Before you take off into the sunset (or sunrise) to capture those great photos you want on your travels, there are some essential things that you need to consider to make sure that you do actually get those shots.
What camera you have is not important and as a result is not included in this list – you can take great photos on almost any camera. Sure, they are not all created equal, but a great photo is not determined by what camera you own. So here are some travel photography tips that I think are important:
1. Camera bag.
I use a backpack by Case Logic (its an SLRC-206 SLR Camera and 15.4-Inch Laptop Backpack (Black)). It holds my all my camera gear (Canon EOS 6D, two lenses, Rode VideoMic, external flash cable, big flash, a tripod, as well as heaps of other stuff. Backpacks distribute the weight over both your shoulders and are much better for when you have to walk long distances. BUT: if you need to get that camera out instantly to get that shot, a backpack is not for you. It takes around 20-30sec to get it off and pull your camera out. This is fine for me – if you were taking photos of wildlife or something like that then you should choose another bag.
Check out this site. Karl uses a system which is brilliant for travel.
The other thing to keep in mind is that your shiny new bag may put a big target on your head for thieves. Consider using an old bag that doesn’t stand out or look like a camera bag. My back pack looks like every other backpack but smaller. Its less of a standout in a crowd and does not look anything like a bag that holds thousands of dollars of equipment.
2. Spares. Of everything.
- Batteries. You don’t want to cart your gear all over a country only to run out of battery and have nowhere to charge. This is an instant fail. Get more batteries and make sure they are charged.
- Memory cards. If one gets screwed or lost and you don’t have another – I hope you have brought a sketchpad 🙂
- Batteries for your flash.
- Just bring spares of everything!
I use and love AKU boots. Get them from Snowgum in Australia or Amazon. I can walk miles in these things in any climate. They are waterproof and extremely tough and comfortable. If your feet are blistered/sore/etc, you wont be concentrating on getting that shot… if you even get there!
4. Put people in landscape photos to give a sense of scale
Its hard sometimes to show scale in a photo. Putting people in clearly shows how large an object/mountain/building/wall is.
In this photo, its impossible to tell from the photo how immense this city wall is, but for the people sitting at a Cafe on the top right.
5. Lens Hood
Don’t want to hurt your precious glass. Forget UV filters unless you are on the beach or somewhere dusty, where airborne particles can damage your lens. They do NOT protect your lens in a fall anywhere near as good as a lens hood.
6. Don’t be a target for a thief.
Your shiny new Canon or Nikon with the big lens is a valuable item and people will risk a lot to steal it from you.
- Stick duct tape or masking tape over parts of it – make it look like its totally broken
- Gaffer/Duct Tape up the logo
- Look at point 1 above.
- Keep it close to you and don’t let it leave your body.
7. Look for the best light and look for bright or contrasting colours
Be mindful of where the sun is in the sky, and try to avoid harsh shadows.
Look for bright contrasting colours.
8. Practice your composition!
You’ve done all of the above, then take a crap photo. Nice.
- Learn the rule of thirds.
- Learn when to disregard it.
- Know your camera, and what settings will work.
- Learn techniques like using leading lines to improve your composition.
- Don’t take photos in the middle of the day but at sunrise or sunset
- Make sure if you take photos in the shade, your background is not too bright (like the shot here) but shaded too, or your bokeh will be crap. And you don’t want to be crap… do you?
- Don’t try to stuff as much into one shot as you can. So many times people stand right back and get shots of scenes and try to get as much as they can into the frame. Get up close and personal with things. Take a close up of the statue’s face; capture the light filtering though the Churches stained glass window.
9. Don’t be one dimensional with your photos
When traveling, its easy to be so engrossed with the architecture or landscape that you forget to take photos of things that will mean something to you years later or tell the story of your trip to someone viewing your photos. Here are some things to try to shoot:
- Local People (get close ups too)
- Types of transport (Tuk Tuk’s, cars, horse drawn carriages etc)
- Street photos (take some on an angle and some smack in the middle of the street)
- Food, drink shots
- Yourself and people you are traveling with
Mix things up. Don’t put the shutter drive mode on 5fps and machine-gun-shoot, using the Chaos theory in some hope you’ll get one decent shot. Be thoughtful. Your shutter will thank you and your camera will live longer.
10. Get away from the other tourists
Go where the locals are. Get away from the tourists and tourist spots. Try to see the essence of the place you are in and capture it. Sit in a Cafe and watch the activity around it, blend in.
Ask permission of locals to take a photo of them. Put yourself in their shoes. Most tourists come and take photos of them without their permission – they may feel exploited or like circus animals. Take the time to show them the respect they are due. You will probably find that they are glad you gave them the option to choose, that you took enough interest in them and what they do to take that photo.
In the below photo I ask you – what do you think of this? Is this showing any respect whatsoever to the subject? Do you think that person may feel like someone in a freak show? Do you think any of these gawkers actually got a good shot? There is a freak show here – they are behind the camera 😉