Travel photography is unlike any other with constantly changing light, unpredictable weather and time constraints; you find yourself in a new country surrounded by the unfamiliar, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. From photographing local life to those iconic landmarks, here’s the best way to capture the ambiance and memory of every place you visit.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Is there a national holiday during your visit which means there won’t be anyone (or everyone!) on the streets? A festival that could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? A protest that you may or may not want to be caught up in? Research the time of year in the city or country you’re visiting and base your travel around this, depending on what you’re wanting to shoot and experience.SOURCE INSPIRATION
Instagram, Pinterest, Google Images, Flickr, blogs; the possibilities are endless when it comes to sourcing inspiration for your photos before you arrive in a new location. Once you’re there – take a peek at those postcard stands you see all over the place, chances are the actual photographs are terrible and look like they’ve been taken about 30 years ago, but they’ll often give you ideas on what, where, and how to shoot certain locations!CHOOSE WISELY AND KNOW YOUR TOOLS
There’s thousands of options of cameras out there now, from your smart phone to a digital SLR. Whatever it is you’re shooting with, be thoroughly confident with your gear before you take off to another country and realise you have no idea what you’re doing. You don’t want to spend your trip learning how to work it all! Think about what is appropriate to where and what you want to shoot. Heading on an African safari – grab your longest lens. Interested in landscapes – pack your wide-angle. Going on a night out – grab a disposable.TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL
Take the rickety old buses and rocking trains, jump on horseback or take a tuk-tuk. Do as the locals do and you’ll meet amazing characters, see the real way of life, and capture some incredible moments along the way.DOWNLOAD PHOTOPILLS
Described as ‘your personal assistant in all photographic matters’, the Photopills app provides you with invaluable information to plan your perfect photograph. From sunrise and sunset times and direction, the position of the Milky Way, location scouting help and much more, it’s one of our favourite tools while we’re travelling giving us the flexibility to plan days ahead.
RISE EARLY AND STAY OUT LATE
Beautiful light + no crowds = epic travel photographs. The only way to achieve this is to pull yourself out of bed those couple of hours earlier, and stay out those few hours later. The light at sunrise is magical and there’s nothing quite like walking through the streets of Rome without another soul in sight. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Sunset Photography for those evening captures.BE A STORYTELLER
That window, those hands, that smile, those flowers – shoot details and tell a story. Think about how each photo may relate to others you’ve shot previously or intend to shoot in the future, and how they’ll create an atmosphere and tell the story about your location.NATURAL LIGHT ALL THE WAY
Don’t stick that huge flash on top of your camera, turn off that automatic pop-up, and work with the ambient light. It’s less intrusive if you’re shooting people, it captures the mood of the location and it’s much, much softer. Don’t get us wrong, flash photography has its time and place, and can be used incredibly well in travel photography (check out the work of Joey L!), but we love to stick with natural light while exploring – plus it lightens the load like we mentioned above!
COMPOSITION IS KEY
There’s so many elements to composition that we can’t chat about them all here – but read our 7 Composition Tips for Creating An Incredible Photograph which can be applied to any sort of photography, and are a great basis for taking that beautiful travel photo.LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD
Travel light when it comes to your camera gear. Don’t lug around five lenses, two camera bodies, a tripod and a flash. It will feel twice as heavy by the end of the day and it’s really not necessary. It also challenges you to work with what you’ve got. We wouldn’t recommend taking more than two lenses with you on a day out – maybe go for a wide zoom like a 16-35mm (10-24mm APS-C) and a 50mm (35mm APS-C) as you will be covered for 90% of what you will need – unless, of course, you’re off on a safari, then grab the longest lens in you kit. Check out our Ultimate Travel Photography Kit to see how we’ve lightened our load.
TAKE YOUR TIME
The amount of travellers we see literally walking along and taking photos while they’re moving is quite astonishing! Stop, take a breath, think about your composition and take your time while capturing that iconic shot of the Eiffel Tower. GO OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Source inspiration before you arrive but also create your own memories and experiences of wherever you’re visiting. Try something out of the ordinary, visit somewhere remote, push the boundaries and you’ll reap the rewards – both personally and photographically.SEEK OUT SHADE
Yes, the sun shining brightly on a tropical island is beautiful and exactly what most imagine when palm trees pop into their head, but bright sunshine isn’t always the best way as it creates very harsh shadows. Shade is particularly flattering for portraits as it creates even skin tones – look for a shady area with reflective light. For example, get your subject to stand in the shade of one of those palm trees and face towards the bright glistening water, so it reflects light back onto them. Don’t feel discouraged by a cloudy, overcast day – they often make for the best photos as the lighting is even and soft!
CHANGE YOUR ANGLE
Get low, climb high, take a back street, use a wide-angle – there’s so many different ways to alter your perspective and find angles that haven’t been shot before. Make sure you’re continuously looking back at your subject as you’re moving, you might discover a new perspective without even meaning to.ADD A MATE
Landscape photographs are beautiful on their own but adding in a human element like you or your travel companion is becoming more and more popular, and all for good reason. On a technical level it creates scale – showing just how large those mountains are, or how grand that mosque was. On a personal level it tells a story – triggering memories and resulting in you having an incredible photo of yourself from your travels, that you’re more inclined to print or do something with than the regular cheshire-cat selfies! We often face away from the camera or take a shot without the other being aware, as it captures the moment in time and helps us relive our experience over and over again.RESPECT
Respect the culture, respect the people, respect the country. Do your research and wear clothing that is appropriate, give people their personal space, and ask permission before taking a photograph of someone – even if the only way is with a big smile, a hello in the local language, some hand signals and a thank you. Be authentic and remember we’re all people – respect goes a long way, wherever you are in the world.BE PATIENT
Some of our best photos have taken an hour to achieve – or much longer! Wait for the perfect moment when someone wanders into that crucial part of the frame, or the light shines on that particular spot – it sure is worth it!
HIRE A LOCAL
Nothing makes travel photography easier than exploring with a local. Hire a guide (or make a local friend!) and explain to them everything you want to see and do, and be sure to emphasise that you don’t want a cookie-cutter tour. They’ll take you to places you would have trouble reaching alone, you’ll learn about the history and culture, and they can speak the local language, so you’re much more likely to have the opportunity to interact with and photograph the locals. Guys like Mr Khey in Kampot and Spyros in Greece make exploring with a local an unforgettable experience.BACKUP, BABY!
Have a system and download your photos every day into organised folders, and if you have the resources, back them up online or on a hard-drive. You never know when you’ll lose your camera or your memory card will fail so if your photos from that morning are lost, it’s not too devastating – photos lost from an entire trip are a little less easy to come to terms with.