Each country you visit has its own distinct character, look, and ambience. If we want photographs of our travels to be good and lasting, it’s important to understand that they should capture all of these qualities. Also, they must say as much about a place as give the natural and authentic look of it.
Travel photography is not only about discovering or exploring beautiful destinations, but consider it as a license to meet new people, experience other cultures and learn the common ground as well as differences prevailing in various parts of the world. Photography can be a powerful tool for creating awareness, telling stories and understanding the diversities across cultures, communities, and countries.
If you go by Wikipedia, it defines travel photography as ‘a subcategory of photography involving the documentation of an area’s landscape, people, cultures, customs and history.’
Even though a part of it is right, there’s more to it. Documenting is one thing, and absorbing yourself into it is an entirely different ball game. Travel photography is about capturing all that you find interesting while travelling with the intentions of being a photographer — going from one place to another, figuring out the differences and the similarities amongst the areas and being able to show that on camera is an immensely exciting thing to do with the lens.
Travel photography is about carrying your camera, sometimes even without the plan of using it, and being able to snap various moments you notice. All these need time and doesn’t just happen overnight, but that’s where skills and ways of learning matter. It’s about making an immediate connect with your subject, rather than just being a tourist. Choosing the backdrop and the subject can only be mastered over time and practice.
Early Bird Gets the Worm
Planning to snap an epic postcard shot of a famous landmark such as the Taj Mahal or the ruins of Chichen Itza? Reach there as soon as it opens, and you’ll have the place much to yourself! Save yourself from the brouhaha of the crowd!
Sunrise isn’t the only time to capture a good light. Sunsets are equally great. The hour before sunset and after sunrise are termed as “golden hours”. This is because of their soft, warm tones and the soothing and pleasing shadows. The hour after sunset (or the time before sunrise) is called the “Blue hour”; it is the time when the sky is still blue, and the city lights are slowly turned on.
Shooting travel snaps at noon on a bright sunny day is seemingly the absolute worst time for travel photography! Sometimes, for professional shutterbugs, it is the perfect time to take a nap so they can have more energy for early morning adventure and evening photography missions when the light is ideal.
Learn about your destination reading the various travel guidebooks available on your destination. Browse the internet for articles to collect ideas for your photos. Connect over social media with travellers who have been there. Reach out to other experienced photographers.
Some of the most commonly developed tools for travel photography research are Google Image Search and Instagram. Many amateurs use these tools to learn about some of the iconic locations. Actual postcard racks are equally helpful to create a list for your shots.
Once you have the names of potential photo locations, do detailed research. Which time of day receives the best light? How difficult is it to get to some of the specific vantage points? What time does an attraction open, and when can you visit to avoid the peak tourist traffic? Most importantly, learn about the weather.
Wandering around with no plans has its charm definitely, but being well prepared saves time. It will help you fully commit to producing amazing travel photography once there, and squeeze more time to visit newer places.
Rule of Thirds
Understanding the Rule of Thirds is one of the most basic and classic photography tips. It will help you create more balanced photo compositions. Presume to break an image down into thirds vertically and horizontally and split into different sections.
The goal is to place the important parts of the snap into those sections and help frame the final image in a way that’s pleasant to the eye.
For instance, you can place your subject along the left grid line rather than directly in the centre. Also, you can keep the horizon on the bottom third, rather than bursting the image in half. Remember to maintain a straight horizon.
Turn on your camera’s “grid” feature to compose a picture according to the rule of thirds. The grid will display a rule of thirds grid directly on the camera’s LCD screen specifically for this purpose.
Before composing a travel photo, ask yourself what the key points of interest in this shot are? Where should you place the subject intentionally on the grid? Paying attention to these details will definitely upgrade the look of your images.
Use a Travel Tripod
More people should use lightweight travel tripods when it comes to travel photography. A tripod allows you to set the camera position fixed while you can make arrangements for the perfect composition.
You can adjust the focus points, exposure settings, and more spend time paying attention to the image you want to capture. Use advanced techniques like focus stacking, HDR, and panoramas to take a better snap.
Tripods also allow you to shoot at much slower shutter speeds (which is particularly preferred for low-light, waterfalls, stars, etc.) without worrying about any shake as opposed to hand-held cameras. You can keep the ISO low (for fewer sensor noise) and use smaller apertures, and thus focus more on the actual image.
Tripods give greater creative control over the camera’s manual settings. However, it doesn’t mean you have to lug a tripod around everywhere you go. But for self-portraits, tack sharp landscapes, flowing water shots, low-light photography, and sunsets/sunrises, a travel tripod makes a huge difference.
Be open and try to mark the minute details of the first impressions upon reaching your destination —write them down if you have to. Experts advise to carry a notebook and should be an essential accessory for any travel photographer.
As you see a place for the first time, be it from the train or the plane window, or as you drive around a bend —how do you feel? Find out where your eyes go first? What is the first thing you notice about the place right away? Is it the smell of the sea? The heat or cold? Blistering sunshine of the day? The mysterious hilly fog? A singular building or vista? The form people move and their attires? Whatever it is, remember it. First impressions are precious sparks to creative interpretation, and by definition, are non-repeatable. You’ve seen the place in pictures or have read about it, let all your senses partake as you indulge in travel photography.