Whether you are going to Madrid, Manila, Marrakesh or Mali, travel offers never-ending photo opportunities.
Here are some ways to help you achieve those stunning images to take back home.
PLANNING & PREPARATION
Put yourself in the picture: Research your intended destinations thoroughly. The Internet is a good place to start. Also check out guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Let’s Go and the Handbook series, which are full of invaluable information on locations, dates of events and festivals to help liven up your travel photos.
Bridge Those Barriers: Learn some simple phrases in the language of the country you are visiting, as this will help you, particularly with people photographs. Berlitz and Lonely Planet publish good phrase books on most destinations.
Dressing Down: Before leaving home, disguise expensive looking camera bags and equipment- it doesn’t pay to advertise. Try putting an outer shell of a simple travel bag over your camera bag.
Don’t Be Caught Out: Test all cameras and lenses, especially new purchases weeks before departure to make absolutely sure everything is in good working order.
Ease The Pain: Give thought in advance as to how you will carry your gear. Many hours of the day are often spent on your feet, and by afternoon a shoulder bag can be a real pain in the neck. Consider a small backpack if you have lots of gear. A small bumbag is convenient for a body and lens or a compact camera.
Compact or SLR: The choice boils down to what suits you best. If you are the aim and shoot, minimum fuss and carry little type, then you can’t beat a digital auto-focus compact for travelling. If you require more control, creative effects, a wider range of lenses, filters and accessories, then an SLR (single-lens-reflex) or mirrorless camera system may be more to your liking.
Lenses: In terms of lenses, having wide-angle to telephoto coverage will cover 95% of your needs, and allow a variety of compositions. A good kit could be a 16-35mm wide angle zoom, a 50mm fixed lens and a 70-200mm lens. For one good all around general-purpose lens, a 24-105mm zoom is a great choice.
Get some support: A tripod is the key to pin sharp travel pics. A cheap handy alternative is a hand-size beanbag for the camera to rest on.
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COVERING A DESTINATION
The whole picture: To create a well-rounded coverage of a destination, take the approach of making a motion picture. Firstly shoot establishing images; pictures of the cities and countryside that immediately identify a place. Next, take shots of people, local activities and architecture. Close-up and detail photographs round out the coverage. Remember to move around your subjects and experiment with different viewpoints and lenses.
Quality of light: The magic times of early morning and late afternoon provide the most appealing and dramatic light for photography. However the middle of the day is still okay, you just have to work harder in the way you compose a shot or where you take it from. Try concentrating on details and close-ups.
Check out the scene: Get into the habit of double-checking for cluttered and distracting backgrounds, not only hair grows out of people’s heads. Only a small change in viewpoint can eliminate unwanted ‘growths’ like lamp posts, signs and trees etc.
Move in close: When photographing markets, for example, fill the frame with those colourful fruits, vegetables and rows of fish for added impact.
The eyes have it: Remember with portraits and wildlife to focus on the eyes. If they are sharp then the photo will look right.
The rule of two-thirds: Instead of placing your horizon through the centre of the frame, give the land two-thirds or the sky two-thirds.
Still those shakes: For hand holding an SLR camera to give a sharp result, a good yardstick is to use the shutter speed closest to the focal length of the lens or greater. If using a 50mm lens, for example, use a minimum of 1/60th shutter speed. For a 100mm lens use a 1/125th etc. Also look at investing in lenses with an Image Stabilizer feature which will allow you to handhold in low light situations.
Capture local character: For head and shoulders portraits use an 85mm or 100mm lens and set a wide aperture such as f2.8 or f4 to throw the background out of focus. Alternatively, use a wide-angle lens like a 24mm or 28mm to take environmental portraits that tell a story about your subject.
Tact and sensitivity: Instead of sneaking around taking candids with a telephoto lens, which can cause offence, approach your subject with a smile and simply ask. Most people will gladly oblige. In some countries you may be asked for money in exchange for a photo. If this happens, either politely decline or agree on a price to avoid problems later. When you pay, it helps to have low denomination coins and notes.