“A camera is a save button for the mind’s eye.”
– Roger Kingston
For me, photography goes hand in hand with travel. Strolling through a new city with my iPhone in hand or my camera hanging from my shoulders is a rewarding way to record memories and capture great moments. It’s also a way to see the world with fresh eyes and to transform what I’ve seen into something new, maybe even something unexpected.
20,000 pictures later I’ve learned a thing or two about this favorite hobby of mine. Here are my ten travel photography tips that will help raise your game and help you become a better travel photographer.
1. Never leave home without a camera
Seriously, you’ll regret it.
2. Mind your memory cards
Make sure you have enough memory cards available if you’re shooting with a digital camera or enough space on your phone if you’re shooting with that instead. There’s nothing worse than getting that ‘Card full’ message on your camera screen in a moment that’s perfect for a photo.
3. Get up with the sun
Get up early and always try to catch the golden hour at the end of the day (that’s the hour or so just before the sun sets); the light works its magic then and great light will make for great photos.
4. Learn a local greeting
This is especially important if you like to take pictures of people. It’s polite and increases the likelihood that the person you’re taking a picture of will see your snapping as something positive instead of an intrusion. It’s usually also a good idea to ask for permission to take their pic; a friendly nod in their direction will usually do (they’ll nod back if they’re OK with you taking a picture.) Remember that in some cultures it’s not OK to take pictures of people, especially of strangers.
5. Linger in a local cafe
There’s nothing as inspiring as people-watching in a new city and snapping a few action shots while doing it. Think outdoor cafe in Paris on a sunny October afternoon.
6. Embrace the unknown
Avoid the tour buses and get lost instead. Take the afternoon to explore and put away the map; you can find the most beautiful photo ops in the most unusual, unexpected places.
7. Take your time
Live in your new city if you can; don’t just pass through. Spending a few weeks or even a few months in a new place will allow you to get to know the culture and the people. Remember that time, patience and a real appreciation for the place you’re photographing will shine through in the pictures you take.
8. Treat every moment as a photo-op
Try to move away from the sunset shots. Not that they can’t be nice as well, but there’s real beauty in places you least expect it – and you can train your eye to find those unusual moments and unique angles. This takes practice but is so worth it – it’ll make your photos much more interesting down the line.
9. The 1000/60 rule
In my experience, you need to take a lot of pictures to get a few gems, so taking 1000 pictures on one of my trips and getting 60 that I’m really happy with is totally normal. Don’t expect every picture to be perfect, but know that you can find something interesting in every picture (point 8). And don’t delete pictures before you’ve seen them on your computer screen (the camera screen is never that great), unless it’s clearly a mistaken shot or just totally blurry; it might end up being your favorite shot in the end.
10. Edit, edit and then edit some more
Don’t post all your holiday pics on Flickr or Facebook. Pick the best ones, edit them with a simple editing tool like iPhoto or Lightroom on your computer, or with the VSCO app or Instagram on your phone, and only upload a ‘best of’ album to your favorite photo sharing site. Quality over quantity is so important in photography; a beautiful travel album that will inspire others to follow in your footsteps really is worth a thousand words.