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Ever noticed how some people’s vacation pictures are often an imitation of the postcards they could have easily bought at the airport on their way home? Whether it’s the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera, it’s common to try to capture those iconic images. After all, it’s one reason why we chose to travel to these exotic locales in the first place, right?
Think about your last vacation – what do you remember most fondly? Those famous landmarks? Or the colorful markets, the fresh pastries in the bakery window, the people sitting in the cafes, the street vendors and buskers, the smell of the streets after a morning rain?
The next time you travel, think “outside the postcard” and create your own iconic images, your own stories and memories. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
1- Include signage in you pictures. The name and price of the fruits and vegetables at farmer’s market written in the local language, creatively painted store signs, a newsstand featuring local papers, even the city street signs will give your images a lively sense of place.
2- Include people in your frames. Try to feature local people rather than tourists. Folks buying their daily paper, selecting flowers at the market, having coffee at the outdoor cafe or chatting as they walk their dogs. And if you have the time for doing some street photography, pick a spot and wait a bit. Something interesting will surely happen and a story will unfold for you to capture and take home. The human element always adds interest to your images.
3- Create a photo story with a handful of frames. Start by taking a wide shot of an antique market to set the stage, then shoot a few close-ups of items for sale, people exchanging money, children laughing, the old fellow smoking a pipe. These are the travel images that will make your photo album more memorable and more unique. They can also be an interesting montage if displayed on your walls back home.
4- Avoid those boring family group shots in front of landmarks. Instead, take action shots of your kids eating the end of fresh baguette in France or your husband playing bocce ball with the locals in Italy. Those are the pictures you’ll cherish for years to come. They will evoke your travel stories and fun memories, making you smile every time you open the photo album.
5- Resist taking those traditional postcard shots. When visiting a famous landmark such as the Eiffel Tower, try shooting a different perspective. Take close ups of the metal beams and the bolts. Photograph repeated patterns. Be creative and tell a story! Shooting lots of architectural details will nicely compliment any traditional picture of those famous landmarks in your photo album.
6- Practice your food photography on location. Get a table by a window at the restaurant, and turn off that awful flash. Shoot the local cuisine. Then enjoy your meal!
7- Pick a theme or two each day. This will help keep you focused – no pun intended – and you won’t feel so overwhelmed by trying to capture it all in one day. Feel free to change your theme du jour if you discover something more interesting. Hey, it’s your trip! So, if you are shooting architectural details in Rome and the perfect street scene catches your attention, by all means, shoot that, too. My point is that when you discover a new place, it’s impossible to absorb everything in a few days. Besides, if you do, you may end up with boring photographs or nothing at all.
8- Be a gear minimalist when traveling. Carry just one camera and one lens because that perfect shot will inevitably happen while you are switching lens, and you’ll miss it. You’ll thank me and your back will thank you! Every time you change your lens outdoors, dust gets on the sensor and, if you are like me, you don’t carry the highly flammable sensor cleaning solution when you travel. Remember the power of limitations. Want to travel light and use only the 50mm lens all day? You have feet and they make a great zoom!
To get a real feel for a new travel destination, and capture it through your lens, let your senses guide you. Happy travels and bring back some killer images!
Want More? Check out our Travel Photography eBook by award winning travel photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich.