How to Take Travel Pictures
Traveling and taking photographs go hand in hand. There are so many different travel blogs, social media pages and people will slave away at their jobs for 6 months out of the year to get the chance to experience something else for a month and take a picture of every minute of the experience along the way. Let’s be honest though, a lot of these photos are cliche, boring or just downright bad. Having the chance to travel gives you the opportunity to show off the less-known wonders of the world, so stop doing what everyone else does and try exploring something different with our 10 essential tips for better travel pictures.
Get a Decent Camera
The most effective solution to improving your travel pictures is to just buy a decent camera. If you are serious about your travel photos, then researching the best travel cameras before your trip will make the whole taking picture process so much more enjoyable.
Decent travel cameras range from $400 to $1200 or even more, so you will need to use it frequently to ensure you get your money’s worth for higher end products. You can always rely on your ten year old camera from school, but this will hinder your photos. If you want to put these photos on a blog or submit them to competitions, you will need a decent quality camera to achieve this.
If you don’t want to lug a delicate and expensive camera around with you, then you can always use your smartphone camera. These won’t be as good as a proper digital camera, but there are still plenty of great quality smartphones on the market that come with excellent cameras. Some even work alongside dedicated camera companies, so you can still get the best photos possible with what you have got.
Use a Gimbal
Stabilizing your photos is something that is essential for achieving excellent photographs. There are few things more frustrating than checking on your photos after witnessing something amazing during your travels only to discover that it is blurry, ruining the perfect snap that you were so excited to get.
Both smartphone gimbals and camera gimbals are a great way of preventing this. A gimbal allows for stabilization as well as giving you the ability to rotate with ease. The gimbal keeps the camera steady when you are trying to get a crisp and clear video as well as when trying to take panoramic shots for those landscapes that are just too vast to fit into a single frame.
Investing in a gimbal for your phone or camera will take your photos to a whole new level of clarity. They work on 3 axes so you don’t need to rely on your maybe-not-so-steady hand to capture the perfect picture in some of the most amazing places around the world.
Invest in a Tripod
When traveling with friends you want to get the best group photos wherever you go. But this often comes with the issue of somebody missing out (to be photoshopped in later) or having awkward and poorly framed crapshoot selfies that might cut out heads, smiles and even the essential background.
Investing in smartphone tripods is a great solution to guaranteeing that each and every one of your friends gets in the photo without sacrificing the scenery. This frees up your hands to do all sorts of high fives, holding hands, pointing, thumbs up or whatever you like within the realms of civil decency, as well as getting a photograph that you can share with all your fellow friends for years.
Tripods come with adjustable legs, can range from the small to large and are stable enough to stand with ease on even the most uneven surface. You won’t have to worry about squeezing everyone into frame and can set the self-timer to give everyone the chance to perfect their smiles in time.
Learn how to use your camera
Many people’s photography suffers because they simply do not know how to use their camera. It is understandable, you are traveling, you are moving through city after city, slumming through buses and hostels and everything in between so you can feel like you just want to get every photo taken as soon as possible.
So, you rely on auto-focus which is nice and quick and convenient, but it doesn’t make for great photos. This is true even when you select the preset modes like Low-Light, Landscape, Beach and a myriad of other auto-scene recognitions they are not sophisticated enough to adequately capture the types of photos that you need in any scene.
Before you leave on your trip, take the time to read up on things like ISO, white balance, exposure, and all the other little features that will turn your photos from meh to yeah! It sounds like a lot of time and effort, but just checking out a tutorial on YouTube should put you on the right track.
Explore in Private
All travelers have their special places that they need to visit and see with their own eyes but as special as the visit was, there is a chance that it was ruined by everybody else doing exactly the same thing. You cannot be upset about this, but it is understandable to feel a little bit disappointed that your expectations vastly overstated the reality.
It is the curse of the traveler. You want to see cool stuff, but so does everybody else. So how can you ensure that you will be able to get that perfect, crowdless photograph with just you and the camera? The result is simple. Wake up early, grab your backpacking backpack, your camera and your sense of adventure and get there as early as possible. It sounds obvious, but forgoing your sleep and getting the first bus to whatever location you want to capture will get you the best photo possible.
If you enjoy your sleep and cannot deal with those often chilly early mornings, then visiting or staying later is another way to get a (mostly) private photo. The only problem with this is that you will lose the light quicker, so ensure that you have your exposure level sorted and you aren’t too scared of the dark.
Pick a Theme Each Day
Having a theme in mind is an excellent way of bringing some focus to your travel photos. When you are traveling the world, it can be tempting to snap anything and everything that you come across, because the world is a massive place and, for westerners especially, there can be a lot of weird things that you experience on your first venture out of your cozy little suburban bubble.
Too much of this ends up with a thousand photos of the sky, mountains, taxis and just strange goings on around the world. It might be cool at the time but once you get home, you will groan at yet another photo of this or that and you’ll realise that your travel photos are 90% something that you’ve already seen a hundred times.
Picking a theme gives you the chance to experiment with different things you might come across. This will push you to be on the lookout for the perfect photo as well as mix it up a bit. Any theme will do, too, so try food, architecture, strangeness or anything you want, it’s your trip after all.
Understand Your Subject
It is no use just taking a photo for the sake of taking a photo. It is so tempting to take a picture of everything you come across without considering what you want to convey in the picture. For casual photographers who just want to record their trip, this isn’t too much of a problem. But for those those are serious about their travel photography, taking the time to understand the subject of the photo will go a long way.
Whether you are out in nature, a bustling city street or a quaint local market you need to take your time when seeing the scene for the first time. It isn’t easy and it might take you some time to develop the proper technique and approach to proper subject study, but once you get into the habit of it you will be able to identify things in scenes that ordinary people won’t notice.
With more practice you will start to recognize shapes and themes in your frames that you can take advantage of to make your photographs much more than just simple snaps. By taking your time to study the area you can focus on what stands out to you and improve your travel photography.
Do Something Different
Anyone who has scoured the travel pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and basially any other type of social media knows all of the typical travel pictures that you absolutely need to get. Angkor Wat at sunrise, arms stretched wide atop a mountain and the always hilarious and definitely not played out compromising pose with a statue. These types of photos are seen, and repeated, seen and repeated, ad nauseum. They have become cliches and are the stereotypical tourist photograph that gives travelers a bad name.
The solution to this is to look for something a little bit different. While it is nice to do something that everyone else has done so you can all bond over the cool photos you took in exactly the same location, this can get so damn boring. Instead of following the crowd and taking a photo like everybody else, carve your own path, embrace the freedom that travel allows you and go that extra mile towards finding a unique and exciting photo in the world’s most famous spots.
Better yet, find somewhere no one else has seen, you might just start a cliche travel picture of your own.
Many people will see something cool, whip their camera out and take a quick photo without managing to capture all of the amazing potential that could have been. Taking advantage of the possibility of vantage points will bring your photos to a whole new level.
Achieving the best vantage point is easy enough. Instead of simply standing with your camera out, trying to step back and back and back to get the key points in the frame you can try crouching, leaning or angling the camera from something other than eye level. Doing this will manage to get in as much as possible and unlock the magic that you can see with your eyes but what might not be evident through the camera.
You will be amazed at how much your photography will improve with just the simple use of vantage points. Not everything needs to be stood straight pointing the camera forward. You can squat, twirl, twist, lean and literally anything else to get the best picture possible simply by testing out a different angle. With vantage points, you will be presenting the world in a completely different way.
Light is Your Friend
Getting the right light for your photos can be a major challenge. When outside, the sun is constantly moving, constantly shifting shadows and can be hindered with clouds floating across that ruin your scene. You do not want to your picture to be too dark or too light, you need to find the perfect balance between.
This is where learning to use your camera can come in use. It is not enough to merely activate the flash in dark rooms, you have to use the natural light around you to help create the perfect photo. There is a great guide on how to do that here, but what is important to remember is that light can be used to your advantage instead of you feeling that a photograph is ruined by shadow, dim subjects or the awkward diffusion.
Achieving the best travel photos will actually get people interested in looking at them, instead of feeling like they have to just because you are showing them. Over time, you will be able to pack your external hard drives full of snapshots from all around the world with each one being crisper, clearer and more fascinating than the last. Memories fade, but pictures of all your adventures will last you a lifetime.
- How to Save Money to Travel the World – Airtrek
- Top 10 Photography Lighting Facts You Should Know – Pop Photo
- 17 Useful Travel Photography Tips – Expert Vagabond
- 30 Simple Tips to Take Better Travel Pictures with Your Smartphone – Yonder Bound
- Look for Vantage Points – Blurb Blog
- 8 Tips to Take Better Travel Pictures – Digital Photography School