After nearly four years of traveling the world-and photographing the journey-I've learned a lot about taking pictures that capture the essence of a location. I've also learned that travel photography is one of the most difficult genres to master (one that I am certainly still learning and improving every day). But I also believe that anyone can follow a few simple steps to capture stunning images of once-in-a-lifetime memories on their travels.
Follow these seven tips, and you'll be well on your way to creating powerful photos that make people want to pack their bags and jet off to the first place they can:
Know Your Camera
Photo by wolf4max via Flickr
It seems obvious, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen travelers wait until they are halfway across the world to check to see how their shutter works. Then they inevitably get stuck in Auto and can't figure out how to change the ISO or manually select a shutter speed.
Before you even board the plane, you should know your camera backward and forwards. The last thing you want to do while you're on vacation is to be flipping through the user manual!
Research Before You Go
It's important to know what famous landmarks and photogenic areas you'd like to visit. This way you can efficiently plan out how you can hit all the places you want and don't want to end up scrambling to snap all the best spots. You may also wish to look at festivals, holidays, and photography tips from local bloggers or travelers.
The Golden Hours are marked by the hours surrounding sunset and sunrise. They are called the golden hours because the sun seems to give off a golden glow. This golden glow is reflected in your photos leaving them beautifully saturated and well balanced. Once you've done your research, then you can decide your most vital spots and time these around sunrise and sunset.
Some of my favorite photos have resulted from ditching the plan and being flexible. When a new friend begs you to change your travel plans and go to some epic landmark, go for it. We almost missed Halong Bay because we didn't even know about it until we ran into a group who had just returned and begged us to make the journey. Things won't always go according to plan, but in the end that's what makes travel so exciting.
To give yourself enough time to be flexible, it is best to travel slower and get to know the place you're staying. It will also give you time to revisit places during different times of the day, ensuring you never miss out on that perfect shot.
Learn To Be A Minimalist
I have been able to capture all of my photos with my D7100, kit lens, fixed 50mm, and gorilla tripod. All of this I can carry with me in a small saddle bag. Using such a small stash of equipment brings forth so many more opportunities for creativity. Ditch the bulky tripod and instead brace the camera up against a tree or a light pole for stability. Forget your external flash and shoot using natural light. You can always grab your flashlight or headlamp for a little extra light when you need it.
Make Friends First, Shoot Later
One of the most important things to do as a travel photographer is to know when is the appropriate time to pull out the camera. Not just in ceremonies, but more specifically when photographing people. The difference between a smiling subject and a snarling stranger could just be a simple hello. Do your best to learn a few phrases like "Hello", "Beautiful" and "May I take your picture?"
Travel photography isn't always easy, but it is certainly rewarding! Follow the tips above, and you'll be well on your way to capturing the memories of a lifetime. What simple travel photography tips would you add?
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