How to Prepare for Travel Photography
Warmer weather is just around the corner, and a lot of photographers are preparing to take their summer pilgrimages around the world. While some travel photography is spontaneous, a lot of it takes quite a bit of planning to execute. We spoke with travel and lifestyle photographer Ilona Izabella as well as Sony Artisan Tony Gale about how to prepare to take stellar travel shots, from landscape to street.
Do Your (Historical) Research
If you’re a history buff, then you probably already know something about the place you’re about to visit. If not, crack open a Wikipedia page! “I also like to read about the history of a destination or about some of the sights,” says Ilona Izabella, “to have some knowledge of the place I am visiting, which I can sometimes use for my photography as well.” Knowing which historical spots to hit or what small features to look for helps Izabella “focus on the details of history that are still visible.”
Check Out Other Travel Photographers
Many travel photographers do some preliminary research online. However, Izabella recommends that you avoid spending too much time viewing “perfect pictures” on travel websites or photography magazines. “I look for “real” pictures taken by locals or other travelers,” she says. “Instagram is my biggest source of inspiration to get a first idea of the destination and to find hotspots that I want to go to.”
Be Patient (and Create!)
Do some yoga. Meditate. Take a deep breath before you go out shooting. In short: prepare to be patient. “For my street photography I mostly use the people that are already there, so that the photos will come out naturally,” says Izabella. “If I stumble upon a place that I want to photograph, but there are no people, I sometimes wait for someone to pass by or I “create” the scene I want to photograph, by asking a friend to walk there or photograph me when I walk there.” Waiting for shots to arise naturally is a great way to capture the coveted candid shot. If you’re in a situation where asking permission for an intimate, spontaneous street photograph is not an option, you can get creative. “When I photograph a street musician, I do not interrupt them to ask for a photo,” says Izabella. “I take my candid moment and leave them some money as a thank you, or sometimes buy their CD.”
Bring the Right Gear
The “right” gear is totally dependent on what you want to shoot when you travel. For street photography, 50mm or 35mm lenses are classic standbys — and a tripod makes a big difference if you can fit it in with your other travel gear. However, if you plan to shoot landscapes, Tony Gale recommends a few accessories in particular. “I bring a Sony a7RIII, a Sony 12-24/4 G, a Sony 100-400/4.5-5.6 G Master, a Sony 2x tele extender and a Gitzo Traveler tripod,” he says. “I’ll also bring a lighting trigger, a X-Rite Color Checker Passport and possibly Polarizing and ND filters. Plus extra SD cards and batteries.”
Check Google Maps
Before you walk out into the wilderness, Gale recommends starting with Google Maps (especially if it’s somewhere you’ve never been) to get a lay of the land. Satellite view is your friend here! “If it’s a National Park I will use the REI app for ideas as well,” says Gale. “I will also typically do a Google Image search, partially for ideas and partly so I don’t make the same photos everyone else does. There is also a website called Loaded Landscapes that has suggestions for places. Checking weather is important as well!” There’s nothing worse than performing your due diligence and showing up the day of to cloudy skies.
The more effort you put into preparing for your trip, the more wiggle room you’ll have when it comes to actually taking the best travel pictures. Remember to be patient and do your research, but don’t spend too much time flipping through photography magazines. If you do, then use it as a launchpad rather than a guidebook. Put some thought into what gear makes sense for your shots, and check the weather!
Images (1), (2), (3) copyright Ilona Izabella. Images (4), (5) copyright Tony Gale.