Become a better travel photographer
Don’t forget to…
- Bring the battery charger, travel adapter and extra memory.
- Keep your camera close to you in your hand baggage.
- Back up your photos, not only on your computer but also on an external hard drive and/or cloud-storage service.
- Go through your photos and delete duplicates or unsuccessful shots.
- Develop your best pictures and do something with them, for example make a photo album, calendar or postcards.
It is worth giving some thought to which type of camera you’re going to take with you. A system camera gives you more options, but a compact camera is easier to carry around and less daunting to stare into. It is also easier to capture the moment with a point-and-shoot camera, especially when it is set to fully automatic and all you have to do is focus on taking the shot.
In the morning and evening the sun is lower in the sky and shadows are softer, but that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to those times of the day. Learn to work with the harsher shadows cast by the sun when it’s at its highest point around noon. For example, you can use them to frame a scene. Another good trick is to shoot the object/subject in the shade if possible and use a flash to soften contrasts. Should the sun disappear behind a cloud, seize the chance to take some portraits. Last but not least familiarize yourself with the histogram, a bar graph that measures exposure. A simple rule of thumb is that the histogram should be evenly distributed and arch upward in the center of the graph.
Subject, background, perspective
Don’t be afraid to get a new angle on something. Think outside the box. Shoot from above or below for effect, or wade into water to get a shot of the beach. Some say the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur is that the pro gets much closer.
Fight the (natural) impulse to place the object/subject in the middle of the picture. If you have a grid function on your camera use it. A crooked horizon can be cool, but often it’s just annoying.
The rule of thirds grid is a classic rule of proportion, with the image divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines. For a balanced composition place the subject along a line or, even better, where two lines intersect. You can also look for “leading lines” that guide a viewer through an image. Our eyes usually pick up on strong lines when we look at a photo automatically making them a useful framing device.
Remember to keep it clean. Can you avoid unwanted clutter, such as signs and cars, appearing in the background? If you are shooting in a city, don’t try to capture everything in a single shot, focus on what’s most important.
Kneel when you photograph children so you’re not looking down on them.
Posing makes people uncomfortable. Try to put people at ease; have some party tricks up your sleeve, something that will make them laugh. When you’re shooting small children, check the shot first and then maintain eye contact with them while taking the photo. Smile and there’s more chance that they’ll smile back.
Photographing someone in action makes a much more interesting photo. Likewise try shooting on the move. Using a slower shutter speed allows the camera image sensor to pick up movement and capture it. If you’re shooting at night, use autofocus to track a moving car, for example.
Don’t be scared of passersby, they inject life into your photos. Walking around with a camera in your hand is a good excuse to talk to people and get a feel for a place.
Many cameras today do a good job, but you can always do a bit of retouching on your computer. Simply adjusting the contrast and brightness, colors or sharpness can be enough. You can also crop pictures, but make sure you don’t chop off any fingers, toes or limbs.
If you’re going to work a lot with your pictures shoot in RAW, that way you will have the opportunity to “go back in time” and process an image differently. RAW images take up more memory than JPEGs but they are easier to change.
Know when to try your luck
Spontaneity can pay off – especially if there’s a lot going on around you and no time to do anything else than point and click – but other shots are worth waiting for.
Published: March 17, 2015