Travel and photography go hand in hand.
If you are traveling for work, that airport-selfie is almost mandatory or if you are on holiday, a hundred pictures of the most mundane things you are doing will definitely get captured. But how much of these actually go up on your Instagram/Social Media accounts? How many of these pictures do you really love looking at?
For most amateur photographs (like me!), clicking a picture comes out of habit or compulsion and without any real agenda or vision of the outcome. You click because you want to remember what you’ve done, where you’ve been… but once you are back from your trip, you almost never look at your photos again and they are stuck on some hard drive forever.
This is exactly what happened with me. Up until about a year ago, less than 30% of my pictures would get uploaded on my Instagram. Today, almost 75% get posted one way or another! The major reason being, I’ve changed my mindset on taking photos. I now have a purpose and I know what type of photos I want to take and how to take them.
I’m still a very amateur photographer and I still only shoot with my smartphone (cos’ I’m lazy and proper cameras require a lot more effort!) but I’m quite happy with the way my photos turn out now and I hope with a few of the tricks I list down below, you will turn up your travel photography game and take better travel photos too!
Taking a good photograph stems from a mindset of you simply wanting to take a good photograph! This tip may seem quite stupid, but trust me – it makes a lot of difference. The minute I want to take a good photograph, it becomes a task I’ve set myself out to do. So like all other tasks, I need to prepare for this too.
I do try to look up some pictures of the places I am planning to visit, before I leave for my travel. On Instagram, I usually ‘save’ some of the pictures I thought were captured well or some poses that I think I would like to re-create in my own way. I also get ideas of new angles, secret spots, point of views and color palettes. Whether I manage to capture similar shots or not is not the point, but the fact that I know what is possible – sets a mindset of ‘I can do it too’.
Now that I know what to expect of the place – I can try to plan my shots in advance, from poses, to color coordinating my outfits, to planning my itinerary in such a way that I know the best places to capture sunrise or sunsets. Going one step further, you can also plan props (hats, sunglasses, handbags, beach towels, scarves etc.) or gear (tripod, drone, lens, gopro etc.) if you are not as lazy as I am!
After all the research and planning, you finally arrive at the right place, at the right time, with the right gear and the perfect mindset, that you’re going to get some brilliant shots of this place – cos you already know what they look like. Then you realize that it may not be as easy as it seems. Or you realize you don’t have the time to execute everything that you had planned. Or that the weather is acting up. But that’s okay.
Once you are ready to click your picture, your first focus needs to be on the composition. Ensure you’re not cutting of heads or limbs or someone. You can apply the rule of thirds (great for when you have a subject in the foreground) which is when your subject is off centre in your frame. Look for frames within your frame (pillars, windows, doors frames etc.). Ensure your composition is aligned properly and not very skewed to one side – unless that’s what the picture calls for.
Make sure the focus is set and your hands are not shaky! Blurry photos with awesome compositions are the most disappointing! Climb that rock for a high shot or lie down on the ground for a low shot. Go near, go far. Take multiple shots of the same subject/object. Sometimes having a defocused background or foreground brings attention to your subject/object in a wonderful way – you can use a piece of clothing or leaves to get that effect.
4. Take better travel photos by striking better poses
This has been the hardest thing for me! I’ve watched a LOT of photography and posing tutorials to up my game. Honestly, I HATE posing. And I find it awkward. And I get embarrassed easily when people look at me while I’m posing.
A trick that’s helped me overcome this is to do the ‘pretend you’re not posing’ pose. That’s when I ask my photographer (my friend or family member that I’m traveling with) to simply keep ‘clicking’ me – no matter what I do. And they end up getting some candid shots of me –playing with my hair, laughing (cos I’m embarrassed), looking off camera, looking at the camera, making gestures, being playful – whatever my frame of mind is.
These pictures turn out SO MUCH BETTER than just standing and smiling in front of a landscape! I find myself being confident in posing when there aren’t any people around – that’s when I try out poses that have inspired me from my research. So a mix of more candid and some researched poses, is what helps me get photos that I’m quite satisfied with.
5. Finally, to take better travel photos you sometimes have to cheat a little…
One of the most magical revelations to me has definitely been the power of editing. With apps like Adobe Lightroom & Snapseed, you can transform dull and lackluster pictures to vibrant and professional looking photos. These apps are free to download on your mobile with some paid features. They are used by professionals and amateurs alike.
No matter how well you’ve clicked a photo, there is still room for improvement and that can come from editing. You can play with the lighting, colors, density of the photo in more ways than one. You can remove unwanted elements (litter on the ground) or add new ones (a dramatic sky). There is no limit to what you can accomplish here once you are an expert at editing – but even by doing the basics (saturation, shadow, highlight, temperature, exposure, contrast) your photo WILL enhance.
However, the most important thing to do while traveling is to be in the moment and enjoy the place! Don’t spend all of your time trying to take better travel photos – unless you are a professional photographer or Instagramer and your livelihood depends on it!
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