But it could not be farther from the truth. Travel photography cannot take a backseat during your tours, that is how people end up with generic pictures that are similar to those clicked by hundreds of other people.
Travel photography requires you to commit a significant amount of your time to it, to ensure getting good pictures. ‘Photography Time’ needs to be worked into your schedule. Travelling with friends who are not so mad about photography poses a real challenge for those looking to get some amazing clicks. It is necessary to move away from the crowd and get some clicks in privately.
The best option is to get a rental car. That way the whole trip is controlled by you, and you can stop wherever and a number of times without being disturbed. There is nothing worse than being stuck on a passenger bus and passing something that could make for a great composition and be powerless to stop and capture it.
8. Never Underestimate The Human Element
Living vicariously through the person in an image is all what most people have, they like to pretend that they are the ones standing under those mountainous peaks and pristine blue waters themselves. The human element in a picture adds to the emotion that the photo is trying to convey.
This can be achieved by posing a subject in a way that they become anonymous. If people can’t identify someone in pictures, it becomes easier for them to identify said person as themselves.
The human element adds a better sense of scale to the images. By placing your subject in a location near an object, it becomes easier to get a sense of the difference in their sizes compared to each other.
Images become more powerful when a person is included in them. They help tell a very personal story. The idea that is being conveyed can be changed drastically with the inclusion of a person in the picture.
9. Patience Is Key
Photography involves observing your surroundings, being in the moment. It is all about seeing, really seeing, not just with your eyes but with your heart and mind as well. It is a highly emotional affair. It requires dedicated attention and time. Making a conscious effort and slowing down can be the difference between a good and a bad picture.
It is extremely important to pay attention to details. The smallest differences can be the reason behind making a picture beautiful. Photography is mainly about waiting for the right moment to come by. Sit in a photogenic corner of a street and wait for a photogenic person to pass you. Lack of patience may cost you a fantastic opportunity to click a picture.
Good photography takes time. One has to be willing to spend hours and hours on end looking for one good picture. That is what professionals do. More patience that one exhibits, the better their pictures get.
10. Protect Against Theft
Cameras cost a fortune and are the prime targets for theft while traveling. There are several precautions that can be taken in order to prevent any unfortunate incidents from taking place.Camera insurance is the best way to ensure that any losses you incur due to theft or accidents are kept to a minimal. Several organisations offer insurance to its members.
It is important to ensure that the gear is secure while it is not being used. Hotel safes and hostel lockers should be used to store all the gear in. One should never give the camera in as check-in luggage it should be taken as hand-baggage on flights. One should avoid flashing the camera in sketchy and poor neighbourhoods. Store it in nondescript bags till it has to be used so as to not attract any unwanted attention.
One should always register new gear with the manager, keep track of all serial numbers and save all purchase receipts to make the process of insurance claims faster and easier for all parties involved in case of theft and damages.
11. Use Manual Mode
People believe that modern cameras now smart enough to click pictures on their own in AUTO mode. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Auto mode helps you click decent pictures, but in order to click truly great pictures one should always use the Manual Mode. New photographers are often unaware of how to use all the settings on their cameras in manual mode. These settings include ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Knowledge of the relationship and how to use these settings well is what defines a good photographer. The ability to navigate them perfectly helps one capture stunning images.
To do this, switch your camera mode to ‘Manual Mode’. This mode gives you complete control over the functioning of the camera. Manually adjusting the aperture gives you control over the depth of field. Manually control over the shutter speed lets you capture motion much more creatively. Manually controlling the ISO lets you reduce the noise in images and deal with situations in tricky lighting.
12. Always Carry Your Camera
There is a saying that captures the essence of photography quite accurately, “the best camera is the one you have with you”. Be ready for anything and always carry a travel camera with you so as to ensure that you never miss anything. Luck plays a very important role in travel photography. The difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is that the latter is always prepared for their luck to kick in. They have pre-planned their routine if they come across something that is photogenic.
You never know when an excellent opportunity to click a picture may present itself. You may see something that catches your eye and attracts you even while you are walking around casually. One should always keep their camera with them, charged up and ready for action.
13. Get Lost On Purpose
Once you cover the iconic and popular photogenic places you should move on and explore the unknown. Walk down the road less taken in search of interesting compositions, get lost on purpose. In order to get unique images you have to go to unique locations and look at things with a unique perspective. Explore the area, look for beauty in the mundane. The best way to do this is to set out on foot without having a destination in mind, just letting the road take you wherever it wants to.
Carry your camera and head out into the unknown. Check with the locals to make sure that you are safe wherever you go. Wander down alleyways, trek to mountain tops and more.
14. Backup Your Media
Along with camera insurance, it is essential to back up all your media both online and offline. It might just save all the effort that you put in- in collecting, compiling and editing all those images. External hard-drives can be used in order to back up images offline. Google Drive is a great alternative for storing images online. Images should be saved once, followed by a file of select images and a file of images that have been edited.
15. Get Better At Post-Processing
A ridiculous myth is often circulated amongst photographers about how editing is cheating. This statement is extremely untrue. All professional photographers edit their photos. Some do it more than others, applications like Photoshop and Lightroom are some of the most famous ones used for post-processing.
This is a very important part of a travel photographer’s workflow. A travel photographer edits his images similar to a film photographer making adjustments in the darkroom. Learning how to process images is as important as clicking them in the first place. This involves learning about how to sharpen images. Boost shadows, improve contrast etc.
Spending money on professional editing softwares and tutorials can really help you improve the quality of the images.
16. Don’t Obsess Over Camera Equipment
There is a wide array of equipment in the market, claiming to make you a better photographer. This false promotion of products claims that it is the equipment that makes a great photographer. But it is untrue. Just like the type of paint brush does not make a great painter, similarly the type of equipment does not make a great photographer.
Creativity, experience and knowledge are what make great photographers. Camera companies market their products much better compared to that of brush companies. The way it is done makes you feel like you need that expensive product in order to make it as a photographer. In reality you do not. Professionals use expensive equipment because it offers them the opportunity to produce a wider range of images. For example, low light astrophotography or fast action wildlife photography. They need this equipment because their work is usually meant to be sold as works of fine arts.
It is smarter to spend time learning the complete settings of your camera instead of spending a fortune on camera equipment in the hope that the equipment will make you a better photographer.
17. Never Stop Learning
This is true for all fields of work, but more so in the case of photography. One should always try to keep learning from different sources. An online photography tutorial, a travel photography workshop, practicing near your locality on a regular basis instead of buying expensive gear and using filters on instagram and snapchat, are all ways to become a better photographer.
If you feel like you have mastered a particular genre of photography, then go out of your comfort zone and try your hand at other genres. For instance, stalk animals like a hunter, stay up late trying to shoot long exposures of the night sky.