I’ve never claimed to be an expert in photography. I always consider myself a traveller first and photographer second. Over years of travelling this planet, I’ve picked up some tips and habits that have helped me improve my photos. Today I would like to share these with you.
I have no earth-shattering revelations, just common sense and years of practice, whether I’m travelling or not. I often don’t have the time to wait or the ability to scope out a location before I arrive. Sometimes the destinations come as a surprise to me. Sometimes the shots I take come off, a lot of times they don’t, but I never give up trying. Neither should you.
Photography is an art and it takes lots of practice to perfect. Aiming for perfection in every shot is unrealistic in the busy and confusing world we all live in. Try to learn from your mistakes and never stop trying to improve. You will make an awful lot of mistakes as you get used to new equipment and new ways of doing things. Part of the learning process is to read up on your chosen subject.
We all lead busy lives so reading a book cover to cover is impractical in the spare time we have. I find it useful to bookmark my favourite articles in a chosen field so I can dip in and out as I go. You will always learn more by doing rather than just reading. The guys at Groom And Style have written a top notch post on Making The Most Of Your Camera that’s well worth a read if you are wondering what you can achieve with some of the more advanced features have rarely touched.
Another great article on the rule of thirds is from the guys at Photography Talk. Their non-techy articles are followed by over 1 million followers on their Facebook and Twitter pages. As well as the rule of thirds they cover all situations you could come across while out and about as well as covering pretty much any camera you could come across while travelling.
Both the above are much more in-depth than what you will read in this article so well worth bookmarking it so you can dip in and out as new situations arise while you are out and about.
Photography On The Go – Always have a camera with you
Your best camera is the one you always have with you. Today’s smartphones are perfectly capable of capturing stunning images with increasing clarity. We aren’t always in a position to study weather and tide patterns or wait for the “golden hour” like professional photographers. Oftentimes while on a tour I won’t have even a minute to get a shot. Certainly not enough time to select the right lens for my bridge camera. My iPhone goes everywhere with me and has become my preferred shooting source in a lot of situations when low light or a zoom isn’t involved.
There is no point spending over £1000 on some camera equipment if you don’t also invest in the requisite training to be able to use it. A DSLR camera with a £2000 lens set to ‘auto’ probably won’t yield better results than today’s modern camera phones. If you aren’t prepared to spend the money, and more importantly, the time to learn how to use a professional camera correctly then don’t bother buying one. If you have no intention of using the camera on ‘manual’, save yourself a ton of money and go with a compact or superzoom travel camera or your phone.
Would it surprise you to learn that more than 90% of the photos on my Kilimanjaro series were shot using my iPhone? I carried my bridge camera with me all the way to the top. After day 2 I didn’t have the time or the energy to decide on what lenses or setting to use so defaulted to what I know; my iPhone.
Photography On The Go – Without Any Bells & Whistles, Composition Is Key
When you can’t wait for the right light or compensate for something “in camera”, how you compose or frame your shot can make the difference between an OK shot and a great shot. Use trees or other things to frame otherwise bland skies, drawing attention to the main purpose of the shot. If you are in a busy tourist site try to use this same technique to disguise any wandering tourists. I used the bushes and temples in Tulum to great effect.
Photography On The Go – Try To Get Used To The Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds is an age old photographers technique to draw your viewers into the shot. Seeing as I’m no expert, I’ll let someone who is explain it in more detail to you. The guys at Expert Photography have recently rewritten their in depth guide to improving your composition by using the rule of thirds and even provide you with a downloadable cheat sheet to use while you’re out exploring. When I’m out and about I always try to get a slightly different angle on things. Mother Nature rarely does things symmetrically so why would you take a photo square on? We may not realise it but subconsciously our brains are telling us something isn’t right. Instead of getting a photo of a pier dead on centre, try getting a slightly off centre angle with the pier still ending in the centre of your shot. You’ll be surprised what a difference a few steps to the side can make.
Photography On The Go – Get Down!
Something as simple as crouching down, aiming your lens slightly up can really make your images pop in the right circumstances. Such as when you have a reflection on a glass flat lake surface or interesting cloud formations. You will notice photos from some of my later travels have started employing this simple to use yet often forgotten technique.
Photography On The Go – Use Flash Sparingly
I always have my flash set to off. Flash on phones, quite frankly, is a waste of time. In low light conditions I prefer to use my bridge camera. If you don’t have a bridge camera or DSLR, the latest compact cameras have improved their low light photography no end in recent years. Flash should only be used to illuminate objects near the camera. Dont even bother trying to illuminate a fireworks show with it like someone did behind me for the 4th July celebrations in Disney World one year. Trying to use a flash to light up a landscape is pointless. Buy a tripod and set your camera to shutter priority instead and I promise with some practice you will soon see results.
Photography On The Go – Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Always look around for any quiet areas that are perfect for a shot. If you have a specific shot in mind, a quick scan of the area will tell you the best time to get it. This applies particularly when you are trying to take a panorama, you don’t want anyone too near you. Be mindful of who is either side of you as you pan and in which direction they are going.
Photography On The Go – Be Polite
If you want to photograph local people, don’t forget to ask permission. Don’t worry that you may not speak the same language. You would be amazed how much a simple smile and some rudimentary sign language goes. If they say “no” respect their choice and try someone else. In a lot of cultures it’s not acceptable to have a photo taken. Don’t take it personally.
While I am an opportunistic photographer I try to make the most out of every situation or landscape I am in. If I am in a built up area I am always mindful of who is around me. What can I use to potentially hide anyone in the shot? If it’s just me and Mother Nature I will use all the time I am allowed. I’m not afraid to look a little silly getting down on my knees or into a funny angle if the situation calls for it. I sometimes notice people copying me. That’s a wonderful complement.