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Travel photography is one of the most evocative, powerful and popular genres of photography, and whether you work in a professional capacity or as a keen hobbyist there are many ways that you can improve your photos. The best travel photography can truly capture the imaginations of your audience and evoke a real sense of place.
There’s a wide variety of opportunities in the travel photography genre and as long as you have a good sense of adventure and an eye for a stunning panorama then you can succeed in the industry. Blogs, magazines, travel agencies and companies rely on the expertise of skilled travel photographers to promote their services and stand out from the crowd. A series of fantastic travel photos will make your audiences want to explore the world for themselves and inspire them to travel and learn more.
However, even as an amateur photographer you can take top quality travel photos of your holidays and travel experiences. Photographs make one of the best souvenirs that you can bring back home with you to save those precious memories you made abroad.
Each country, region or city has its own unique landscapes, culture, people and ‘feel’. It’s not always easy to capture the elusive nature of a place with a still image, but with practise you can begin to do just that.
Essentials For Creating Good Travel Photography.
The following are some of the key things to keep in mind for good travel photography:
Rise Early And Stay Out Late.
The early bird, as the old saying goes, catches the worm, and never is this more true than in the travel photography genre. Getting up early will not only allow you to avoid the larger crowds of tourists at popular sites where you won’t want them cluttering your photos; but it also lets you make the most of the soft morning light.
When you are taking travel photos you should also be prepared to stay out later than the average tourist so you can shoot photos in the evening light as well. Catching both of the Golden Hours during the day will give you the maximum opportunity to shoot great images. This is particularly important if you’re only staying in a place for a few days or weeks.
Essentially, to take those iconic postcard style photos you’re going to need to be prepared to put in the extra hours but the results will also be well worth it.
Forward Planning And Scouting.
Before you arrive at your destination you should be researching and planning ahead. For example, you can locate a series of locations which you think would make good photos and then find out the easiest ways to get to them, checking public transport timetables and schedules and making any necessary arrangements in advance. This way your trip will be smooth and you won’t have to waste time doing things that you could have done ahead of time.
You can also reach out on social media, or in your circle of friends, to ask if anyone has been there before so you can get a few tips. Social media, especially Instagram and Pinterest, are excellent resources for your pre-trip planning and the images you see may well inspire your own work too.
The last thing you want is to be wandering around wondering where you are and how to find a good place to shoot some photos! Also try to get an idea of what the weather conditions will be like when you arrive so you can pack the right clothes and, if necessary, take a waterproof camera case with you.
Use The Rule Of Thirds In Your Compositions.
One of the best compositional tools that you can use to supercharge your travel photography is the Rule of Thirds. To use this technique, you can imagine a grid with three vertical and three horizontal lines. You can then use these as guidelines for where to place the horizon and other points of interest in the photo.
For instance, if you want to emphasize the sky then you can place the horizon on the lower third line and then the main subject of the photo, a lighthouse for example, can be placed on one of the central intersections.
Using the Rule of Thirds is an easy way to create harmonious images and many digital cameras even have a ‘grid’ feature, where you can switch on a grid that shows over the frame to help with your compositions.
Always Take A Travel Tripod.
It’s always helpful to have a small, lightweight travel tripod with you so you can take images without any shakes. Using a tripod also lets you take your time in lining up the shot and means that you can take photos using a slow shutter speed.
Your tripod is a vital tool to use when shooting the stars at night or if you want to create a sense of movement with the clouds blurring across the sky. You can also take your time when you’re setting the aperture, ISO and other manual controls on the camera without feeling flustered or rushed. Using a tripod also lets you make use of more advanced techniques such as focus stacking or High Dynamic Range imaging.
You can buy foldable tripods that are extremely lightweight and have adjustable legs which can be used on almost any surface.
Keep Experimenting With Angles, Perspectives and Composition.
Changing the angle at which you take a photo can make a huge difference to the outcome, so when you spot a scene that you want to shoot, take the time to consider the different types of angles and perspectives that you could use.
You should also try the shot from varying distances to see what looks just right. Remember, you are likely to have travelled a long way to get to the spot so it’s worth spending an extra few minutes while you are there to make the very most of the opportunity.
Playing around with the elements of the scene is fun and can yield great results. For instance, if you are taking a landscape photo you might want to include a flower or a tree in the foreground to add more interest and layers to the image.
Include The Human Element In Your Work.
Travel photography is not just about taking photos of iconic buildings and panoramic views, although they are important aspects of it. Some of the most powerful images that really manage to capture the essence of a location include the people who live there.
Different cultures have interesting clothes, jewelry and ways of dressing that tell a great story about the place you are visiting. Incorporating people in your travel photography adds an authentic sense of narrative and is always interesting for your audience, particularly if you are in far flung parts of the world.
However, when you do include people in your photos you should always be sensitive to their culture and where possible, ask their permission first! In most cases people will be more than happy to pose in your photos and so you won’t need to offer to pay them. But once again, you should use your common sense. For example, if you were taking a photograph of a market stall vendor in front of the products they are selling, you could buy a few items from them after you’ve taken their photo as a polite way of saying thank you.
Be Patient And Wait For The Right Moment.
Sometimes you’ll need to be patient and wait for the right moment to take the perfect photo. Obviously, this applies if you are waiting for the sunset but it also applies to other times as well.
Sometimes, waiting for the clouds to be in the right place, or a train to pass on the tracks, can transform a mediocre photo into something that is really epic. In some cases you might even have to wait for a few hours to get the photo you envision!
A good tip for travel photographers is to always take some snacks and a bottle of water with you while you’re out shooting so you can refresh yourself whilst you wait for the perfect shot!
Be Sensible About The Risks.
When you are travelling in foreign countries you need to be a little bit more careful than you would be at home. It’s often the case that cameras are a popular target for thieves and pickpockets so you should try to take some reasonable precautions.
For example, it’s safer to keep your camera bag around the front of your body while you are in busy cities as opposed to in a rucksack or by your side. You should also invest in some basic camera insurance so that if the worst does happen you can replace your camera without losing too much money.
When you’re leaving your accommodation without your camera it’s always worth storing it in the hotel safe. Not all hotels and hostels have safes in the rooms but you can always leave it behind the reception desk so you can collect it when you get back.
While it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and spend plenty of time researching your destination before you arrive it’s also good to follow your feet and leave things a bit more to chance. If you’re visiting a foreign city it can be fun to allow yourself to get lost and see where you find yourself. This is a sure fire way to stumble upon some incredible scenes that you would never have otherwise found, even with the most detailed planning!
In many places, the locals tend to avoid the tourist hotspots so by getting off the beaten track you can start to capture more authentic photos of life in the country.
If you’re worried that you won’t be able to find your way back to your hotel then you can just jump into a taxi because you don’t want to be permanently lost in a foreign city!
Always Backup Your Photos.
It’s vital to backup your photos while you are away from home. This can avert absolute disasters like arriving back home after your travels to discover that you’ve lost your photos or the files are corrupted.
It’s good to get into the habit of saving your photos every night in the hotel. You can save them onto your external hard drive or another physical device but to be extra safe, you can upload them to the internet where you can access them at any time.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Using Post Processing.
Although you should try to avoid relying on post production to improve your photography, when it’s used in moderation it can add just the right touch to your work. It’s usually better to use a RAW format in your photography so you have more flexibility in the editing suite.
If you haven’t done much post processing before then you can start out by practicing to change the contrasts, sharpen elements within the image, modify the tones of colors and experiment with the overall exposure levels.
What’s The Best Lens To Use For Travel Photography?
There’s no right answer to the question as to which is the perfect lens to be using in your travel photography. However, if you can, it’s ideal to have a nice selection of lenses with you while you’re out on the road.
One of the most effective lenses for capturing the magnificence of the natural world, panoramas and city views is the wide angle lens. You can use these lenses to shoot scenery while still maintaining a good depth. A good wide angle lens will have a lower aperture and it will also let you shoot great photos without noticeable distortions in the image.
As well as your wide angle lens you should have a good all round lens, such as a 24-70mm zoom lens. This gives you a huge flexibility and really is the jack of all trades when it comes to lenses. The lens is wide enough to shoot landscapes but it’s also perfect for portraits and tighter, close up pictures.
Lastly, a telephoto lens, with a focal length of 70-200mm, is an amazing addition to your travel photography gear. A telephoto has an incredible focal range and will let you zoom right into points of interest in a landscape. It’s ideal for wildlife photos as well as vast landscapes such as mountain ranges and deserts.
Travel Photography Is An Exciting Artform To Explore While You See The World.
Travel photography is one of the most interesting genres to be working in and whether you are doing so professionally or as an amateur, it adds a wonderful aspect to the joys of travel.
There are many ways that you can improve your work but you should also trust your instincts and follow your gut feelings! Seeking out the perfect views, the best representations of a culture and the essence of a travel destination is exciting, uplifting and helps to bring the world closer together.
At the end of the day, travel photography is an excellent way to express yourself and the way that you see the world around you, but don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing it!
What else do you think is important for good travel photography?