Travel Photography – Telling Your Visual Story
Whether you are dreaming of getting a travel photography job to take you around the world or just want to capture the most exciting moments of your upcoming trip, you should start with learning the theory of travel photography. And even if you think you are quite good at taking shots, travel photography still might catch you off guard since it’s literally all-encompassing and takes much more knowledge and experience to be mastered.
Indeed, you never know which of your skills are to be put up to the test the next time – street photography, food photography, landscape photography, or any other. It’s only fair to say that travel photography is the pinnacle of the art of photo shooting. A single glance at a focused collection of wonderful travel photos would be enough to understand that it takes a bit more than just a good camera and sunny weather to create such masterpieces.
Nevertheless, mastering travel photography is no different than mastering any other art: just keep putting one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll make your road by walking, as the proverb says. Without further ado, we suggest you to make your first step right now by grasping the tips and tricks on travel photography.
#1 Pick the Right Camera
The right camera in the right hands can do wonders, which is why first of all you should buy a solid device within your budget. How to pick one? The main criterion is the size of the image sensor: the bigger it is, the more light it can use to create an image, and the higher the quality of the shots. And one more thing: please don’t treat megapixels as a crucial factor. Contrary to popular belief, it has little to do with the quality of photographs, or at least not as much as most beginners tend to think. Here are a few reasonable choices depending on your budget and the sensor size you are willing to get:
- Canon Powershot Elph 190 (~$105). The cheapest option in the list, this point-and-shoot camera from Panasonic has a 10x zoom and is as ergonomic as a smartphone. However, it’s not designed to withstand temperatures below 0C and higher than 40C, which means it can only be used in warm seasons.
- GoPro HERO 7 Black ($330). Rugged and waterproof, GoPro HERO 7 Black is where the quality meets the price, though you are likely to use it only as an addition to the main camera. It takes 12MP photos, shoots 4K60 video, and has all the stabilization bells and whistles to ensure the highest possible quality of photos and footage.
- iPhone X (starts at $999). iPhone X is not the cheapest option, but it weighs nothing compared to most cameras, fits the pocket, and delivers excellent quality with its superb f/1.8 aperture lens. In fact, an iPhone of one of the latest models may satisfy you down to the ground, especially if you already own it.
- Nikon COOLPIX B700 ($499). If you’re going to shoot from a distance, the 60x zoom of this 20.2 MP camera will come in handy. Nikon COOLPIX B700 gives you sufficient control over your shots and can be considered as a one-size-fits-all option.
- Canon EOS 6D (~$1000 for a used camera) and Canon EOS 6D Mark II ($1699). Both cameras take pictures of incredible quality, both are great in the dark, and both provide good autofocus and continuous shooting speed. Apart from the price, the difference is that Canon EOS 6D Mark II has all characteristics boosted and it enables timelapse movies, allowing you to record changes taking place over time (say, capture the whole day from dawn to sunset).
Note that most mirrorless cameras go with low or medium-quality kit lenses and therefore it’s always a good idea to buy a lens according to your shooting needs and budget. A good lense, though, would cost you a pretty penny (as much as the camera itself at best). It should have a small aperture and high focal length so that you can zoom out and catch enough light for your pictures.
#2 Don’t Forget About Photography Accessories
- Memory cards. A 64 GB memory card would be enough to take as many photos as you can physically shoot during the day plus you will have a few (most likely a few dozen) spare gigabytes for footage. The price for a 64 GB memory card starts at $10.
- Storage for photographs. Whether it’s an external hard drive, USB flash drive, or cloud storage, it doesn’t matter, but please make sure you have enough place to upload the packs of photos you shoot daily. A few terabytes must be enough even if you take thousands of pictures a day.
- Filters for lenses. If you go with an expensive lens, it’s worthwhile to spend a few dozen dollars on filters so that the lens won’t get damaged or scratched during the photo shooting in the field. Also, consider purchasing a polarizing filter to manage reflections, darken skies, suppress glare from the water surface, and basically, change the balance of light to benefit your photos.
- Batteries and power banks. Running out of power in the middle of a photoshoot is the worst experience ever, so make sure to buy an additional battery and maybe a power bank, especially if you’re going to take more than a few hundred shots a day.
- Tripod. Whether small or large, a tripod significantly expands your creative horizons. It might be Vanguard VEO 2 204AB for lightweight setups, an ultra-compact Sirui NT-1005X/E-10, or a giant Manfrotto 290 Dual MK290DUA3-BH – just imagine the locations you are going to conquer and try to figure out which tripod could be a win-win option to take versatile shots without sacrificing the comfort.
- Insurance. Last but not least, consider getting an insurance cover for your camera if the latter costs a few thousand dollars. There are lots of companies offering insurance for photographers, including but not limited to Hill & Usher, Imaging Insurance, Professional Photographers of American Photo Care Insurance, Front Row Insurance, E & I Insurance, etc.
#3 Preparation at Your Destination
To capture the moments in a way that you would love to relive them across the years, you should master how to use your camera in the manual mode by finding the best relationship between ISO (sensitivity of your camera to light), aperture (how much light goes through the lens), and shutter speed (how fast the shutter opens and closes). While that knowledge will definitely come to you with practice, arranging things at the place of destination within a limited time frame might be more challenging.
- Research the locations. In addition to the research you’ve made at home using Instagram, Google, Pinterest, and social networks (you’ve made it, right?), it would be very helpful to scout the location the day before photo shooting. The better you do your ‘homework,’ the more net time you will have to take pictures instead of choosing positions, angles, and making other adjustments that should have already been done.
- Get ready to wake up early. The hour after the dawn and the hour before the sunset are known as the best time to take pictures, and this is especially true for natural settings since city lights do not intervene. Warm morning light will breathe liveliness, romantics, and unusual charm into your shots, making them especially warm and dear.
- Soak up the local culture. The information that you find on the web can acquaint you with all the features of the setting and maybe even convey the atmosphere, but still, you will have to earn the trust of the locals if you want to photo-shoot them. Don’t rush to take pictures – take your time to feel the spirit of the place you are in. Be polite with locals, smile, give gifts, buy souvenirs, and only after that start taking pictures if you are granted permission.
- Do not book organized tours. It’s always a temptation to relax and book an organized tour where you can just follow the recommendation of your guide and serenely contemplate the beauty around you. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to take great pictures during organized tours for these are usually too crowded, as well as the time is limited. Organized tours might work only for small groups with good photography ethics.
Photography Composition Tips
#4 Use leading lines to start your story
To get a great opening line in your photo story, you may take advantage of landscape forms, architecture, or anything else resembling leading lines – the natural lines that lead the viewer to the main object in the picture. These may be a path in the forest, railway rails, whatever – the gist is to slowly move the viewer up the picture to the climax, the main idea of the image.>
#5 Follow the Rule of Thirds
The basic rule of composition is the rule of thirds, which refers to our instincts to focus attention on specific places in the picture. If to follow the science-based theory, you should break the image into nine equal imaginary parts and strive to place the main objects (the objects that you want to direct attention to) close or on the intersection of two lines – that is, not in the very center of the picture but rather to the right or to the left.
#6 Use a Focal Point to Manage Viewers’ Attention
Among many approaches to photography, making stress on the focal point of the shot and blurring the rest is probably the most impressive, though it can be used only for a tiny portion of your photos. After mastering the focal point shooting, you can move ahead and play with the depth of the field by changing the aperture to control which parts on the image should stay in focus.
#7 Take Voluminous Shots
One of the reasons why your photos might not fully convey the beauty of the moment is the lack of volume in them. But that is easy to deal with. Divide your picture into three sections – a foreground, a middle part, and a background – and fill each one with meaningful objects. See the example: both the wooden table on the foreground, the river in the middle part, and the mountains on the background draw attention, creating a feeling of being present at the pictured location.
#8 Keep the main object in a frame
In addition to forming leading lines and creating volume, the peculiarities of the landscape can be used to ‘frame’ the main object in the shot and thereby add symmetry to the image and draw attention to where you want it. Branches, trees, bushes, buildings – whatever you have at your disposal – may be skillfully used for framing.
#9 Bring Color Theory to Practice
A piece of theory: there are three color orders – primary, secondary, tertiary – as well as three primary colors – red, yellow, and blue. By mixing two primary colors, we create a secondary color. By mixing a primary and a secondary color, we create a tertiary color. That’s it – the whole color palette works according to these rules while different combinations of colors affect our perception in a different way. Some colors excite us, some make us perceive the picture as a ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ one, and some colors are just bad for perception.
There are several types of color harmonies that work well for landscape shots, even though it’s almost impossible to achieve a perfect harmony of colors and you shouldn’t even strive for it. Just take into consideration the theory of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors to add a certain vibe to your pictures when you can do it.
- Analogous – any two colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel (can be extended to any number of colors, though too many colors will hamper the harmony).
- Complementary – any two colors lying opposite each other on the wheel.
- Double complementary (quadratic) – a combination of two complementary pairs of colors.
- Monochromatic – a single color with different saturation (for example, a black-and-white image).
- Triadic – any equilateral triangle of three colors.
- Diad – two colors on the distance of two hues from each other.
Good Luck in Telling Your Visual Story
Just like you invest time and effort in picking the place to visit, getting the tickets, and booking the hotel, invest time and effort in learning the basics of travel photography since you might not get a second chance to revisit the location of your dreams. Millions of stories remain untold by those thinking travel photography is easy and no different than taking any other shots, but you are not the one to fall into that trap. With what you’ve just learned, you have all the chance to tell your unique visual story, a story crying to be told.