My ultimate guide to taking the best travel photos, #2 on location – planning & researching, timing, lighting, and composition.
Now I’m not a professional photographer, though through high school I attainted a TAFE Certificate in Photography, and took part in classes with professionals like Chris Bray to give me a pretty good idea of what to look for when taking photos. It seems that I’m only qualified to give these tips because I have a love for both travel and photography. So here they are…
Planning & Researching
Think about what you’re photographing – what do you want in it, what are you trying to show, how would it look it’s best?
Checking the weather ahead of time
What accessories to bring – Eg: tripods, waterproof cases
Entry fees – Only pay for photos when it’s appropriate.
Looking the part
Now this can sound a little odd, because surely people don’t plan their outfits ahead of time to go with wherever they are going. But sometimes I do, not to some crazy extent, but usually I stick with plain colours so that if I have a coloured background behind me, that’s whats going to stand out. Hats; these are a go to when you want to save time exploring rather than doing your hair in the mornings – but they are also great for photos, especially from behind because then viewers can imagine it being them in the photo.
> Be patient – waiting for the subject to come into frame, waiting for people to move out of the shot.
> Use a compass. So you’ve just come to some beautiful location but its rainy, or just an average sunny day, and you want to come back at sunrise – use the compass on your phone (or handheld) to determine which way the sun will rise/set.
> Set your alarm! When you are going to a zoo, or somewhere where you expect to see animals, early morning and late afternoon are when they are most active. See them behaving naturally, but don’t forget your general photography skills. Just because it’s a cute animal, doesn’t mean the photo will automatically be good. Try focusing on the eyes.
Capturing a moment / memory / feeling
What’s the point of an image if you’re not capturing something – a moment, a feeling, a memory. Posting a selfie in front of an idyllic moment won’t remind you of very much, but capturing the nature or some small detail that will resonate with you (eg, holding up that surprisingly nice biscuit you were given on a tour down the picturesque Yukon River).
SHOOTING IN THE GOLDEN HOUR. Ever heard of it?
“The Golden Hour is the magical time just after sunrise, and just before sunset, when the sun is low. The light it casts is a warm amber or rose colour and the low angle casts long, deep shadows”. The Golden Hour provides a softer light to photograph with – this way you don’t have to worry about landscape being overcast by shadows during different times in the day.
> Don’t be afraid to revisit somewhere to get a different light.
> With sunsets – try make them a little more interesting by photographing a silhouette against the coloured sky.
Looking for colour – no one wants a dull photo
Colour is probably the ultimate draw point in images – particularly how different colours work well together and compliment each other. Looking for colour for you photographs can also subconsciously evoke brighter and happier emotions during your travels. With this, you can perfectly capture a feeling or emotion.
Looking for the little things – take in the little details
Simple backgrounds – when taking a photo of a subject like a person or a food-in-hand- shot, it’s better to keep the background simple as to not take the focus off of the subject.
Symmetrical compositions – this is good for images where you are facing the subject straight on – an example would be a photo taken from the road in beverly hills as the trees are symmetrical in placing.
Framing can be literal – like showing something through a window frame, but it can also be more subtle like framing your image with part of a tree or shooting something through a clearing of leaves and branches. Framing can enhance a shot, how?
> Giving an increased sense of depth
> It’s a way of leading the eye
> Adds context
This is probably the most important part of taking a photo, it’s all to do with what your shooting and how. The way you orientate an image can quickly change it from unoriginal to imaginative.
> Think about what should and shouldn’t be included in the shot (eg, shots through fences).
Finding a new angle; Eye-level = original.
> Vary the look of your image by changing your viewpoint.
> To capture reflections, bringing the camera closer to the reflective surface adds a greater dynamic.
“I WAS HERE”.
> Differ from the shot everyone else is taking
Rule of thirds – my favourite.
The Rule of thirds is a “well-used compositional tool that proposes that subjects and important elements in a scene are placed on imaginary lines that divide the photo in thirds vertically and horizontally. Using the grid setting on cameras and smartphones allows you to see these lines”.
When we look at any view, our eyes are naturally drawn along any lines. These lines will usually draw us across the view or lead us to it, adding depth to the scene. An example of leading lines are railway tracks, especially if they are leading to the subject of the image
Foreground, midground, and background
This is used primarily when you want to show the scale of something – have you ever looked at a landscape and realised it doesn’t actually show viewers how amazing they really are? This is because there is nothing to scale to compare it to – you can’t see how majestic in size it really is. In the photo below you can see both leading lines and a sense of scale.