Top 5 Tips: Take Better Travel Pictures

2010
07.26

Depth of field - ring a bell?

Understand your equipment

It’s easy to go at the local electronics store and buy the flashy camera behind the counter. But if you don’t know how to handle it properly, it’s not worth the expenditure. It’s like buying a Ferrari when you’ve learned to ride a Vespa. You must play around with your gear before you leave in order to fully understand both its potential and its limitations, so you know exactly what you are doing and come up with the best possible results. There are many resources to help you comprehend your gear, such as Digital Photography School. Do dare get out the automatic mode and learn more about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, depth of field, exposure, composition. In other words, RTFM.

Street's name plates are underrestimated

Don’t stick to the main attractions

Any travel guide will tell you this – it is true that sometimes, the best surprises are on a totally different path than what you initially planned. Do notice that quirky alley, that rather unusual architectural feature, that smiling kid. Of course, the Eiffel Tower always looks great in pictures, it is worth the classic snap - but it’s very generic and impersonal. Why not try and take an original angle? It’s not about winning an underground photography contest, it’s about capturing what had an impression on you, whether good or bad. It’s what’s going to give the best travel photography and allow you to have great souvenirs that only you can have.

Beware the flare.

Be aware of the lighting conditions

Light is probably the most important feature in any kind of photography. Whether it is too sunny (flare) or too dark (shaky, pixelly effect), or even just cloudy (uninteresting effects), finding the right light is not always an easy task, especially in Western Europe where the sun is not often out. Sure enough, there are various ways to resolve these issues with either the right angle (light facing the subject, most of the time) or the right gear (tripod for evening snaps) or the right time. The two best moments of the day are mornings and early evenings, which offer smoother light, giving your photos a more dramatic effect.  Also, don’t hesitate to use your creativity and play around with the various lighting effects, like shadows.

Clickie for full size

Don’t forget about the rule of thirds

Imagine breaking your snap down into three thirds (both horizontally and vertically). Pictures with center of interest located at either one of the four intersections are often reckoned as being prettier, more natural and more interesting visually. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to obey this rule at every single picture or at all, but it’s a good way to dynamize the classic centered picture. That rule can also be used in the post-production stage, especially when using the crop tool.

Take many photos

That’s what digital cameras are for! Never assume the first snap will be perfect. Even though you can have a slight idea of what the picture is going to look like on the preview screen, the result is often pretty different once printed out or seen from your computer screen. Do zoom in to make sure that the subject’s eyes are open, that there isn’t a funny looking person in the background. Don’t hesitate to change the settings of your camera in between shots.

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For those of you wanting to take this lesson further, make sure to read this excellent article on Flightster: 9 Tips for the Intermediate Travel Photographer.

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4 Responses to “Top 5 Tips: Take Better Travel Pictures”

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  2. violette says:

    Great post! I’ll try to remember these tips when I travel… and even when I take outfit pictures ;-)

  3. Steve says:

    I like the idea of taking several photos in a row. There are times that I’ve taken several photos of the same thing and then afterwards realized that something was wrong with a couple of them. Soon I’m left with just one of them that was decent enough to keep. As long as you have enough space to keep taking photos, it is better to take more photos of something and pick the best one later.

  4. Marie says:

    Luckily there are many Flash cards out there that can hold over 1,000+ photos., depending on the specifics of your gear or your photo options.

    Sometimes it’s as silly as making sure that the subject’s eyes are open, which you can’t always confirm on the preview screen.

    And you can change settings between your shots in order to obtain various lighting effects or switching the focus point, for example.

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