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5 Common Mistakes Aspiring Travel Photographers Make (+ How to Avoid Them)

This travel photography post is written by Mitchell Kanashkevich – author of Transcend Travel: a Guide to Captivating Travel Photography

As you can gather from the title, this post relates to travel photography. However, I want to note that travel photography is a broad topic and so for most part, the mistakes that I’ll discuss here are actually made by the majority of those of us who are in the beginning of our journey into the world of photography, regardless of the genre we’re involved in.

Because I wanted to go into some detail and to provide some visual examples, we’ve decided to split this post up into two parts. Without further ado, here’s part I and check back for part II.

1. Having misconceptions about equipment

The two main misconceptions that we most often have about equipment when we’re starting out in photography are:

  • The latest, greatest gear results in better photos.
  • The gear you have is not good enough because your images are not. In other words you blame the equipment.

A camera doesn’t take the photo, nor does any piece of photographic equipment. Photos are made by you – the photographer. Sure in some very rare cases you might have a technical issue with a camera body or a lens, but for most part that’s not the concern. Most of the essential photographic gear is better than good enough these days, it has been for the last five years or so (with the development of affordable digital SLRs), one just has to know how to use it to its full potential.

My advice here in short is – forget about chasing the latest, greatest stuff. Get out there with what you have, figure out how to get the most out of your equipment, learn when to use one lens over another, when to use a tripod and of course, learn about the basics of photography – setting the aperture, shutter speed and ISO. This might seem like the most obvious advice imaginable, but somehow so many aspiring photographers still think that it’s all about the equipment you have, there’s just nothing further from the truth.

2. Not Researching

When I refer to research, I simply mean gathering as much information as possible about the place you’re traveling to. The best time/season to travel, the DOs and DON’Ts, the modes of transportation – these are the necessities, that we must find out about before every trip in order to have a smooth experience not only as far as photographing, but traveling in general.

Beyond the necessities, when photography is the main focus of your trip, it’s worth finding out as much as possible about what’s visually special in the place you’re going to. Sometimes this isn’t going to be obvious, you might have to dig a little, but when you do, a great number of photographic opportunities arise.

Image: Traditional Vedhic school, Thrissur, India

Traditional Vedhic school, Thrissur, India

I’ve chosen to include the image above because the story behind it is a good example of what even simple research can lead to. The photo depicts a Namboodiri boy (priest caste) chanting the Vedhas (which can be described in short ancient Indian bits of wisdom) in a traditional Vedhic school in the town of Thrissur. This place (the school) is not a major attraction, it’s not something that the regular visitor travels to Thrissur for, but to me it provided an incredibly interesting photographic opportunity. Despite the fact that I would have never just wandered in there by random chance, as the school is isolated from the main town, it wasn’t at all hard to find it or gain access to shoot there, it was simply a matter of knowing that it existed.

The reason I knew about it is very simple – I researched and by this I don’t mean that I did something complicated and difficult. I went into the tourist office and chatted to the staff there, telling them that I’m a photographer and that I’m keen to see anything that’s visually interesting and unique in their town. After “picking their brains” for about an hour I got a few bits of useful information and the traditional Vedhic school was one of the places I realised I just had to check out.
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