It’s so exciting to travel to a city or country you’ve never been before, and naturally anyone would want to have pictorial memories of their trip to reminisce about in the future. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional photographer or picked up photography as a hobby, taking nice photos on your travels takes practice. And as they say, practice makes perfect. Here are some travel photography tips to perfect your journey.
1. Pack light
Wanting to get the perfect shot doesn’t necessarily require a hundred and one gadgets. One can get carried away packing their equipment for their trip, but all you really need is a camera body, a single or two reliable travel lens and a lightweight camera bag. Don’t forget to chuck a couple of memory cards in that bag though, it barely takes up space to bring a few extras (and save you a few bucks from buying another new one overseas).
2. Know your camera and lens
What I’ve learnt over the years of travel is that picking an ideal camera is vital. Research on what cameras are suitable for travelling. You can walk into stores and enquire. Let them know what you prioritise and get recommendations for the perfect camera. I ended up with an Olympus digital LSR when I originally wanted a Canon. Similarly for lenses, look into what you want to capture, and get a lens for that. You don’t need every lens out there. You just need one that does the job for you.
3. “Rule of thirds”
Anyone who’s ever done a Google search on photography would definitely know the rule of thirds. It’s a useful trick for everyone to know, regardless if you’re taking a photo through a camera lens or just your smartphone. The goal is to place important parts of the photo in the specific sections that help frame the overall image in a way that’s pleasing to the eyes. It may take a little practice, but over time it’ll come as second nature!
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4. Invest in a lightweight travel tripod
I personally don’t travel with a tripod, but I’ve always aimed to be one of those travellers with one. Investing in a lightweight travel tripod is not only convenient but also very useful when you want to shoot a lower shutter speed shot, play around with your manual settings or just want a self-timer for a group shot (or even solo shot).
5. Be friendly and ask the locals
The most interesting photos are the one where you don’t get to see very often. There’s always the fear of rejection when asking for a portrait shot of the locals, and we end up just capturing a landscape scenery shot of the environment. Build up the courage to capture the beauty of the moment and of human lives. You’ll be surprised at how unique and beautiful it ends up coming out.
6. Shoot in the right mode
Even though every professional photographer would tell you that shooting in manual mode is always better, I’m here to tell you that it’s perfectly alright to shoot in auto mode. In some circumstances where you’re in for a packed day and don’t have the luxury to spend hours at one location to shoot the perfect image, shooting it in auto mode is the safest bet. Getting used to the manual mode can take some time, so it’s fine not to rush into it straight away.
7. Safety is priority
It’s no secret that the local pickpockets and thieves target foreigners and tourists. As such, you have to always keep your belongings safe. Cameras are small but very expensive gadgets, and are easily snatched if no precautions are taken. Keep your gear secure no matter the circumstance. If you decide not to bring it out, make sure to lock it in a hotel safe.
8. Take notes
Though not the most conventional and time-friendly tip, take some time out of your evening after a whole day of adventure to jot down some notes and keywords. It’ll help you when referencing to your photos in the future, or even ways to improve on your own photography. Self-critique sometimes can be the best kind of critique.
9. Think outside the box
It can get difficult to get unique shots of locations and attractions that are already so famously known and pictured. Shoot some safe shots, then experiment with different angles and perspectives. Unleash your creativity and focus on originality.
10. Use Google Maps to mark spots
If you have a specific spot where you want to shoot, mark it on an application like Google Maps so that you’re able to find your way to the desired place efficiently. You may even be able to plan a transportation route that saves time and, who knows, discover more than what you originally planned.
11. Get up early and stay out late
Nothing great ever comes easy. Sleeping in sounds like a dream, especially when you’re on your holiday. However, at hotspot areas in big cities, it’s always better to beat the crowd and the harsh light that dawns upon us at noon. If you’re not that much of a morning person, stay out a bit late when everyone’s wrapping up their day and experiment with evening and night shots. Pack the right gear for this though!
12. Be adventurous
The nice architecture and hyped areas are often the main attractions, but you’ll never know what you’ll find when you get off the beaten track. Take a few left turns off the main road, go down that slim alley to discover an out of the ordinary outlook of the city you’re in. Be a little adventurous in your travels, and it will reflect in your photography.
13. Put the camera down (but keep it with you)
This might be one of the most important (if not the most important travel photography tip) on the list. While the whole article is on how to improve your photography skills on travels, it’s crucial to put your camera down once in a while to take it all in. After all, you are on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday that you’ve been counting down to. Live in the moment and see the world with your own eyes, instead of through your camera lens.
With that said, you should also always have a form of camera easily accessible. Even if it’s just your smartphone, you’ll definitely want to capture something special and unexpected in the moment.