10 Secrets for better travel photos
How to get that perfect shot on holiday, without a lot of fancy equipment.
Travel lightly, as heavy equipment can quickly ruin your trip. Still though have all the essential tools with you. Plan ahead and bring only the lenses you need, pack a good travel tripod, never forget spare batteries, memory cards and appropriate clothing. A good camera bag can make a huge difference.
Research your location
Depending on where you travel to, certain locations can be hard to reach, busy at certain times, etc. It is important to research in advance. Take a look at other photographers approach of the same subject, and review local recommendations. It can also come in handy to make notes or even a mood board where you collect inspiration. Also don’t forget to check google maps for directions and accessibility. Prepare to make an effort if you want to take that special photo. You may want to book a private tour off the public tracks or ask for access to private property, rooftops etc. Asking around nicely can often get you into places other’s won’t have access to, and give you a much quieter time to take your shot. Simply try not to be where all the tourists are, and you are half way there!
It’s all about Light
When traveling you can run into different lighting situations. You can’t always control nature, harsh sunlight can quickly change into dull gray on a cloudy day, which makes for a completely different look. Know in advance what you are looking for. Make sure you are familiar with the benefits of the various situations, and don’t forget to consider shooting at night or dawn. The golden and blue hour are most attractive for moody evenly lit shots. We recommend using the twilight calculator by jekophoto, which is a brilliant and handy planning tool for the perfect outdoor shot!
Know where the sun is
Familiarize yourself with a compass, and know where the sun is at what time of the day, by using the tool mentioned above. Shooting towards and into the sun can be way more interesting, than having it behind you. Having the sun from the side produces dark shadows and uneven skies, which is usually not so flattering, unless you can soften the shadows with additional light, using a flashgun or sunbounce. Low sun during the time of sunset or sunrise is generally considered the most pleasant for outdoor photography. Get up early and be prepared to stay up late, if you want to have that perfect picture. Make sure you are at the right spot at the right time, and rather spend the afternoon at the pool than trying to deal with unpleasant light from above. You time will come once the sun sets.
Good composition has a harmonic balance between foreground, mid-, and background.
Look closely at the shot you are about to take, and notice the lines in the picture, and where they lead to. Sides of a road, corners of buildings, the horizon. Up or down, falling or rising, can make a huge difference between photographs. Pay attention to where your lines are pointing, how they interact with each other and try to compose your shot and angles so the lines are in harmony, or form an interesting pattern. Avoid lines that cross annoyingly or don’t go well with the overall tone of your motive. Then again, having a counterbalance can be very interesting if done right, and you can’t always avoid lines going chaotic. The bottom line about lines is: Don’t neglect their existence, and know what a massive impact they can have on a perfect shot. Harness their power!
Rule of thirds
Learn to utilize the rule of thirds and arrange your image accordingly. Instead of having the main subject in the center, move it to the center of the right or left half or your frame. Also know how to use the golden ratio to place your objects harmonically in frame.
Beat the tourists
Get in front. Who want’s the back of other peoples heads in their picture? This is an essential thing. Get to the front of the line, snatch a spot with no one in your way, and be a little patient until that bunch of tourists that was blocking your view moved off frame. It is always good to be polite, but you will quickly notice that sometimes as a photographer you will also need to be inconsiderate to get that perfect shot. Having a helping hand to prevent passers by from walking into your frame while you are busy, can be very helpful. We’re not encouraging rudeness here, but especially on busy places you should be determined to get what you came for, so you can move on to your next location, without wasting too much time. At crowded places it is also always a good idea to take multiple images so you can edit out moving people or cars in photoshop later, using a photo stacking method.
If none of your muscles hurt while you are taking your shot, you are doing it wrong. Get down and get dirty! Get that interesting angle and put your camera into places no normal person would ever think of. Shooting from below the waistline is always a good start, closely above the ground can be better, but also consider shooting from high above, climb a tree, shoot through a bush, simply be creative. If you put some effort into getting weird angles, you will quickly notice creativity fly off the shelf all by itself.
Tell a story
Don’t just take a mindless snap to show where you were, instead always tell a story with your photography. Simple as that. As tough as it sounds, given your story can be anything you can imagine, it’s actually pretty easy. Simply remembering to “tell a story” will greatly improve the way you look through your viewfinder.