Making memories is one of the reasons we travel and to have a record of these experiences is as important as the travel itself.
Great photos are what reminds us of our travel experiences for the years to come. In this article, I will be sharing my photography experience and helping you with tips that will get you better photos without becoming too technical.
Before I go further, I would like to give you some information about myself. My interest in photography started early in life, but we did not have good cameras at home. One of my first goals, when I started working, was to buy a camera and after buying the camera I needed to learn to use the camera properly. I must have learnt rather quickly and by the time I was 19 years old, my first full page spread photo was published in a South African national magazine. I went on to specialise in motorsport photography for the next fifteen years working for motoring magazines, newspapers and manufacturer clients. For the last 15 years, I have concentrated on people and corporate photography.
I will keep this article practical and simple to help you take better photos.
If you want really great travel photos then you need to remember that good photos require a bit of thought and planning, so try not to rush and see and much as possible in one day. Take time to discover interesting things and observe them, then once you have observed something you can think about it and plan the best angle for your photos.
Digital SLR, Compact or SmartPhone?
Which camera should you take? I personally use my iPhone for all my photography and the videos I record. Sure I would get fantastic shots with a high-end digital SLR (single lens reflex) and my choice would be a mirrorless Nikon Z7 with prime lenses, but for travel purposes, I would opt for the 28-300mm Lens. There are many good SLR cameras, however, the reason I do not use an SLR for travelling is that it is too heavy to carry.
The compact camera that I would strongly consider would be the Nikon Coolpix A1000 which has a superb x35 optical zoom lens that covers focal lengths from a wide-angle of 24mm to a telephoto range of 840mm and it weighs less than 400 grams. The cost of this compact which is perfect for travel is around $500.
The results I get with my iPhone are good enough to share on social media and I would suggest you consider your needs carefully before spending thousands of dollars on camera equipment.
Principles and Elements vs Basics of Photography
I am going to cover the elements or principles of photography: Light, Colour, Emphasis, Composition and Balance rather than the basics of photography which are Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO / Film Speed.
The Best Light for Photography
The principles of photography are simple if you want the best photos – photograph when the light is best and that is usually at sunrise or sunset. However, we travel when the light is not always ideal and we need to learn how to compensate for good and bad lighting conditions.
Where should the Sun be? As a rule, the sun should be at 90 degrees to your shoulder, if you are unsure simply move your camera around, you will notice how the colour improves as the angle to the sun changes.
With the help of PaDi (Yellow Bean Duck), the main photo is taken with the sun at 90 degrees and you will notice the interesting shadow it produces. The top-right photo is with the sun behind the camera (you can see the shadow of the camera) and the lighting is flatter. The bottom right photo is taken directly into the sun and this produces a silhouette.
What if I need to photograph in the middle of the day? Use shade and try not to include the sky in your photo as the sky in the middle of the day is usually grey.
When viewing your photos on your computer, you may want to add a bit of saturation to make your photos a little more vibrant. Don’t overdo the adjustments, keep them looking as real as possible, unless you want a different look.
Colour is great but sometimes changing the image to black and white, sepia or saturating will produce more impact.
Unless you specifically photograph to emphasize angles, photos try to depict things correctly, buildings that are falling over (unless it is the tower of Piazza) should be straightened and horizon lines should be levelled. Otherwise, it looks as if the river is emptying!
What is your intention and what story are you telling with your photo? Often just taking a moment to think about the photo will improve your photography in leaps and bounds.
The three images above of the Whale Bone of Arco della Costa in Verona, Italy are an example of a simple record shot, a photo that has more impact and a story. The image on the top left has a pole and wires that are distracting. The image on the bottom left was taken from a different angle, with better composition and a clear emphasis on the Whale Bone. Whilst the image on the right tells you a story about where the photo was actually taken.
Composition & Balance
Placing things correctly in your photos helps to give them a better perspective. The image of the train above gives a space for the train to move into, the tracks start at the left bottom and move into the photo and will take the viewer into the photo from left to right (our way of reading) making the photo easier to view.
If you like taking selfies of yourself then make sure you get a good reliable stick with remote triggering. This will give you a better perspective than the up close and personal. Most other times you can ask other tourists to take a photo of you, which will provide a far wider perspective and you can reciprocate by taking a photograph of them. This way you also have the opportunity of meeting more people.
To avoid out of focus and blurred images, additional support is often necessary to keep your camera still and also allows you to think a bit more about the composition of your photo. When using these tripods, using the self-timer or some sort of remote device would help to avoid further camera shake.
Two of the most effective travel tripods are the Joby Gorilla (above left) which comes in various sizes and is flexible enough to be attached around things like railings and branches. Manfrotto’s Travel tripod (above right) is around 30cm long and is designed for the heavier cameras.
If you are using a Smartphone, make sure you buy a good tripod phone adaptor that will last. The cheap types that comes with selfie sticks are usually plastic and are only good for a few uses.
You will not always have sufficient natural light and you may need to to use additional lighting. As a rule, you should never use your smartphone’s flash, the results are never great. Rather add additional lighting and be creative about how you do it. Ask a friend to switch on their smartphone’s torch or even a normal torch, adding extra light to illuminate your subject. Remember to choose the correct setting on your smartphone as it will make a difference.
When photographing food or close up items model your light until things look better. If you keep your light source directly overhead your subject will look very flat, however, if you angle your light more, then you can work with shadows that create depth and add texture to your images. If you are photographing buildings or bigger objects and you require additional light, ask your friend to hide and add light in a dark corner or even from behind which could create an interesting halo effect.
Most of all, enjoy taking photos and making memories.
Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure this series of posts will give you the necessary guidelines and assist you in finding the easiest and most cost-effective way of booking and planning your itinerary.
- Part One – Air Travel
- Part Two – Transport and Logistics
- Part Three – Accommodation
- Part Four – Food and Eating Out
- Part Five – Drinks and Snacks
- Part Six – Things to Do
- Part Seven – What to pack
- Part Eight – Photography
- Part Nine – Essential Travel Tips
Please follow my Blog and you will be updated when the other parts in this series are published. Feel free to send me comments and or any suggestions of topics you would like me to cover in future travel related articles.