The secret to taking great travel photos lies in your own eyes and how you see the world.
Taking a trip is exciting, but once you are home all you have are a few mementos…and hopefully some great photographs. More and more photographs are being taken in today’s technology world than ever before in the history of over 100 years of photography. But with “point and shoots” and camera phones, have we lost our “eye” for capturing a fantastic image? How do we take a photograph that will keep our travel memory alive for years to come?
First, you need to invest in a good camera or camera phone that fits your budget, ability and needs. Read the reviews such as those found on the website Digital Trends before you shop, and make a list of what features are your “must haves” and what you can live without. Be sure your budget includes a large SD card and an extra battery pack or charger.
Once you secure the camera, take it on a dry run to your local view point or park and try it out. Use all the features and options so you know what your camera is capable of. In a once-in-a-life-time “Kodak” moment, you don’t want to be fumbling with a manual or flipping through buttons and miss the shot. It is a good idea to pick a few images to enlarge to see how the resolution and quality compares in various lighting and setting conditions.
So how do you take your snapshots from “OK” to “Great”?! Here are a few tricks I use to make my travel pictures memorable.
1. Look for a different perspective to take your photograph. Try changing your elevation by standing on a bench to get higher, or getting down on the ground for a low level view.
2. Avoid the “postcard” shot. Most heavily visited tourist locations have that one perfect spot that everyone stands at to take a picture. Try to see the location in your own way and seek out a different angle or view. If you are going to stand in the same place as everyone else, you might as well buy the postcard.
3. Add dimension by including foliage or other objects like fences, and buildings to frame the center of interest. Be careful of where the camera is focusing so you don’t lose the impact of the main subject.
4. Look at your image using the “rule of thirds.” This means to visualize your picture dissected into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Put the person or object that you want to feature at one of the intersecting lines of thirds. If you are taking a picture of something with a strong horizon line, strive to keep either 1/3 sky and 2/3 ground or visa-versa.
5. Never put something important in the dead center of the photo. Even when taking close up pictures of friends or family where their face is centered, move and turn them so that their eyes are located using the “rules of thirds.” Strong vertical and horizontal lines can be boring. Look for ways to add diagonal components to add interest.
6. When adding people to a scenic shot, look for something unique in the pose that shows action or connects the person in some way to the scenery.
7. Vary how close or far away you get from your main subject. It’s OK to get in close to make more impact. When you are zooming in, objects in the background will appear closer. Zoom out and objects in the background will appear farther away.
8. In the digital age, you are only limited on how many images you take by the size of your equipment’s memory. Experiment! Try new things! Go crazy. You are only going to print and save your favorites.
9. Try focusing on a “theme” for a specific travel vacation. The last time I was in Germany and Austria, I photographed a collection of door handles and knobs that made for a great collage when I returned. When we went to Puerto Rico, I came home with a great collection of flower images.
10. If you think you might be posting your images on FaceBook, Twitter or other public social media, keep a little notebook handy to document dates and locations of specific images. If you include other people in your image (locals), always be polite and ask before snapping if possible. Some people are not open or comfortable with being the focus of your photograph. You could even offer to email them the image if they are willing to share their email with you.
Ansel Adams, one of America’s most famous, and in my opinion, best photographers, said,
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
I like to think of my travel photographs as being part of the story I want to tell about my trip to those that were not able to join me on the journey. I like to document the special moments as well as those that at the time seem mundane. Think about where you are going and what you want to remember…then make that story come alive with your photographs. That’s what makes a great travel photo. It’s all about the story and I can’t wait to read yours.