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20 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know

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1. Get up Early

The best light to capture most kinds of subjects is in the golden hours- one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset (depend off course on where you are on the globe). So get up early to get that amazing photo opportunities, while all the other tourists are still asleep.

2. Do your research

Don’t leave it to chance and learn as much as you can about the place you are about to travel. The more you know, the more “intelligent” your images will be.

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3. Learn your Craft

Don’t waste your expensive traveling time on learning how to operate that new camera, lens or flash. Do your homework at home.

4. Choice the Right Lodging

Staying on the center of town, or having a room with wonderful views can create a lot of great photo opportunities.

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5. Say Hello

Learn how to say “Hello” in the local Language, and greet the locals when taking their photo.

6. Get Inspired

Watch the portfolio of other photographers in order to get new ideas and get inspiration. You can read the interview I did with Steve McCurry, the photographer of the “Afghan girl”, to get few great tips for a true master.Also, If you perceive yourself as an artist, you must acknowledge the work of other artists. Do not underestimate inspiration: visit art galleries, attend some photography lectures, listen to classical music, read good books.

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7. Feel the Place

Photography is not only about visual inspiration. Try the local food, smell local markets and hear local music, this will help you to better understand the story of the place.

8. Find a Fixer

Talk to locals and seek their advice on great photo opportunities in their own country.

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9. Travel Light

Don’t take your entire house with you. When I travel I take with me only two lenses: One zoom and one prime lens. This is extremely important tip if you plan to do some hiking or trekking.

10. Get off the Beaten Path

Yes I know that in Cuba they smoke cigars and that in Thailand they have monks. Tell your viewers something fresh and new. Share your own point of view of the place. You will be able to do so, only after following tip number 2 and 6.

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11. Don’t try to get it all in once

Don’t try to see everything on your limited time. It is much smarter to get a better understanding about each place you visit on your journey. Slow things down, and your images will get better.

12. Travel Slow

If time allows you, always choice to travel by train or bus over flying. As it will allow you to have better Interactions with the locals.

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13. Leave the Camera Behind Sometimes

Don’t spend your entire trip looking through the lens. Enjoy your time just traveling and enjoying the ride.

14. Keep it Natural

One of the most important and influential photographers of all time, Henri Cartier Bresson- Never ever used flash in his photography. A practice he saw as “impolite…like going to a concert with a pistol in your hand.” Try to learn how to use and enjoy the benefits of natural light before you buy that expensive flash or reflector.

15. Get Higher

Every good travel photo series must have at list is one bird’s eye view of the place (Being referred sometimes as the “establish shot”). Find yourself a vintage point overlooking the entire city or town.

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16. Stop with the Excuses

“Well, if I had an expensive camera and lenses like you have” or “If someone would pay me to travel”, or “but, you have so much time on each destination”.

All of those, are excuses I often hear from my travel photography students. Excuses they tell themselves to answer the question of “Why can’t I get Strong images?” So, A. My first newspaper published cover image, was taken using a pocket camera.

Yes, equipment is important and it certainly makes life easier. But don’t forget the camera is just an instrument. A “pipe” which captures your vision and thoughts. Do not cry over the equipment you don’t own. spend the time and money to learn photography, reading books about it and travel as much as you can.

And B. For my first 8 journeys, no one paid me anything. I worked very-very hard at my day job for a whole year, and then I spend my money on traveling. I slept in some shitty places got bus rides from hell. This lifestyle requires commitment. And today, even as I get paid for traveling somtimes. The lengths are usually one to two weeks per assignment. Two weeks to come back with an amazing results. Not excuses like “but it was raining and I was sick” are accepted.

So, stop the excuses, and get back to work.

17. Find Yourself a Master

: the best way to learn (anything) is by watching a master working on his craft. Try to find a photographer which you can accompany as his assistant. It is true that most travel photographers like to travel alone. But it doesn’t have to be a travel photographer. Most of my knowledge about using light, I learned from a great fashion photographer, which I served him as an assistant for a while.

18. “Exotic” can be found Anywhere

No matter where you live in the world: New York, the Middle East or a small village in France. Try to see the beauty of the place you live in. if you will find the beauty of that place and bring within your images, people will follow.

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19. Don’t stop Traveling

A good travel photographer must keep is portfolio alive. Keep on traveling, and as the last tip mentioned: you don’t have to travel to far and exotic places to do so. As it is very easy to travel to India and get “good” travel photography. Try to bring the beauty of your own local town. Travel to the nearest market or attend the next festival as a way to keep your craft improving.

20. Be Human

Treat your subject as well as you can. Don’t shoot people from a far distance, don’t shot people who don’t want to get snapped. If you promise to send their photos, please do so. This will ensure that the photographer that will come after you will be received with a smile. And don’t forget, sometimes it is best to just leave the camera behind and enjoy the ride.

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Oded Wagenstein

Oded Wagenstein is a cultures photojournalist and author. His work has been published in numerous international publications, such as the National Geographic.com, BBC.com, and Time Out. He is the author of three photography books. Visit his Facebook page and continue to discuss travel and people photography and get more fantastic tips!

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