The Art of Travel Photography

If you are like most photographers who fill up digital cards and love to bring home great travel photographs, now is a good reason to get started. Perhaps you’d like to put together a personal collection as a memento of your travels. Or, you might be assembling a slide show of your travels that will wow folks. 

Maybe if you’re really ambitious you've got visions of someday impressing editors and art directors with your picture taking abilities.

Whatever your motives, photography and travel go together like ice cream and hot apple pie. And for those of us who like to travel abroad, those faraway places with exotic landscapes and colorful people begin just outside the airplanes door.

The only difference between professionals and amateurs is how the professionals think when they photograph. A professional photographer will always leave his family at home when he’s out working. Here’s some tips:

READ ALL ABOUT IT. Well in advance of your departure date, spend time at your local library or on the Internet and research about your destination. Look for information on cultures, customs, weather, history, politics, wildlife, and festivals. You’ll get an idea on what types of photographs you may be able to take, what gear you’ll need as well as what clothes to wear and how to get around.

GET UP EARLY AND STAY OUT LATE. Light is the strongest element in photography, almost a subject itself. Take a look at any travel magazine and you’ll notice that a high percentage of the photographs are taken either in the early morning and late afternoon lighting. That’s because the quality of light at these times is much more pleasing to the eye, because it’s warmer with deeper shades of red, orange, yellow. Shadows are also longer, adding a sense of depth to two-dimensional (height and width) pictures.

TELL THE STORY. Try to envision slide show or a photo album that will tell the whole story of your travel destination. This means packing your wide-angle and telephoto lenses as well as a macro if you have one. Photograph people, landscapes, wildlife, flowers, markets and buildings. Shoot indoor and outdoor. 

Photograph everything. Ask yourself what’s unique about this place. Editors and art directors often look for establishing shots, the trademark that “says Holland, Japan, China or Britain in visual terms. Go to a local card shop and look at picture postcards that highlight the area’s landmarks.

Great pictures are most often specific. A photographer looks at the scene and chooses the elements/subjects to crop out of the scene. Don’t be afraid to crop in your viewfinder, defining your real subject and capturing that only. It’s very tempting to include too many elements (trees, mountains, rivers, lakes) in a picture because they are overwhelmed by the beauty of a scene. Being selective often makes for a more dramatic image. Think about making a picture rather than taking a picture.

Look for different angles in your shooting. There’s no rule that state that all photographs must be shot from eye level, so shoot some from low angles, even ground level if you’re willing to get down on your hands and knees.

Place colorful flowers in the foreground. Check the view from building tops and shoot from your hotel window. Along with changing photo angles and switching lenses will change your photographic view as well.

KEEP THEM TALKING. Your travel photos most likely will be of people. You’ll find that people make the most descriptive photos and you need to communicate with them. Silence is deadly. It's a good practice to carry a foreign language dictionary for each country you visit and make sure they come in handy when you want to photograph someone. Speaking a few words of the local language gives the subject a chance to warm up to you.

BREAK THE RULE AND DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. “The so called rules of photographic composition are invalid and immaterial.” Break all the rules and be creative. Shoot your pictures from the heart! Have fun and enjoy the process.

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