I once read that a camera is a great passport. Like the adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, a travel photo can speak volumes about where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, and who you’ve met. Every travel photo added to your collection is another stamp on your passport, another check on your bucket list and another story embedded in your memory. Here are some tips to help you document your experiences and turn them into vibrant memories, ready to be recalled time after time.
Make familiar things unfamiliar
My photography professor always said to remember these three things: lighting, angle, and composition. Present your subject in a new, refreshing way. While everyone is getting the same shot of famous landmarks (sure, you can hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa for tradition’s sake), try seeing it from a different perspective. Whether that means returning when the sun goes down, taking the photo while low on the ground, or avoiding centering the focus of your image, you may get a more thought-provoking shot. Choose less crowded spots to shoot from. While they may seem undesirable to others, you may actually get a more interesting photo. While everyone is touring the most popular spots, take the road less travelled and venture off to unique places to find inspiration. You can take two approaches to your travel photos: create a shot list of what photos you would like beforehand so you don’t go home without a specific one or don’t plan ahead and let the moment guide you.
Experiment with your camera before you leave
Play with your camera’s manual functions and learn the basics. Customizing your ISO, shutter speed, exposure, and aperture levels will give you more freedom to create the perfect photo. Want to catch that bird flying by? How about creating a silhouette or capturing the sunset? You can do it all! Mastering the technical elements is important. Practice taking the same photo with different settings to see what works best. And shoot, shoot, shoot. That’s the beauty of digital cameras. You’re bound to find something special in the mix of a hundred shots.
When I think of travel, I think about the vast, beautiful, and distinct lands of the world. Probably the most common photos travellers take are those of the sparkling beach or towering palm trees because they’re beautiful any way you shoot them. If you’re photographing a large area, use a wide angle lens and maximize your depth of field to see the whole landscape in focus. Do this by choosing a small aperture setting (a large number) and zooming out. If there is an obvious focal point in your photo, place it strategically. Think about the rule of thirds- sometimes photos look better if they’re not centered. If the sky is interesting, allow it to take up two thirds of your photo. If it’s the fields, make that your focus. If you want to capture movement, such as water, use a longer shutter speed. And don’t just shoot on sunny days, rain and overcast add a remarkable complexity to photographs.
Photos of people make your travel experiences much more real, because meeting new people is one of the highlights of travel. People make your experiences personal and emotional, so don’t forget to document that aspect as well. The photos will give context to different places and allow you to recall specific memories easier. If asking permission to take the photo will eliminate that candid quality you’re enticed by, shoot first and ask later. Otherwise, introduce yourself and simply ask permission to take a photo of a stranger. You may be rejected or you may make a new friend. Always remember to send the photo to people afterwards if they ask.
Always be ready
Carry your camera on you at all times and be prepared for anything that comes your way, especially when you want to capture moving people or animals. Have your settings just right and your finger on the shutter. You won’t have time to dig into your bag when the train passes or the fireworks begin. Be patient, whether that means waiting for people to move or waiting for the light to be just right. For things that can happen in an instant, increase your shutter speed so you don’t miss it.
You don’t need tons of equipment when you’re exploring, a small and compact camera will do. Whether you’re using your Smartphone or a DSLR, anyone can be a photographer. There is always editing software that can help you enhance your photos afterward. Remember things like contrast, brightness, and cropping functions can make all the difference.
What do you enjoy photographing the most?