5 Tips for Better Travel Photography

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In this article, I will share with you some tips about travel photography.

After spending a year doing travel photography in India, I discovered that it isn’t about traveling physically, it’s about making the viewer travel virtually to your images. Travel image need to have sense of place and time. You can achieve this by shooting in your own city, street, or neighborhood.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Delhi - 5 Tips for Travel Photography

If I were from Delhi and shot some images of the Taj Mahal in Agra, or if I were from Agra itself and I shot images of the Taj Mahal, both of those will be considered travel images if they have sense of place or time. Just try to compose an photo so the viewer visually travels to your image. Make him feel that he already went to this place through your image or that he wants to go there in real life.

You don’t need to get an airline ticket to another country to make travel photography. You don’t need to take a train to another city to do, travel photography. But of course when you do travel to another country or city, your energy and passion increase because of the diverse culture and tradition and the fact that your eye is impressed by the new subjects.

#1 Avoiding cliché shots

Lake Pichola Udaipur Rajasthan - 5 Tips for Travel Photography

It’s important to avoid cliché shots in travel photography. Before buying my flight ticket to India, I decided to avoid all popular cliché images of India which are pictures of the Taj Mahal, a train window, Holi Festival, camels of Pushkar, Rajasthani portraits, and portraits of people with wrinkles. I wanted to shoot something different, I wanted to come back to my country with new frames that aren’t common to viewers eyes.

#2 Approaching people

Being a foreign travel photographer means that half of the people you will meet will welcome you and be kind because they appreciate and like foreigners. The other half won’t allow you to photograph them because they won’t be sure about how you will use their images.

Himalaya Nyingmapa Buddhist Temple Himachal Pradesh India - 5 Tips for Travel Photography

There are several ways to approach people abroad:

If you know the local language, it will be very easy for you to up go to your subject, introduce yourself, explain why you want to photograph them and how you will use the photos.

If you only speak English, you can have a guide or translator with you. I don’t recommend this because it will attract attention of people and some may feel that there is something serious in taking their image and they may refuse.

Jagdish Temple Udaipur Rajasthan - 5 Tips for Travel Photography

You can shoot candids and never make direct eye contact with your subject. Do not give an alert that you are photographing, and hide yourself behind the camera.

You can shoot without permission in a candid way with making direct eye contact, and smile to the subject and after taking the picture. Show them the image and tell them that they are beautiful and ask them to smile. Your eye contact and smile can be the permission. This is the best way!

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Delhi 2 - 5 Tips for Travel Photography

When you take portraits, make sure you have some of your images printed to show to your subject to help explain what are you doing and how they will look in your photographs.

Click one image and show them the pictures on your camera. They will be pleased because many people don’t know that their image can appear in camera.

#3 Enter the culture

Jagdish Temple Udaipur Rajasthan 2

  • Wear local clothes to seem local and attract less attention and to show appreciation for the culture of the country.
  • Learn the greeting gesture if they have one.
  • Learn basics words of the language like; hello, please and thank you. People will be happy that you appreciate their language.
  • If you will visit the place again, try to print their image and give it to them as souvenir, it will be a valuable gift.
  • Smaller cameras and lenses will be make you more invisible as a photographer and you will look more like an amateur.
  • Remember that when you photograph someone, you take part of his soul (many believe this), so you need to appreciate the people you photograph and be kind to them.

Old Town Udaipur Rajasthan - travel photography

#4 Researching

I believe that the step of research is as important as the shooting itself.

Research where are you going. For example, if you will travel to Delhi, you need to know everything about Delhi.

  • What are the most famous places for tourism in Delhi?
  • What are the most famous places for photography in Delhi?
  • Learn about the lesser known places for photography in Delhi by asking local photographers.

Vishwa Shanti Stupa Delhi - travel photography

This will help you explore new places because in every city you will discover places that have never been photographed before.

You need to know about the famous iconic places before visiting your destination. Then you need to research how photographers normally shoot them, so you are able to compose a shot in a different way and be creative.

Jal Mahal Jaipur Rajasthan

#5 Manage your time

Don’t waste any hour without shooting, even in the harsh sun, you can take good images using light and shadow!

Wake up early during your journey, there are many scenes you will never catch except in the early morning.

Old Town Udaipur Rajasthan 2

Visit places twice if you have time because when you visit new place for the first time, you will be shocked and impressed as a tourist. Then when you visit again, your eyes will be adjusted to the scene so you will be able to capture images using your vision not using tourists’ eyes.

Conclusion

Hopefully these 5 travel photography tips will help you come home with great images from you next trip. Please share any others you have and your travel images in the comments below.

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Yasser Alaa Mobarak is a 24-year-old, Egyptian award-winning photographer. Yasser's works have been featured in National Geographic Magyarország, National Geographic Traveler India, National Geographic Srbija, Digital Camera World Magazine, Amateur Photographer Magazine, Smart Photography Magazine, Silvershotz Magazine and Adobe Blog. He is the holder of the AFIAP distinction from the International Federation of Photographic Art. He was a judge at Adobe Youth Voices Awards, Romania's National Creativity Contest, and The Photographic Angle. His work can be seen at on his website and on Instagram.

  • pete guaron

    Great article, thanks, Yasser.
    I belong to a travel photography group in France, called Dear Susan (in memory of Susan Sontag. The group’s philosophy is based on Susan’s view that we should avoid the “seen it, got the T-shirt” approach. Instead of adding to the trillions of photos of the pyramids, or the Taj Mahal, or the Eiffel Tower, we should seek out other opportunities for our photography.
    Your comments on entering the culture strike a chord for me – so often, I hear someone say the French are “rude” – I’m not exactly impartial of course, but I actually didn’t grow up in France and in all the years I’ve been going back to the land of my ancestors, I’ve never encountered any of the French being “rude” (although one taxi driver, of obvious foreign extraction, was rude to me on my very first visit) – but I’ve seen countless tourists behaving badly. Nobody expects tourists to speak the local language – but people all over the world relax and warm to a tourist who has taken the trouble to learn at least a few basic words in their language – apart from anything else, it shows a respect for the local people.
    In relation to your comments on “early morning”, I have a passion for night photography – crank up the ISO, use a fast lens, grab a few trial shots to get a feel for what exposure settings you need, and blast away. You can get amazingly memorable shots of anywhere on the planet at night – and for the time being at least, they aren’t very likely to be the same as everyone else’s travel photography.

  • Yasser Alaa Mobarak

    Dear Pete,

    Nice to meet you. Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed reading your experience and learning about Susan Sontag. I’m pleased that you liked the article.

    Greetings from Egypt.

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