Many a traveler has trekked about lands unknown to them and seen the unfathomable only to return home with boring photos of exciting new places. Despite what you see in National Geographic, great travel photography isn’t dependent on how powerful your camera is. With just a few quick tips and tweaks to your travel photography, you’ll soon be snapping the perfect mementos all around the world.
Lighting is a central part of photography and can make the difference between bland shots and masterpieces that harp on your emotions. This is why the most stunning travel shots are typically taken during the one to two-hour frame when the sun in just rising or setting. Referred to as the golden hour by seasoned photographers, it’s the time when the sun emits a soft, orange glow at low trajectories. The angle causes mellow beams of light to push the shadows off of everything in their way, creating a stunning torrent of contrasts. Plan ahead when shooting landscape shots so you can be there at the perfect time of day.
Speaking of which, a shooting schedule helps to optimize your limited time. Most professionals do thorough research on the region they’re visiting beforehand to develop leads on what would make an interesting shot. Preemptively marking down factors like what lens and angle would be best, or the time of day can save you a lot of hassle. And while the golden hours give off the best natural lighting, they won’t provide the sweetest snaps of a crowded bazaar if said bazaar is closed during those times. It’s always smart to ask around to ensure that the subject of your shot appears before your lens precisely as you intended.
Watch the behaviors of those around you. See how they greet each other, how they interact with strangers. What is happening when you see smiling teeth, angry scowls, or excited surprise? Action shots of daily life can be incredibly endearing when emotions and expressions occur at their most sincere. Think about the emotions you want to convey and figure out where they’re most likely to be revealed. Notice how certain reactions might yield different emotions than what you’d expect in your home culture. Remember, you’re telling a story of life in foreign lands, you want to show the humanity in your subjects.
Friendliness goes a long way in gaining the trust of others. This goes doubly so when you’re trying to set them up in a certain pose against a certain backdrop. Plus, it may come across as rude to poke a camera in someone’s face among certain settings like a banquet hall or museum. So show those pearly whites and give a jovial greeting. Use charismatic body language while giving the lowdown on what you’re soliciting them for. People make the best portraits when they’re comfortable and agreeable to the shot you’ve rigged up.
Try Out Variations
The average digital camera is loaded with all manner of settings. You can adjust the artificial brightness, change the composition, or even choose whether the subject or background is blurred in action shots. Switching up the angles you shoot from achieves radically different effects. You may also discover that what was meant to be a close, intimate shot is more meaningful when nearby storefronts are included. For major landmarks and monuments that have been snapped millions of times already, try choosing an unconventional approach and choose your own interpretation.
Use The Lighting To Your Advantage
Lighting can dramatically affect how a photo will turn out, so learn to use it to your advantage. If you have too much of it, the colors and fine details in your photograph become washed out. If you have too little, you risk everything looking unnatural and grainy. Practice utilizing various filters and brightness settings to manipulate the lighting. See for yourself how one angle may blot out your landscape shot in darkness, but a slight shift away from the sun fixes it. Light sources should preferably be located off to one side for a more even distribution.
Keep Aware Of Your Surroundings
Carrying an expensive camera around, with even more expensive lenses can attract bad company. Always read your settings and analyze the mood around you. An unsolicited photo could earn the malice of angry denizens, and you never know who could be sizing you up for theft. The best way to gain security is by earning the trust and friendship of those around you. That way you won’t stand out as such a lone target. Likewise, dressing casually and in line with the culture around you will help to blend in and minimize your presence.
Take your time to soak up the flavors of local life. You may have found dozens of enticing sites, but they’re hidden layers to every city that reveal themselves only after an extensive time spent in them. Because for all of the research you’ve done, there are neighborhoods you’ll never find without taking the initiative to explore for yourself. And really, seeing new locales, geography, people… That’s what traveling is all about, so slow down and have fun.