Five Tips for Stunning Travel Photographs
Despite the global economic gloom and doom there are still many people traveling, exploring new countries and cultures or enjoying a well deserved holiday.
When you combine this fact with the fact that photography is so much more accessible and affordable than ever before with the multitude of digital camera options available, taking home some quality travel photos as souvenirs of your adventure is certainly high on the list for many recreational travellers.
So whether you are an absolute novice or a travel enthusiast it is likely you will be trying to capture some of the magic of your holiday in the form of photographs, be it on your trusty smartphone, a full version digital SLR or anything in between.
One common complaint, when people first view their travel photos, is that the photographs simply don't capture how wonderful the holiday was. The purpose of the simple tips below is not to turn you into a professional photographer at 10000 feet whilst winging your way to your destination.
It is simply to provide you with a quick check list of very easy steps to greatly improve your photographic outcome and record your particular journey. The difference between holiday snapshots and great travel photography and is your ability to capture the feel or mood of a scene rather than simply take a picture of a place.
So here are five of my top tips to greatly improve your outcome.
Turn off your inbuilt flash
The in camera flash has really very limited application. Remember it will not effectively light anything further away than a few meters at most. It may be useful to provide some additional face lighting or "fill-in" if you have someone in the foreground of your photo but much better to try to place your subject in natural light if there is any available or to increase the ISO speed to 400 or 800 rather than using flash as this will require much less ambient (naturally available) light to adequately expose your shot without the addition of flash.
Flash will often trick the camera into thinking it has an adequate exposure when it hasn't and you will end up with an entire collection of underexposed photos. Ambient light will lend much better atmosphere and feel to a scene than flash and remember we are all about capturing the feel of a place.
Rock solid- use readily available camera “rests”
Ok, so the trade off with not using your inbuilt flash is that you will have longer exposure times and so hand holding might become more difficult. This is where some people will use tripods to steady the camera but for most travellers a tripod is not part of your standard day gear. You need to find some way to brace yourself and your camera to eliminate movement. Often concrete or stone pillars or walls will work wonders.
You need to line up your shot in the viewfinder whilst firmly bracing your camera against something that will not move. You can also sit the camera on a nearly table or fence, anything that will give you some degree of stability.I have even placed my camera on the ground with something chocked under the lens to tilt it up to view the scene and come away with completely acceptable movement free images.
Get down on your knees and play
The last point introduces the fact that you can play with many interesting angles and viewpoints with your photos. Few subjects benefit from a straight on head-height approach photographically. You will be amazed how different the exact same scene can appear from down low or even ground level. So get down on your knees.By bringing the camera down lower you can include details like cobble stone paving which help to give a scene more depth and detail and lead the viewer into your scene.
Alternatively climb on a nearby wall, go up onto a higher plane- climb those 200 steps to get up to the viewing platform or bell tower if need be, if that works for you- it will pay dividends in the resultant photographs.
Zoom in & Zoom Out
The human eye is incredible in that we can quickly change from viewing an entire scene, then rapidly change to focus in on specific details- when we combine both of these aspects in our mind we build up an impression of place, scene or experience. One single shot will rarely tell an entire story. Think about this when you set about capturing your holiday experience.
Take a mix of overview shots supplemented with a host of detail photos. For example if you are wandering a market place take several shots to document the walkways and overall setting then a number of detail photos demonstrating the specifics of what is on sale- from exotic foods to local handicrafts.
a )Wait for that person to walk out of your shot…..
In some cases patience is rewarded and waiting for tourists to leave your frame will make a huge difference to the feel and quality of your photo. Be mindful of not just looking through the viewfinder but seeing through your viewfinder.
Sometimes you are so busy checking that you have an entire backdrop in the frame it is easy enough to not even see the bunch of tourists completely messing up the shot. So just be patient and wait for the tourists to continue on their way.
b) Wait for that person to walk into your shot…...
This seems a contradiction of the last point however consider it for a moment. We have just said we want those tourists out of frame to unclutter your view, however, in other cases it can certainly add a great deal to a scene to include people- particularly if they are local to an area and are wearing some kind of distinctive apparel.
It is a good idea, and far less intrusive, to find somewhere quiet to sit with a nice backdrop or scene in view (enjoy a nice coffee or cool drink) , so as you can wait for a local to wander into your photo.
This will help you to develop a much better feel for your location than chasing someone down the street trying to manipulate a suitable composition in your photo.
Some people love capturing Local people in their travel photography, others love the landscapes and architecture. There is no right or wrong approach to what you will personally get out of a holiday and the same applies to your photos. If taking 589 photos of every aspect of the blue mosque intrigues you then you will likely be happy interpreting your holiday and framing it that way in your lens.
You may be willing to wait for long periods of time to capture the scene devoid of distracting "people". Your friend however might interpret the same scene in a very different way by giving context to the scene by deliberately framing and including worshipers in the scene.
If you know you like "people free photos" then be prepared to head out safely at hours you will be more likely to get satisfaction from your photography - early morning or late evening rather than the middle of the day.
You may need to be relatively flexible in this approach if you happen to be booked on a bus tour where inevitably schedules dictate the time available at a particular landmark. So the main insight here is to think about what kind of images you like and hope to capture,before you even turn on your camera, then work to make them happen!
In summary, you want to use a combination of the following strategies:
• turn off your flash unit
• play with angles
• use solid camera rests
• zoom in and out and most of all
• be patient!
Keep these 5 top tips in mind you will be sure to have some great photographic keepsakes of your trip.
Kathryn Weir is a wife and mother of 4 children who has both travelled and lived abroad ( in Australia, Hong Kong and England) and has photographed many parts of the world, ranging from historic monuments to everyday moments in her subjects lives. After many years in her chosen profession of ultrasound she has recently formed a PhotoArt company which can be found at www.triptychphotoart.com