5 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know
I started learning photography at a rather young age. My grandfather was an avid fan of photography and would always take pictures of us growing up. Whenever we were someplace new or at the beach, he is never without his trusty Nikon secured around his neck snapping photos of us and my aunts and uncles. My siblings and all our cousins were taught the basics of photography but it was only I who made a serious career out of it. It was a great way for me to honor my grandfather’s passion and every time I’m behind the lens, I remember him and feel his presence.
It was only after I went on my first out of the country trip that I realized I have a new calling. I have seen travel pictures in the past but I never really found it interesting. I specialized in portraiture and events photography. When I traveled I refuse to bring any of my bulky camera gear because of the weight and I fear they might get stolen or lost. But when the opportunity came to travel to another country, my friends insisted I take at least a basic camera body and one or two lenses to take pictures. I went and came home with thousands of pictures and an eagerness to start a new phase of my photographing career.
In the years that follow, I developed a sort of routine with my work. When I’m not traveling, I accept a couple of freelance photo shoot and some wedding shoots. I built up my repertoire of travel photos and was lucky enough to receive a few commissioned jobs around the country. Travel photography isn’t my main source of income but it became a sort of vacation from my normal jobs that I get. Having said that, here are my simple tips for those aspiring travel photographers out there.
A Good Camera is Key
Here’s a fun little surprise for you all, you don’t need a top-of-the-line, bank-breaking professional camera to take great photos. A good friend, and also a great photographer, only brings an Instax camera and a whole lot of cartridges on his travels. While a quality camera helps, it does not define the quality of your shots. Photography is all about skills. Knowing the angles, being aware of lighting, and yes, knowing how to manipulate your camera gear all add up to create stunning pictures.
My personal choice when I travel is sticking to only carrying one camera body, usually my favorite one, that’s lightweight yet still very versatile. And I take with me two or three lenses. Wherever I’m going, though, I will always bring a 50mm for any portrait shot because I love taking pictures of people I meet along the way. A 35mm lens, I found, is also quite a versatile lens that can take reasonable portrait shots as well as landscape. Either way, the kind of camera you want to bring largely depends on your choice and preference.
Plan the Location
While it can be freeing to travel to new places with as minimal preparation as possible, it helps to create amazing shots when you know where you’re going. So if you’re planning to take a trip and take pictures, make sure you have an idea of the major points of interest you’re going to be visiting, the best time of the day to visit those places, and the best angle for creating stunning images. It also helps to do a little reading from other photographers who have visited the sites and learn of their tips and recommendations in shooting.
Still, the appeal of just shooting as you go can be a whole experience in itself. I like to hit the middle ground between the two. I do my research for the beautiful spots and sceneries I’d like to shoot properly but I don’t adhere to a strict schedule and rules in taking pictures. I find, over the years of taking pictures, great shots are captured on the go.
Get up Early
Anyone who knows me knows how hard it is to force me to get up in the morning and how much of a grouch I can be to rise early. In travel photography, though, you are left with little choice on the matter. If you want to avoid the huge throngs of people on tourist spots then you’ll have to bite the bullet and get up extra early ahead of the crowds. Suck it up, grab a cup, or two, of coffee, and get going before you are left with pictures filled with random stranger’s faces.
Lugging around a couple of thousand dollars of camera equipment in an unfamiliar city can really draw unwanted attention. While the world is relatively safe with friendly and helpful locals, there are still a few who will do just about anything to get a quick buck, including stealing. Make sure take out good travel insurance just in case of theft and make sure it covers your camera gear. It also helps if you invest in good solid luggage for your equipment with anti-theft measures. Also, keep a small amount of local money with you at all times and hide the rest somewhere safe.
When traveling, sometimes you get too caught up with composition and technique that we end up generating beautiful but, honestly, quite cliché shots. I have done this in the past, especially when I first started on this travel photography journey. There is nothing wrong with these kinds of shots. In fact, these shots allow you to improve your skills. But let’s not forget that photography is an art and in order for art to be effective, it has to have some value other than what is easily perceived. So, think outside the box when shooting your subjects, portraits or landscapes. It is perfectly fine to shoot regular travel photos but mix in a few creative and sometimes weird shots just so you have a little fun.
Sarah Brooks is a passionate blogger and frequent traveler who loves share tips on photography, technology and travel. She is currently working with VIP Photo Booth Hire, which offers the most glamorous and up-to-date photo booths on the market.