There's no mystery surrounding why travel photography is such a popular genre. What could be better than visiting new places and photographing their beauty to share with the rest of the world? Well, getting paid for them is always nice, of course, but it's far from the only reward. Whatever your motivation, taking travel photos that stand out from the rest is a great feeling. Let's look at a few ways to make your photos exceptional.
1. Research more than the tourist attractions. Whatever your destination, there's more to it than just the places that everyone who visits there photographs. While your agenda should include shooting those famous places, find out more about the location before you go. Learn about the culture. What do the locals celebrate? What industries sustain the local economy? How was the area originally settled and by whom?
The answers to those and similar questions can give you an idea of what to look for in an area to get shots that paint a much richer picture of the destination. More importantly, they'll give you a feel for the area that will come through in your photos, making them more appealing. Invest some time in learning about a place before you visit.
2. Take it to the streets. Most popular travel destinations have a wealth of loud, colorful shows, events and spectacles intended for tourists and they can be amazing to watch and photograph. They've also been photographed and published thousands of times already. Take those shots for your own enjoyment if you like, but remember that the real story of any region or culture is elsewhere. Get out there on the street where everyday life is happening and look for the stories of life. That's where the real images are.
3. Learn to communicate. The people that live where you're going are what give the destination its character. Know how to work with them. Learning a simple greeting in a foreign language isn't all that difficult and when you're visiting a foreign country, it's often seen as respectful. Even more important in many languages is an expression of gratitude. In short, learning to be polite in the language of the area you'll be visiting will probably open some doors. Those doors can often lead to great photos that others won't have the opportunity to take.
Try offering your KeepSnap card before you start shooting a person or their homes or places of business. A little professionalism and patience will help you appear less as a typical tourist (pronounced “nuisance”). By the way, if you don't have a KeepSnap card, find out why you should, here.
4. Focus on architecture. When you're in cities and villages, or even the ruins of one, take shots that show the architectural styles in the structures. This is often a very important part of the heritage and history of a region and you may be surprised at the variety you'll find within any individual location. Many photographers miss the opportunity to juxtapose the contrasting architecture of different ages, which can create an incredibly powerful image. Keep your eyes open for those opportunities.
5. Don't forget the landscape. So, you may not be visiting a particular area for its geographical features. That doesn't mean it's not worth your time to get outside the city and photograph the surrounding landscape or seascape, as the case may be. If time allows, go rural for a while and take in the country. Look for shots of cities and villages that include the surrounding geography. You'll be surprised at the sense of “being there” that those images can convey to viewers.
6. Put the camera away. Yes, you read that correctly. If you really want to appreciate the places you visit, you need to take some time to drink it in without the camera in hand. Don't be so busy being a photographer that you forget to be a visitor. Get out from behind the lens and mingle. Take in the sights, enjoy the shows and talk with the locals and other visitors. You'll connect to the place in a way that will make your images speak volumes when you pick up the camera again.
Next time you have a travel opportunity, try these simple tips and I think you'll find that your images have more impact. Successful travel photographers will tell you that the key to selling your photos of people and places is making each photo tell a story. The tips in this article will help you tell yours.