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The Art of Travel Photography

One of the great things about our forums is the wealth of ideas and experience there. Today I want to share a tutorial on the topic of travel photography written by one of our members, photographer Jim Bryant, in the tutorials section of the forum (I’ve added the images).

If you are like most photographers who takes roll after roll of film or fill up digital cards and love to bring home great travel photographs now is a good reason to get started. Perhaps you’d like to put together a personal collection as a memento of your travels. Or, you might be assembling a slide show of your travels that will wow folks. Maybe if you’re really ambitious you’ve got visions of someday impressing editors and art directors with your picture taking abilities.


Photography by Sukanto Debnath

Whatever your motives, photography and travel go together like ice cream and hot apple pie. And for those of us who like to travel abroad, those faraway places with exotic landscapes and colorful people begin just outside the airplanes door.

At an recent slide show I presented on travel photography, a person asked, “I’ve been to some of the same places as you and have and own some of the same equipment as you do too, but my photographs aren’t as good as yours. Why?”

The only difference I’ve come across between professionals and amateurs are that the professionals think when they photograph. A scene I’ve witnessed more than once depicts the difference: a hurried, harried camera toting tourists with his family, spots a scene worth shooting. He momentarily breaks loose from, throws his camera to his eye, fires off a couple of frames and then dashes off to rejoin the shouting throng.

The difference? A professional photographer will always leave his family at home when he’s out working. Only kidding, I’ve taken my wife and family on vacations from the Grand Canyon, to Hawaii, to Tokyo and Hokkaido Ice and Snow Festival to bullfights in Portugal And they’ve got to be the most patience family in the world when it comes to taking pictures besides It helps to find a hotel with a swimming pool and hot tub.

She’s says I’m interesting to watch while I work. Why? Because, I’ll survey the scene for several minutes or longer, either taking mental notes or writing them down in a notebook, taking time to walk here or there, climbing high or stooping low to find a choice angle and location from which to shoot from before even shooting a single picture and then deciding to return later for the beautiful colors of early evening lighting.

Here’s some tips I’ve prepared by learning the hard way, from experience making “mistakes” in the field.

READ ALL ABOUT IT. Well in advance of your departure date, spend time at your local library or on the Internet and research about your destination. Look for information on cultures, customs, weather, history, politics, wildlife, and festivals. You’ll get an idea on what types of photographs you make be able to take, what gear you’ll need as well as what clothes to wear and how to get around.

GET UP EARLY AND STAY OUT LATE. Light is the strongest element in photography, almost a subject itself. Take a look at any travel magazine and you’ll notice that a high percentage of the photographs are taken either in the early morning and late afternoon lighting. That’s because the quality of light at these times is much more pleasing to the eye, because it’s warmer with deeper shades of red, orange, yellow. Shadows are also longer, adding a sense of depth to two-dimensional (height and width) pictures.


Photography by ~FreeBirD®~

TELL THE STORY. Try to envision slide show or a photo album that will tell the whole story of your travel destination. This means packing your wide-angle and telephoto lenses as well as a macro if you have one. Photograph people, landscapes, wildlife, flowers, markets and buildings. Shoot indoor and outdoor. Photograph everything! Be sure to pack medium and fast speed films so you are ready to shoot in any lighting conditions.

Ask yourself what’s unique about this place. Editors and art directors often look for establishing shots, the trademark that “says Holland, Japan, China or Britain in visual terms. Go to a local card shop and look at picture postcards that highlight the area’s landmarks.

Great pictures are most often specific. A photographer looks at the scene and chooses the elements/subjects to crop out of the scene. Don’t be afraid to crop in your viewfinder, defining your real subject and capturing that only. It’s very tempting to include too many elements (trees, mountains, rivers, lakes) in a picture because they are overwhelmed by the beauty of a scene. Being selective often makes for a more dramatic image. Think about making a picture rather than taking a picture.

Look for different angles in your shooting. There’s no rule that state that all photographs must be shot from eye level, so shoot some from low angles, even ground level if you’re willing to get down on your hands and knees.

Place colorful flowers in the foreground. Check the view from building tops and shoot from your hotel window. Along with changing photo angles and switching lenses will change your photographic view as well.


Photography by Stuck in Customs

KEEP THEM TALKING. Your travel photos most likely will be of people. You’ll find that people make the most descriptive photos and you need to communicate with them. Silence is deadly. I’ve found a good practice to carry a foreign language dictionary for each country I visit and they come in handy when you want to photograph someone. Speaking a few words of the local language gives the subject a chance to warm up to you.

BREAK THE RULE AND DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. “The so called rules of photographic composition are, in my opinion, invalid and immaterial.” Break all the rules and be creative. Shoot your pictures from the heart! Have fun and enjoy the process.

Thanks to Jim Bryant for this set of tips. Got some photography tips to share? – write a tutorial for us and submit it to the tutorials section of our forum.

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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