When you think of travel photography, you probably think that you have to travel somewhere to take travel photos. This is not necessarily true. I have taken “travel photos” in the city where I live. To be travel photos, they need to tell a story about the destination, whether it is where you live, interstate, or overseas. Practising these skills at home will help you with your photos when you are in that exotic destination that you have been dreaming to go to.
Tell a story
One the most important parts of travel photography besides knowing your camera is telling a story within a single frame as well as multiple frames (photo essay). Before you fire off a thousand snaps hoping for the best. Think about what the story is that you want to tell. Remember back in high school we were taught the 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why) when writing a story. It is no different when telling your story through photos. Writing the 5 W’s on a piece of paper will definitely help and you can go back and reference your story to make sure that you are telling it as you wanted to.
The Gold Coast has a very active beach lifestyle and you can see the locals exercising before sunrise daily. I believe by adding a runner into the image it tells this story rather than only having the lifeguard tower.
You know that gut feeling you get sometimes when something is meant to be or you shouldn’t be in a certain place. This is instinct. Trust your intuition when you are out shooting and more often than not you will get the shot. Being in the right place at the right time definitely helps, but I believe that your instinct plays a big part in this. Your mind needs to be free from fear and you need to allow yourself to let the moments come to you and not force it.
Focus on the Unusual
My mentor Stu Spence once told me to come up with words that describe the work that I admire and those words are “Strangely Beautiful”. Focusing on the unusual in a popular destination will make your photo stand out from the rest.
Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority
Most information you find will tell you to shoot in Manual, but when you are trying to capture a split second moment or walking through different lighting conditions, shooting on Av (Aperture Priority) or Tv (Shutter Priority) will help you exposing the image correctly while still giving you control.
Know your gear
If you are new to photography or have recently got new camera gear, it is so important to practice before you go on your vacation. You don’t want to get to your destination and miss the shot because you don’t know where all the functions and buttons are on your camera.
The crop of an image can make the photo tell a completely different story. It can also tighten the story to make sure that there are no distractions.
Before you arrive at a destination, it is important to do some research beforehand. With the internet and no shortage of social media platforms, it has never been easier to find information about a place. After all the research, then make a list of photos that you would like to shoot. With the help of google maps, find out which direction (north, south, east, west) the location is in order to know what time of day the photo would best be taken in. Keep in mind the shadows, buildings and the direction of the sun.
Explore your own city
You don’t need to travel to take travel photos. When I first started shooting, I set out challenges for myself in the area that I lived in. I have to say, I learnt quite a lot during this time from shooting in the right lighting conditions at the right time of day. I have practiced my storytelling within my own city and it can be quite challenging. I’ll put you up to that challenge to take a series of 10 photos that tell as story about your suburb or city. Feel free to email your photo story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to give you feedback based on my experience. Before you start, create a shot list that covers all the important aspects and landmarks of your suburb or city and when the best time of day is to shoot these locations.
Think outside of the box
Landmarks have been shot a million times over. If you think outside the box and think of a new perspective or add different elements into your frame, it will stand out from the rest of the snapshots and images that have been taken from the same location.
Add a human element
When shooting an iconic location, try and include a human element into your image that depicts the scene. They may be riding a bike or walking past. Avoid having other tourists in the scene and try to capture the locals that will add to the story.
When you are taking photos of people or private property, it is always best to ask permission first. If you ask and they say no, then respect their wishes and wait for another person or move on to another location. You may be thinking to yourself, how do I approach someone to ask them to take a photo of them. It is as simple as that. Walk up to them, if you speak the same language then explain what you are doing and if you could kindly take their photo. If you don’t speak the same language then you should learn a few words “Hi, how are you?” “Can I take your photo please” “Thank you very much”, if this is too difficult then a smile goes a long way and point to your camera.
Getting down on the ground or standing on a ladder or a park bench will change the perspective of your shot and help you stand out from the crowd.
Wait for the right subject to walk through your scene or the right lighting to hit a building in a certain way. If I wait 5-10 minutes, I will 90% of the time get the shot I was after, if I am by myself, I will wait longer, sometimes hours or returning to the scene, but when I am with other people, you have to respect them as well and not upset them as it is their holiday too.
The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell talks about being the best in your chosen profession or hobby takes 10,000 hours of quality practice. There is a difference between 2 hours of practice that isn’t productive and 1 hour of quality practice that targets a specific element that you are working on. In the long term, practice is the only way to improve your skill to achieve a level of competence that you are wanting to achieve.