Top Travel Photography Tips

Travel Photography Tips

travel photography, tips for photographers, travel photography, travel bloggers(Image Credit Gary Nunn @garynansome)

Telling A Story | Travel Photography Tips

Travel photography is a huge subject. Each place we visit has its own character and ambiance. If we want photographs of our travels to be good and lasting, they should capture all of these qualities, and say as much about a place as give the literal look of it, tell a story……

We need to think and feel as much as look when setting out to make photographs as it’s not likely you’ll remember the scent of the beach or that boho coffee house but you can feel through a photograph.

Do Your Research

First and foremost, think about what made you decide, out of all the places in the world, to choose this particular destination. Whatever it is—the beach, the rides, the mountain, the galleries, the food—obviously appeals to you. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be going there. You’ve heard from friends that it’s beautiful and you’ve seen their snapshots, all good….lets go?….THIS is where the research comes in. Why would you want to capture the same images as every other person whos been to that place. Find the hidden gems….do your research

(Image Credit Gary Nunn @garynansome)

Professional photographers spend a lot of time in front of the computer researching before even taking 1 photo. This helps figure out what’s there—what the place is about and what subjects we need to cover. Read brochures and travel books. Go to libraries, bookstores, or onto the Web. Talk to friends who have been there. Pick up travel information at the country’s embassy. Find whatever you can that is relevant, and devour it.

Integrate Into A Community | Travel Photography Tips

Understanding the customs and traditions of a place is vital. You want to be sure you act in a way that is not rude or offensive while you are there. It’s tricky to know what’s acceptable and what isn’t with some knowledge. It can also help you understand things people do that at first encounter you might consider incomprehensible or even horrifying.

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Write Stuff Down

When you arrive at your destination eyes wide, be open and try to take note of the first impressions—write them down if you have to. (A notebook is an essential accessory for any travel photographer.) Note down how you feel when you see a place for the first time; cold, excited, intrigued….note down those initial first impressions.

travel photography, tips for photographers, travel photography, travel bloggers(Image Credit Gary Nunn @garynansome)

Where do your eyes go first? What do you notice about the place right away? A smell? The heat or cold? Blinding sunlight? Floating fog? The way people walk? Their clothes? Whatever it is, remember it. First impressions are invaluable sparks to creative interpretation, and by definition are not repeatable. You’ve seen the place in pictures from your friend’s social media accounts, you’ve read about it. Now you’re there, and all your senses can partake.

Drop Off Your Luggage And Get Out There | Travel Photography Tips

Get out there. The only way to discover the rhythm of life in a place, and so figure out what to shoot, is to experience it. Many places, particularly ones in hot climates, are active very early in the morning and late in the afternoon but rather in a lull around midday. So the next time you arrive at a hotel and you’re thinking of taking a nap, think of what you’ll be potentially missing. It’s those moments that count.

Get Up Early

Set your alarm before anybody else and stay out late, you will do what you need to do to capture the essence of a location. If you are on a tour that is scheduled to leave your hotel at 07:00, get up well before 06:00, the world is waiting.

If You Are On A Organised Tour Or Blogger Trip

Wander around before meeting up with your fellow travelers. If the group goes back to the hotel or ship for lunch, don’t go with them. Rather than take the bus back at the end of an afternoon tour, hang around until after sunset and then take a taxi. Use any spare time to get out and look for opportunities this will undoubtedly will enrich your experience.

travel photography, tips for photographers, travel photography, travel bloggers(Image Credit Gary Nunn @garynansome)

Get lost. Wander down alleys. Sit in cafés and watch life pass by. Don’t eat where the tourists do, but where you see locals. Just set off down a street and see where it leads. Look around the bends, over the rises. Get away from the crowd. I find that if I meander away from the tourists and tourist sites, away from what is too familiar and comfortable, it’s much easier to adapt to the rhythm of a place, and to be more observant.

Carry Your Camera All The Time

Always have your camera with you and always keep your eyes open. Serendipity plays an enormously important role in travel photography. You never know what you are going to run into, and you have to be ready. Many times you will see what could be a good photograph but decide that the light is not right, or there are no people around, or too many—something that means you will have to come back later. But sometimes you get lucky. You happen to stumble upon a scene at just the right moment.

Be Prepared

If you forgot your camera, are out of film, or your digital card is full, if you have to fumble around getting the right lens on, the moment may be gone before you can recover. This is true whether you are doing street photography or visiting a natural or man-made site. Mountains, trees, monuments, and other static subjects are, of course, not going to go anywhere, but the ray of sunshine, the soaring eagle, or the embracing couple that add the needed element to your photograph are unlikely to hang around. Think of it as hunting—whenever you leave the confines of your camp, you should be ready and able to capture whatever pops up.

travel photography, tips for photographers, travel photography, travel bloggers(Image Credit Gary Nunn @garynansome)

Make time for photography. Like doing anything well, making good photographs requires a commitment of time and energy. One problem with much of modern travel is that the days are chockablock full of scheduled tours, events, and meals. Our trips are usually of limited time, and we naturally want to see as many sites as possible. The itineraries rarely leave room for serious photography. You have to make time. It may help to make photography a scheduled part of every day, so you know you have the time and won’t be tempted to get lazy and say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” It might rain tomorrow. Don’t procrastinate.

Be Multitalented | Travel Photography

When traveling, you’re likely to encounter all sorts of situations and subjects. This requires being a bit of a jack-of-all-trades—you need to be able to photograph portraits, landscapes, and everything in between.

Above all, work the situations over. Never be satisfied with your first view of a place or the first frame you snap. It’s always possible—and usually likely—that you can come up with something better. Why else would painters make sketches? Get closer, then get closer still. Try different angles, different lenses. Wait for the light, wait for the crowd, wait for a bird to land on the tree branch. Never be in a hurry to get somewhere else. Tell yourself that nothing is more important than getting the best you can get out of the situation you are in. Once you’ve exhausted every possibility you can think of, you can start working on the next one.

Landscape Photography

Landscapes come in all forms—mountains, forests, plains, deserts, swamps, lakes, rivers, seacoasts. Each has its own characteristics, and individual sites within each category have their own too. The Grand Tetons do not look like the Andes—the Nile River is different from the Mississippi.

travel photography, tips for photographers, travel photography, travel bloggers

Whatever kind of landscape you are shooting, think about what the essential qualities are—and not just the visual ones; think about how the place makes you feel, what kind of emotions it stirs in you. Then look for ways to get those qualities and feelings onto film. Is it a rocky, violently wave-washed coast or a bright and sandy one? If it’s the former, you want to show waves crashing against the shore, probably in stormy weather. Blue sky and sunlight are more appropriate for the latter unless you want to show the desolation of a resort beach in winter.

Cities and Towns

Like landscapes, each city and town has its own look and feel—a distinctive setting, architecture, or skyline; a famous local site; a particular kind of food or dress. There’s always at least one thing that is unique.

travel photography, tips for photographers, travel photography, travel bloggers

When covering a town or city, even a small village, you need to do three basic things at a minimum: capture a sense of place, which is usually a wide shot that shows the setting, skyline, or other view that gives a feeling for the whole; landmarks that the place is famous for; the life of its inhabitants. For the cityscapes and wide shots, as well as for the landmarks, it’s a good idea to check out the postcard racks in your hotel lobby or at kiosks. They will quickly give you an idea of where the best views are and what is considered well-known enough to warrant a postcard.

Photographing Family Members and Friends

Sometimes (and it’s fun to!) travel with people we know—taking a family vacation, for example, or bicycling around Pisa with a group of friends. We quite naturally want to come home with pictures of them as souvenirs of the trip. Be sure to get these, but don’t forget that you can also use members of your family and your friends to make your other photographs more effective, without necessarily having a model release form (if you are thinking of selling your images)

Just A Glimpse But Stay Focused

When you are creating images of your friends, try to strike a balance between a picture of them and a picture of the place. A friend of mine once made a close-up portrait of me in China. It wasn’t a great portrait, but more importantly, it could have been made in my backyard—there was nothing of the place in the frame. Of course, you may want to shoot portraits, or to capture someone’s expression at a particular moment, but often you are making the picture as a way of documenting your shared experience. You want to show enough of your friend to be able to recognise him—that vertical speck in the distance could be anybody. But you don’t want to be so close that there’s nothing but him/her. If your friend is the primary subject, he has to be strong enough to draw attention and be recognizable but still keep some sense of where he is.

Photographing Strangers | Travel Photography Tips

It’s best to ask permission if you want to photograph someone, especially if you are working in close. Engage them before you pull out your camera. Learn at least how to say “hello” and “May I make a photograph” in the local language—just showing that you’ve made a little effort helps, use hand signals to bolster the question. Explain to them what you want to do and what it is about them that made you want to make a picture. If approached in an open and friendly manner, most people will be agreeable—many are flattered that someone has shown an interest in them and what they do. In places where there’s a lot of tourism, you may run into people who are tired of being photographed—many tourists are not courteous enough to ask permission, and local people can come to feel abused and exploited. The only way to overcome this is to spend time with the people or to go to parts of the place less frequented by tourists.

travel photography, tips for photographers, travel photography, travel bloggers(Image Credit Gary Nunn @garynansome)

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You May Have To Pay Someone To Take Their Photo | Travel Photography Tips

In lots of tourist destinations, many people may ask for money if you want to take their photograph. Many of these places are desperately poor. The money they ask for is usually not very much to us, but may represent quite a lot to them. How you deal with these situations is up to you, but remember that every time you buy a postcard, you are happy to spend the money for a picture somebody else took, so respect their wishes and grace their palms for what could be an award-winning image.

You cannot always ask permission, of course. If you are shooting a street scene or a wide shot of a market, you can’t run up to everyone and ask if it’s OK. In general, people do not mind this sort of photography—it’s only when they’re singled out that they get uncomfortable. But not always. Be sensitive to the scene in your viewfinder. If people are getting nervous, ask permission or move on.

People Are Amazing Try To Document Life

Make use of people to give your images life and scale. If the facade of a particular building appeals to you, the picture may be that much better if you show people walking in front of it. They will give it scale and also let viewers know what sorts of people live there, how they dress, and the like. An outdoor café may be more interesting crowded with people than empty.

Thank you to one of our ambassadors, Gary Nunn for this guest post. Gary is a travel writer, cinematographer and photographer for Global Grasshopper, one of the best travel blogs in the UK.