Tired of the same old travel photos with a smiling person in front of a monument that everyone has seen a million times?
Yawn. There’s nothing worse for a photographer than seeing mediocre photos from an interesting place.
If you really want to capture the essence of your trip and tell a story, you need to learn the best travel photography tips. From choosing the right equipment for different purposes to seeing scenes in a new way, upping your photography game can bring your standard vacation pictures to a new level.
Here are some pointers to help you along the way…
Include People in The Scene
When shooting buildings and other monuments that are unique to a city, people often wait until the scene is clear of people before snapping. However, while it’s fine to get shots of just a building if that’s what you’re after, including local people adds visual appeal and more context. It shows what the locals wear and how they interact. It also provides a sense of scale.
When you’re shooting a number of people in a scene, most times it’s OK to just snap away. However, once in a while you’ll come across someone with a lot of character that you want to isolate in the image. You can try going for the candid street photography route if you’re comfortable with that, but the subject might not be.
If you want a portrait, it’s best to approach the subject and ask, or motion with your camera if they don’t speak your language. A smile and a nod are all you’re looking for. The worst that can happen is that they say no, or perhaps they’ll ask for a bit of local currency in exchange.
Limit Your Gear
If you’re in a new city and you want to explore every nook and cranny of it on foot, then you’re not going to want to lug around a bunch of heavy equipment. That means you need to choose your lenses wisely and decide if you really need that tripod, especially if you’re shooting during the day.
Usually, you should stick with one camera body, and maybe two or three lenses at the most. Prime lenses that are fixed at one focal length (such as 50 mm) offer great sharpness, but if you’re shooting more landscapes than people you might want to opt for something wider like a 24 mm.
If you’re only bringing one lens, you might want to go with a lens that has a wide and telephoto range (like a 28-200 mm). These lenses are a bit bulkier and not always as sharp as prime lenses, but they’ll cover every purpose you’ll need them for.
Bring Multiple Memory Cards
Memory cards are pretty reliable as a whole, but there’s always a chance of a card failure. The mistake that many travel photographers make it carrying one super high-storage card rather than 3 or 4 smaller capacity cards.
If you get an error when you’re out shooting, then you’re faced with two choices: go back to your hotel to try and fix the problem or buy another card from a vendor, possibly at a higher price than what you’d pay at home. If you have a spare card you can simply pop it in and keep shooting so you don’t lose your momentum.
On that note, you should carry an extra charged battery with you too.
Look For New Angles
Perhaps you’re in a city that has a very recognizable landmark. You could take the same old photo of it like millions of other travelers do, or you can try to figure out a way to put a unique spin on it.
For example, you could use nearby foliage to frame the landmark for an added touch, or you can get closer if possible and shoot upwards. Or get further back and show how the building flows with the landscape. Just remember that some landmarks are actually prohibited to photograph – including the Eiffel Tower at night.
Try a few different angles to give yourself a choice if you’re planning on making prints later.
Join a Tour
Maybe you’re in a place where you don’t know the language and you don’t know the best places to photograph. Joining a tour provides a guide to take you right to the photo ops you might not have if you’re shooting solo, and it also provides another element of safety.
Andy & Mia’s tours, for example, can take you into pockets of China that aren’t easily accessible but show off the local culture.
Look For Locations That Aren’t as Photographed
Sure, it’s natural to want to capture all of the buildings and places in a city that has helped make it famous. But you can also scout out other interesting locations in a city that aren’t as photographed but may be equally impressive.
Do some research online or ask the locals for tips about what to shoot that’s off the beaten path. Mapping out all the places you want to shoot beforehand can help you better plan how to get there, maximizing your time in the field.
Write Down Information
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That doesn’t mean you have to scribble a thousand words for each photo you take, but you’ll thank yourself later jotting down some key points.
It’s tough to remember every location and names of the buildings you come across. Making a quick note and putting the photo file number (you should be able to view this in the camera) will let you attach information to the photos when you share them. If you don’t have a means of writing down notes (your phone will also do the trick) then taking a quick photo of any plaques or other identifying words can help too.
Get Out Early, Stay Out Late
In some cities that are very popular with tourists, you might find landmarks are hard to shoot for all the other tourists in the way. While you want people in your photos sometimes, you don’t want a picture showing three other cameras pointing at the same subject.
One way to avoid this is to leave your hotel and start shooting at sunrise to beat the crowds. You can also stay out later and wait for the other photographers to go back to their home base. Just remember that at night you might need to lug along a tripod for sharper photos in the low light.
Getting awesome photos sometimes means you have to wait around awhile. Whether you’re willing to put time into your photos will directly affect how impactful your images are.
For example, maybe you’ve seen a postcard of the northern lights in Canada and want to recreate the scene. But that involves getting to the best spots and waiting for the right conditions for them to show up.
If you’re primarily shooting people, that might mean waiting in the same location until someone very interesting wanders by. Or maybe you want a shot of a shopkeeper peering out from a window. These all take timing and patience to achieve.
Take Cellphone Shots
While your expensive camera is busy capturing all the high-quality photos, you can also snap a few scenes on your phone to post on social media as teasers. (Just be sure your phone plan doesn’t charge you extra if you’re using data outside of your home country.)
Smartphones are also a great tool to record video snippets of your journey to share with people in real-time before you get a chance to sit down and edit photos.
Practice Safety and Common Sense
In any city in the world, there’s a risk you could run into trouble if you’re not careful – perhaps in some more than others. When you’re in a place where you don’t know the language or the customs, you may want to be a little more vigilant.
Always be aware of your surroundings, and make sure you have travel insurance for both yourself and your gear in case it disappears. Always secure your bag when you open it to change lenses. Try not to use bags that have the name of the camera manufacturer scrawled across it if possible. Opt for more nondescript bags. Keep your head up and don’t flash your camera around until it’s time to take the photo.
Having some local currency on hand and traveling in pairs or even as a group can help make your travel experience a safer one.
Follow Travel Photography Tips For Better Photos
You may be an experienced photographer, but traveling with a camera is a different story. Thinking creatively, looking for new angles and keeping safety in mind is key to making your best photos while vacationing.
By following some of these travel photography tips, you can help people enjoy viewing the scenes as much as you did while visiting them!
Check out the site often to learn more travel tips and prime destinations to visit.