Travel Photography – Part 1 of 4: GENERAL

Are you planning a vacation for some time in 2013?  Will you be bringing your fancy digital camera along, with hopes of coming home with a few (hundred) photos that are sure to launch your career with National Geographic?

Morocco - Travel PhotographyOkay, maybe you don’t aspire to be a top pro photographer, but wouldn’t it be nice if, for once, you came back from vacation with a bunch of photos that your friends and co-workers actually wanted to look at?

This month’s “Photography Tips & Tricks” will be the first in a four-part series dedicated to “travel photography”.  We will begin with a selection of “generic” pointers relating to photography, and continue next three months with some specifics on photographing People, Places and Things.

First, let’s cover a few fundamentals…

Why are you taking pictures?  Before you set out to take a photo on your travels (or any other time for that matter), you should be clear in your own mind what it is you are trying to achieve.  Are you simply recording memories?  Are you creating artwork?  Telling a story for others?  Is it a combination of things?  The clearer you are with your creative objective, the easier, and more enjoyable, it will be to achieve it!

Establish a consistent creative approach to your photography. What do I mean by that?  Simple.  Don’t just “wing it”.  Think through creativity in a logical way (sometimes in a matter of seconds!).  In summary:  1) Identify your subject; 2) Evaluate the light; 3) Compose your subject; 4) Select your lens / focal length; 5) Set your focus point; 6) Set your exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO); and, 7) Use your accessories as needed (tripod, filters, etd.).

Machu Picchu - Travel PhotographyEvaluate the light on your subject or in your scene.  Is it the ideal light for your creative objective?  If not, what can you do about it?  Move your subject?  Use a flash?  Come back another day or time?  You may have the ultimate subject to work with, but if the light isn’t too good, you may end up with just an average photograph.  Remember, photography is all about the recording of light.  And, if you don’t have the “best” light, then you need to know what to do about it.  Also remember that sometimes no matter what you do, the light won’t be “ideal”, so just make the best of it!

What gear do you need?  Well, that all depends on point Number 1 above!  A trip to the Grand Canyon will likely require different gear (e.g., lenses) than an African safari.  In most cases, you want to pack as light as possible.  Having said that, if you are going on safari, you’ll likely want to have a “big gun” in your camera bag (i.e., a 500mm lens).

A note about photography ethics.  Whether you’re traveling in Bangkok or in Boston, always remember that you are a guest of the locals. Be respectful of them.  Where appropriate, ask permission when photographing people or property.  If you’re in a foreign country, it always helps to learn a few phrases from the local language. “May I take your photo, please? and “Thank you.” come to mind.

And, finally…  “Leave only footprints.  Take only memories.”

Would you like to learn more about “travel photography” while traveling the world? 


Oregon Lighthouse - Travel Photography

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