Photos are to traveling what lettuce is to a salad: it’s very difficult to have the second without the first. The camera becomes the most important companion of your trip and will be with you everywhere, anywhere, at all times, and if it’s not with you when you need it…you’ll get really pissed. Am I right? Good travel photography however is not easy and I bet that many times when seeing your photos back home you get frustrated at the results or aren’t as impressed as you were when you actually took them. Some are too dark, others too bright, others are not well focused, some don’t really say much…the opportunities for them to be average or poor are endless.
The good news is that there are a few simple things that you can do that will immediately result in better travel photography. Not all pictures can always be breathtaking because too many things have to be right at the same time, but by remembering the following tips you will quickly realize your pictures have dramatically improved and results are immediate.
Many people think that pictures don’t come out good because the camera isn’t professional, because the subject wasn’t posing correctly or perhaps wasn’t too interesting after all, when the truth is that composition (framing and actually taking the picture) has been almost ignored. These first tips for better travel photography have to do with this precisely and are always applicable, no matter what camera you are using.
1) Rule of thirds- Horizontal
When taking a picture (particularly landscape pictures of any kind) look though your camera and define what part of what you want to portray is near you, what is far, and what is the background of it all. Usually the sky or a large mass of water (lake, ocean) will be the third and will sit at either the top or bottom of the picture. Imagine you can divide what you see into three symmetrical horizontal areas, focus, and shoot. If there are only two distinct areas, split them not along the middle of the viewfinder but a third from the top or the bottom- the human eye finds this distribution naturally pleasant and you are off to a good start.
2) Rule of thirds- Vertical
Now imagine you do the same thing you did before but vertically: you want three symmetrical vertical areas. Why? Most people have a tendency when taking a picture to have the subject in the middle of the picture and shoot, thus making him/her/it the center of attention and the leaving the beautiful background almost irrelevant, when the truth is that the background is what you want to show off and the model is there as memory or proof of the visit. By having the person pose in one of the two vertical lines the background will be visible in 2/3 of the picture and the subject will also draw attention without being in the middle of it all.
3) Pay attention to the background
If you’re taking a picture of your kids at the beach you probably don’t want to arrive home and realize this is the picture you took.
4) Symmetry and patterns
Human eyes naturally also like to see patterns and symmetry. Be on the lookout for opportunities of simple yet captivating shots.
5) Make sure you’re at the same level as the subject being photographed
If you’re photographing a kid get down on your knees to be at his level, if it’s a small dog then lie down, if it’s a car then bend over. Being high above the object or below it creates distorted proportions.
6) Get close to the subject- do not rely on digital zoom
If the object being photographed is far but within walking distance, don’t be lazy and walk to it. Digital zoom (whether in camera or photography editing software) can make the picture blury if the picture is not perfectly focused or the camers has been slighly moved.
NON COMPOSITION RELATED
7) Use the flash when outside
This is not necessary if you’re photographing a distant object, but if you are taking a picture of a person, animal or something that is close to you use the flash for better lighting- it will get rid of unwanted shaded areas. Additionaly, when the sun (or source of light) is behind your object you can still take a picture and avoid the shadow by forcing the use of the flash. 99% of ALL cameras have this option.
8 ) Use the viewfinder if your camera has one
Taking the picture by looking at the screen is not as precise as using the viewfinder because your eyes are also paying attention to things around the camera. If you use the viewfinder your eye will have its undevided attention on what you want to portray, and common mistakes like keeping the horizon line horizontal will be avoided. Which reminds me: KEEP THE HORIZON AS IT IS MEANT TO BE: HORIZONTAL!
9) Use depth of field and focus accordingly
What does this mean? Very easy. You’ve probably seen pictures where the main subject is well focused and stands out over a blurry background, right? Unlike what you might have thought you don’t need a professional camera to achieve this result: all point and shoot cameras can do it as well. To do this point the center of the camera at the object which (now that you know) will be on the side of the viewfinder and half-press the shutter button- this will make sure that the subject is well focused. Now, without releasing the button move the camera to compose the picture as you want, with the subject on a side, and finish pressing the button. Voila! The subject is focused, the background is blurry.
10) Take tons of pictures!!
Digital photography is cheap, so make use of it! Take pictures of everything, of everyone, without holding back, and if you don’t like it, delete it! Practice makes perfection and sometimes you will get superb pictures you were not even expecting.
With these 10 simple tips you are well on your way for better travel photography and should start seeing results the next time you take pictures. Remember however that photography should also be spontaneous, and unplanned pictures at odd angles can sometimes be better than that shot you have been planning ahead. Get you camera, go outside and start shooting!
Did you find these tips useful? What other tricks do you know of that help you take better pictures? Tell us abut them and if you liked this post please share it- and “Like” it (Facebook style)!