How to put your travel memories into great pictures. Just put our very basic travel photography tips in use to get quick results.
Making a photo now-a-days is easy. Just take a camera or a phone, press a button et voila, you got a picture. But just by doing that you won’t directly have a great picture. There is a big difference by taking a picture and taking a great picture, besides the lucky shots. Especially when traveling you want to make a great picture. The chances that you will go back to the same location ain't that big so you just have to make sure you do it great the first time. So the next steps will help you out to make sure you come back with great shots from your travels.
1. See what you are looking at
Of course, while traveling there are a lot of great things to see. But, do you really see what you are looking at? It is amazing how people now-a-days pass by beautiful places, don’t take the time to look, immediately grab their phone or camera, aim and shoot a picture. Then they just go on without looking at the picture or looking at the thing they take a shot of again. Just take some time to see how people make pictures these days and you will be amazed. Just guess how the picture they took eventually turns out to be?
Therefore, if you see something nice. Look at it, look again and think about how you can make a great shot of it. Did you see the details? Are there disturbing things that can be avoided on the pictures? That lantern, electricity cables, flags, signs, traffic lights, person or any other disturbing objects, can you avoid it on your picture? If the answer is yes, avoid it. Do you have to get closer to the object, or maybe further away to get a better picture? Do it. Try it. But whatever you do… just take a look at whatever you like and want to take a picture of. Learn to see again. It will just costs you a few seconds extra and you’ll be surprised what you see. A nice thing with photography is that no one sees it like you see it. Give 10 people the mission to take a picture of something and you will get 10 different shots. So share your view.
2. Don't rush
No, please, don’t rush. It is not only you that need the time to really see the object that you want to take a picture of. Your camera needs to see it as well. Many people just push the button and sometimes even move away the camera while still pushing the button, in a rush to get to the next thing on the travel list. But your camera, no matter if it is your phone, compact camera or DLSR camera, it needs time to focus to get a clear and sharp shot. So, look through your camera or at the screen of it and when you like what you see, press the button of your camera halfway, give it time to focus and when the image is sharp, then press the button completely. And not before or halfway, but just after the picture is taken you can move the camera away. And please don’t forget to take a look at the shot you just made. Now you still are here there is a possibility to make another shot if you don’t like the one you took. When youare back home it will be a bigger challenge to take the shot again.
The following two birdies will give a clear idea of the differences between a shot that has a poor focus (left) and the result of a good focus (right) while giving the camera time to sharpen the image.
3. Know your camera
The former 2 tips may sound logical but they are really the number one steps in taking a great picture. Another important one is to know your camera. There are so many possibilities with camera’s, even the ones on a phone these days, that knowing how to use it really can make a big difference. Know how to use flash, when to use the landscape, portrait, macro, sunset etc. settings. It can make a big difference in just a photo or a great photo. And there are two ways to find out how this works. Number one is to read the manual. But, more than 50% of the people, just read all man and some woman, really don’t feel like reading manuals. For them there is another way. Trial and error. Just try all the options you have. See how the camera react. See how turns out the shot you made. Now we are living in the digital age so you just can take as many shots as you want and again delete as much as you want. Just keep in mind, learn to know your camera and what are its possibilities. And be sure to know them before you start traveling.
A good composition of the photo you are taking can make a big difference. One of the biggest mistakes is to put the object on the photo in the middle. The way of thinking might be right, that thing you would like to put on the shot should be in the center of the attention. Being in the center of the attention would mean placing it in the middle of the photo right? Wrong! Unfortunately many times this will result in nothing more than another boring photograph.
In photography there is a rule called the rule of thirds. There is no real mathematics involved in this. The photo will be divided in 9 parts. 3 parts horizontal and 3 parts vertical so it gives you 9 blocks in the screen. Many cameras even have a raster that you can turn on to make this rule easier to use.
If for example you are making a shot of a landscape and you want to put the attention on the land you
can put the horizon at 1/3th of the top the photo. The lower 2/3th will be the land. If the sky is beautiful and have amazing clouds you want to put the attention of the photo on the sky and you put the horizon at 1/3th of the bottom of the photo. The upper 2/3th will be the sky. But... suppose there is a beautiful tree in that landscape that you would like to be include in the picture. Just don’t put it in the middle, put it at 1/3th of the left or 1/3th of the right of the picture. It will make your shot way more interesting.
5. Where's she looking at?
When taking a picture of someone or from an animal make sure you leave room at the side of the direction where that person or that animal is looking at. If there is no spacing between the eyes and the border of the photo into the direction the person is looking at, the photo also will turn out to be boring. So when you take a shot of a woman that for example is looking to the right, leave space at the right side. It can make a person who looks at the pic wonder where she is looking at. A photo like this can start playing with your imagination and the photo will start making stories, no matter what that person was looking at in real life. So don’t leave out the spacing. The close up of the characteristic Cuban lady in the streets of Havana is quite boring. There just isn’t enough space at the right side. The complete shot can play more with your imagination.
And very important, always make sure the eyes of the person or animal you are taking a photo from are sharp. The glasses of the lady in the example made that a bit challenging, but remember; a photo of a person with sharp eyes on the photo together with a good composition is almost always a nice shot, even if the rest of the shot is blurry. In contrary, a photo of a person that is sharp but has unclear eyes on the shot is almost always bad.
What if a person or animal is looking straight at you? Well in that case there is no real need to let a lot of space between the person or animal and the border of the photo. But be sure you don’t make the border too narrow. It will give the picture a squabby feeling. So leave enough room, or just zoom in more. And another thing; If a person or animal is looking straight at you, many times you can even put him in the middle and forget about the rule of thirds. But stay creative please.
6. To flash or not to flash
Flash is only for in the evening and at night right? Wrong again! The nicest photos always will be taken by perfect daylight, which actually is in the early mornings or the late afternoons in the first few hours after sunrise and the last few hours before sunset. These moments in perfect circumstances are the best lights to take pictures. Many professionals will head out during these times of the day to get the best shots. But then again we can’t control the weather and sometimes it is cloudy, even when traveling. So there are moments during daytime it is useful to use flash. But when an object is like more than 3 meters away a flash usually is useless, even at night, or you need special flashlights. Further than three meters usually the object will be out of reach of the flash. So the only thing it will do at this moment is absorb your battery power and at night make the shot even more dark.
When to use flashlight at daytime? Well… for example if you make a shot of a person and the light is coming from behind him or her. This will make the faces dark and obvious the background light. So for this they invented fill flash. Use this and the background and also the people will be visible. Also when people wear hats or caps it is useful to use the fill flash. In case of hats or caps the flash has to be lower than the edge the hat or cap. If it is from above there will just be more shade on the eyes instead of less. And in case of sunglasses, just let them take it off.
There also is red-eye flash. When looking at a photograph used with normal flash many times it turns out that the pupils of the eyes are totally red. Nice for Halloween but it’s not Halloween every day thus you don’t want that. When using normal flash the very bright light will reflect on the back of the persons, or animals, eye. Red-eye flash gives one or sometimes a couple of flashes before really taking the shot with flash. The first bright light makes sure the pupils of the person gets more narrow so the light of the flash that is used to make a picture won’t be able to enter all the way to the back of the eye. Without the reflection the black of the eye won’t turn red.
Please take precaution with the flash when you are photographing animals. Some animals will get startled so you’ll scare them away. Then other animals like amphibians like frogs and salamanders can be permanently blinded by flashlight. Without eye sight they won’t be able to find food and just die.
7. The local people
Photographing people while traveling is a nice challenge. Though when people start posing for you it mostly will result in not so spontaneous shots. People won’t look relaxed, have strange smiles on their faces and stand in unnatural poses. Shooting from a larger distance absolutely can do the trick for a natural look.
To make close ups, like portraits, you’ll need to get closer. But whatever you do, please show respect for the people you want to take a picture of. No means no, and not maybe or go ahead. Like, how would you feel if some stranger stops in front of you and without asking puts a camera in front of your face, takes a photo and just leaves without even thanking? This cases happen a lot. Some people, like in African tribes, even have kinds of body decorations that can be interesting for many travelers. Think about the big holes in the ears or decorations in the ears or noses. Very appealing to take a shot, or even close up only from the ear. But then again, how would you feel if a stranger put a camera within a few inches or centimeters from your face or even other body parts? So again, whatever you do, please show respect. The best way to get this kind of shots is to first talk with the person, introduce yourself, show interest in the person, talk for a while. So after that, maybe he or she will allow you to make that shot you want. And if the person wants money, well… you have a choice. If it is worth it, pay and take the picture. If not, thank the person and move on and don’t try to take that shot secretly.
8. Wildlife photography
One of the most difficult photo’s to take are the ones of wild animals in their natural environment. Why? Well… wildlife will not pose for you. You cannot ask them to sit still for you or to look at a certain direction and they come and go when they please. So if you are traveling and want to take some good pictures of the local wildlife there are some important things to keep in mind.
You need patience, and sometime even an overdose of it. Therefor if you are sure you want to go on a shooting wildlife with your camera tour be well prepared. You will need the right equipment. Taking a reward winning shot with a snapshot camera or your phone from a rare bird will be most likely impossible. So for shooting animals you need a good telephoto lens. You know, the ones that are big, long, heavy, extremely expensive and maybe you were laughing about when you saw them before when other people had them. This one and a lot money is what you’ll need to get that perfect shots.
Then you need to find out where to find the kind of animals you would like to photograph. Looking for a beaver in a desert will be too much of a challenge. So be prepared and know where to go. And the best time for seeing animals will be during early mornings and late afternoons. In many places there are birding tours or other tours together with local guides who can point you out where to find the animals you are looking for. And while on the go for taking shots of wildlife it might be a good thing to wear the right clothes. A creamy pink jacket and bright yellow pants won’t attract much animals.
And whatever you do. Never forget that the animals are wild. You are in their territory and intruding into their environment. Most animals will flee when you get too close, though others will just attack you. So safety first, for the sake of the animal and your own. And do remember, wildlife photography is one of the most difficult forms of photography so don’t be disappointed that you won’t get shots like you’ll find in the National Geographic magazine.
Using filters can make a photo look very cool right? Yes, that’s true. But while you make a photo never use a digital filter on it. It is easy to add a filter at a shot after you took it. It is almost impossible to remove a filter on the shot. So just take a normal photo and add as many filters to your shot as you want afterwards.
Besides the digital filters there are other types of filters that can be physically used on DSLR cameras. Simply said, it is an extra set of glass put in front of your lens, that prevent passing UV light to enter the camera. Well… forget about that, no need to spend money on that. These filters were very useful in the period of analog photography. UV light, meaning Ultra Violet light, was too bright for the camera and especially for the film used in these cameras. So not using an UV filter could result in a blueish photo. And retouching analog shots was difficult in these days. With digital photography it is of no use, because there is no film. The only thing is that you could use it for protecting your lens. But a good lens hood will protect your lens. A negative thing of these UV filters is that there can be extra reflections of light, sometimes called ghost images or lens flares (visible on the photo of the landscape down here). These is caused by very bright light sources that will reflect between the lens and the filter.
So…? Just forget about filters while taking your shots.
We tried to keep all these tips as easy as possible for everybody. You don’t have to be an expert in photography to make great travel photos. Just be aware of what you are doing and where you look at. Just keep the tips above in mind and in use and you will see result immediately even without having to put too much effort in it.
And when you really might get into more serious photography there are thousands of books about all types of photography. You can do courses and you can switch to professional equipment, if that is within your financial possibilities. For now, enjoy your travels and the memories you will shoot of it.
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