Five Essential Tips for Better Travel Photos
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Been there, done that – and here’s proof as you whip out your travel photo album to display your trip pics to your envious friends. But wait, is that you in the picture, they say. You look so far away. Sorry this one’s a little fuzzy and that really is Bill but it’s a little dark and here is Suzy with a telephone pole growing out of her head. Yes, we’ve all been there – said that. Even with today’s presto magic point and shoot digital cameras, we keep making the same mistakes, trip after trip.
So, how can you get out of this rut without looking like a camera geek? One easy way is to take a one-day short course offered by many of the major Camera equipment retailers. They are cheap, don’t require a big time commitment and you will have fun to boot.
Another word of advice: read the camera user manual so you will know what settings are available and how to use them. Take some practice shots before you leave for your dream vacation. You won’t be sorry you did. You are investing major dollars in your travel experience and camera equipment. Get the best out of your investment.
Nikon D500 | Nikon D3300 | Canon EOS Rebel T5 | Sony A7RII | Canon 7D Mark II
So lets get down to business. Here is my list of five essential, most important, must remember, critical tips for taking better travel photos. My single most important tip, developed from viewing thousands of travel photos belonging to my friends and relatives is this: get closer to your subject. If you can, get physically closer, if not, use your zoom lens. Keep in mind that zooming will enhance camera shake, often resulting in a fuzzy or blurry image, which is why I prefer to get physically closer. If you are taking a picture of your family in front of the Eiffel Tower, they are the primary subjects of your image so get close enough to them to fill the frame. You can include an element of the tower as part of the shot to give the photo some context. Save that great full length shot of the Eiffel for another frame.
My second best all time tip is to avoid camera motion when capturing that great image of your wife trying on new sun hats in Mexico. For most of us, lugging around a tripod on a vacation is not a vacation. They can be heavy, bulky and your wife’s arms will get sore carrying it for you. So what to do? First off, there are many occasions when a mini 6” pocket size tripod will do just nicely, thank you. If your point and shoot has a tripod socket on its bottom, I would strongly recommend buying one of these. You can set these up on a table and use your camera’s self timer to get great shots with you actually in them, just to prove you were there. You can also brace your camera on a fence, tree branch or any other stationary object, including your wife’s shoulder. And last but not least, squeeze that shutter gently but firmly. Don’t jerk the camera down when you take the shot. Finesse the shutter button! A firm camera foundation is essential for night photography, where shutter speeds are much too slow for hand holding.
Coming in at number three on my list of five tips is a hodgepodge of composition cautions. Watch out for clutter in the background of your shot; don’t grow signs or trees out of your loved ones heads; position your horizon to enhance the subject of your shot – high to emphasize the land or sea and low to show the sky and be sure its level or objects will look like they are ready to fall out of your picture. Make use of reflections in water or the glass windows on office towers for some creative work. Look for patterns in nature and man-made objects. Try to take people portraits in shade on really bright days and use the early and late sun for your exquisite landscape/seascape shots. Your subject doesn’t always have to be in the center of your frame. Move the subject to the left or right third of the frame for a more pleasing composition. If you are taking a picture of your dog or cat and they are facing left, put the subject in the left third of your frame otherwise they may bump their nose on the right side border, or at least it will look that way. Okay, I cheated here. There is obviously more than one tip but my editor said I could only do one article on this subject.
Tip number four has to do with your camera flash. Most built-in flash units on point and shoot cameras have a very limited range. By very limited I mean 6 to 8 feet from camera to subject. So taking an indoor group shot of all the new friends you made on your trip from 20 feet away - on the other side of the room - because you want to get them all in the picture - isn’t going to cut it. Move the group outdoors to a shady place or get closer to your subject so your flash will have a chance to do its work or make more light available in the room. Some shots just aren’t doable, so know your camera’s limitations. You can also use your flash for daylight shots outdoors to eliminate shadows under peoples eyes or for close-ups of flowers.
Last but not least is tip number five. A good photo tells a story about the subject and evokes an emotion. By using the techniques you have learned such as getting closer to your subject so attention is focused on what’s important, being aware of what’s in the background so it compliments the subject rather than distracts, framing your subject in a more pleasing way, avoiding camera motion, using your flash properly and being aware of the light, you can help to set the stage to capture those great travel photos. Photography is painting with light, so be an artist! Experiment with your photography. Tilt it. Try the same shot in portrait and landscape position and see if it alters the feeling of the image. Use your camera often. With digital, take 5 or 6 or even 10 shots of a subject from different angles. You will find one that stands out, and you can always delete the obvious duds.
With these new skills you’ll have your friends lining up to look at the photos of your next trip.
Also Read: 23 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN PHOTOGRAPHY
© 2007 Carlton McEachern
Carlton McEachern Photography