Travel photography is a great challenge. Take beautiful photos and it will help you remember the details of your experience even better and give you fun visual reminders to share with others. But if you don’t spend the right amount of time and energy, all you efforts will be wasted and you’ll carry home a camera bag full of boring, disappointing photos. Follow these tips and your digital cameras, whether you use a nice point & shoot or a DSLR, and you’ll be much happier with the memories you capture.
1. Gear – Plan what you bring and know how to use it effectively.
Serious photographers devote serious effort to planning what goes in their camera bags. You should do the same if you care about our photos at all, whether you have a few lenses for your DSLR or just want to be sure you have enough batteries, chargers, and memory cards for your point & shoot digital camera.
You need to learn to use that gear effectively as well. When you’re taking travel shots, you might have less time to get the perfect shot because you’re also busy doing whatever you want on the trip. So you need to maximize your time shooting by becoming comfortable with camera settings and features before you leave. That means practicing manipulating settings when not in full-auto mode and experimenting with lighting and different types of photography. You don’t want to be messing with getting the exposure right as a once-in-a-lifetime shot of a local riding an elephant walks out of frame and into the distance.
2. Plan your subjects.
Pros will say to make a list of all the types of shots you want to get before you even leave, just to give you something to fall back on and ensure you don’t miss obvious shots. Even if you don’t do this, take a few minutes over breakfast to think and talk about what you plan on doing for the day and consider what subjects and types of photography opportunities might arise. Some shots are easier to see when you’re in the moment, and some when you know what to look for before you get there.
3. Zoom with your feet.
This is actually advice given to explain the benefit of fixed 50mm lenses for training new photographers to try different angles and shooting positions, but the logic holds no matter what you carry in your camera bag. Let your feet help you find the right shot. Once you know what you want to shoot, walk around it, try getting higher or lower, find foreground objects to add depth or people to create movement, and do anything else you can to help you identify and distil the core feature of the subject that makes it exciting to look at.
This can also help you to focus your composition, allowing you to eliminate unnecessary and distracting details such as plants, people, or other elements that are not furthering your development of the main thing that interests you.
4. Slow down, review, try again.
You take bad photos. It’s true of all of us and it will never change. The difference between you and a pro is that the pro reviews after every few shots and takes the time to analyze everything in frame on the LCD screen to improve from one shot to the next. So don’t be afraid to take four times more photos of an object than you could ever want. But make the exercise worthwhile by looking at a shot, deciding why it fails to capture the essence that drew you to snap the photo in the first place. Be critical and explicit, identifying objects that don’t belong, angles or colors that aren’t helping, and things in or out of focus that you dislike, as well as looking at what works. Then try again to address those issues.
Never rely on the LCD to evaluate and delete photos. Wait until you’re reviewing on your large computer monitor with better colors and no glare. One of the wonders of 12+MP cameras is you can often crop down to an entirely different photo on your computer if you take the time to look at shots and see what details you may have accidentally captured.
There’s more to great travel photography than just what’s in your camera bag. It is worth putting in the effort to review and use these tips so you can bring home hundreds of one-thousand-word shots from your next excursion or vacation.