Tips for Better Travel Photos

by irishfireside / Jul 19, 2017 /
irishfireside's picture

Digital photography has changed how we take and share photos. For travelers, the days of heavy camera bags and multiple rolls of film are gone. Be it technology or technique, here are some tips for getting the most out of your digital camera while traveling.

The sun sets in Glown Valley

KEEP THE CAMERA CLOSE AT HAND
The camera is useless at the bottom of your day pack or stuffed in the glove compartment of the car. Keep it within reach anywhere you go, including shops, restaurants and even those obscure roadside stops.

GET TO KNOW YOUR DEVICE
New cameras have advanced features that can dramatically improve your photos. Test the “scene” modes and experiment with the “low light” settings that help reduce blur, bring out colors, take night photos or even find faces.

GET CLOSER
Come on. Do you really enjoy those pics where people look like specks in the distance? Step forward, use the optical zoom and fill the frame with people, architectural elements and any other tidbits you are trying to capture.

CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
For some, turning the camera from horizontal to vertical is a pretty radical move, but you’ll get even more variety by trying the same shot from very high and very low angles. That might mean standing on a chair or lying on the ground to get the perfect shot. Also, don’t be afraid to turn the camera on an angle; canted or diagonal shots can be quite interesting.

GETTING THE BEST LIGHT
The low sun at sunrise and sunset provides some of the best natural lighting. Landscapes and faces tend to glow at these times of day and squinting eyes are less of a problem. When the sun is bright, keep an eye out for dark shadows on faces; using your flash in these situations can help fill-in the contrast. For indoor shots, try snapping one with and one without flash.

Dreary barnBEAT THE CLOUDY SKIES
Light rain and overcast skies can make your photos look dull and grey. Combat this by taking fewer wide shots on dreary days and concentrate on close ups, details, shadows and reflections. Also, before you snap, look for shapes and colors that show contrast between light and dark, bright and dull. And if all else fails, use editing software (which often comes with a new camera) and try adjusting the saturation, levels and contrast.

CAPTURE THE GOOD WITH THE BAD
Just because it’s pouring rain, your luggage is missing and you just found out your cabin is missing a roof, doesn’t mean you should stop taking pictures. Documenting the entire trip will tell the whole story. Plus, the photos might come in handy for refunds and insurance purposes, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to look back on those moments and laugh.

APPRECIATE THE ARCHITECTURE
No matter how interesting the tour may be, photos of buildings often end up exceedingly dull. From the outside, try taking the photo from an angle rather than straight on, and a patch of garden, grass or blue sky can brighten up dull, grey structures. From the inside, it can be difficult to photograph the entire space without a wide angle lens, the best alternative is to photograph from a doorway or balcony or high perch.

ROUND UP THE LIVESTOCK
Be it on a farm, in the forest or on a country road, animals make great subjects. Use your zoom to get up close and personal rather than approaching the critters, and never forget that both wild and domestic animals can be dangerous. Baby animals are especially cute, but remember their parents are exceptionally protective, so beware!

STOP POSING AND DO SOMETHING
Oh look, there’s the family waving from the Grand Canyon. Here’s the same pose at Loch Ness. Oh and again at the Eiffel Tower. Dump the posed shots and get the family doing things…inspecting rock samples at the Grand Canyon, steering a charter boat in Scotland or sharing a latte near the Eiffel Tower. These photos tell the story of your trip much better than a forced smile and the usual pose.

TAKE THREE, SAVE ONE
The biggest advantage of digital cameras is the fact that you can take more photos without paying for developing, so take more shots than you’ll ever need. Be sure you try different angles and camera modes and keep only your best images. Saving redundant images clogs memory and makes your album a drag for the rest of us to look through.

CARRY A SPARE BATTERY
Don’t be caught without power. Be sure to have an extra battery charged and ready to go.

BUY THE POSTCARD
It’s hard for your snapshot to compete with the professionally-taken postcard images. Buy a postcard that captures the view you love most and use your own camera to snap your favorite details or shots of your family and friends. Be sure the postcards you pick will fit in your album...those giant and panoramic postcards sometimes just won’t fit.

CRACK OUT THE JOKEBOOK
Trilling out the word “CHEESE!” causes faces to contort into a frightening, tooth-bearing expression. A gentle laugh tends to look most natural.

PASS THE CAMERA AROUND
There’s one thing missing from vacation photos with a designated photographer…the person behind the lens. Let everyone in the group take photos, ask fellow travelers to snap a pic or use your camera’s self-timer to get everyone in the shot.

KEEP IT SAFE
Whether you value the camera or the memories it contains, keep your equipment secure. Pack it in your carry-on luggage (airport x-ray equipment will not damage your digital camera or memory card). If you need to leave it in the vehicle or your accommodation, stow it out of sight or ask your host for their recommendation.

STOP THE CHURCH BLUR
The low-light conditions in churches and other buildings can result in blurry images and using the flash tends to ruin any sense of mood. Employ your camera’s museum or low-light settings and prop your camera securely against a column, pew or other steady object to avoid camera shake.

SET UP THE TRIPOD
Tripods can be extremely useful in keeping the camera steady in low-light situations and to position the camera when you use the self-timer. Portable tripods are smaller than a bottle of hairspray, so don’t think you’ll need an entire photo studio in your carry-on.

FIRE UP YOUR DIGITAL COPY MACHINE
Use your digital camera to take photos of maps, information signs, train schedules and passports. You’ll have information handy without carrying extra hard copies. And, before you leave the house, snap a photo of your suitcase contents. In case something goes missing, you’ll have documentation.

PROTECT FROM THE ELEMENTS
Digital cameras tend to be more sensitive to water, sand and rough handling than traditional cameras, so a good weather-proof case can protect from the elements and provide extra cushioning. When buying a new camera, check out the models that tout weatherproof features, they may be just what you need while on the road.

BULK UP ON MEMORY
The memory card that comes with most cameras simply isn’t big enough to accommodate most travelers. At the very least, get a card that will hold 100 high resolution photos, and remember, higher megapixel cameras need larger memory cards. If you find yourself running low on memory with no place to download your pics, stop by a one-hour photo store and clear your memory card by having your images put on a CD or visit and Internet shop and upload to the Web.

USE THOSE MEGAPIXELS
You paid for those extra megapixels, so why aren’t you using them? Keeping your photo size set at “basic” or “low” means you probably won’t be able enlarge your photos beyond 4”x6” and you likely paid for a bigger camera than you need.

SNAP A NEW DAY
Get in the habit of consciously snapping a consistent “first pic of the day.” Whether it’s breakfast, your accommodation or the morning newspaper, this daily photo will come in handy at the end of the trip to remind you where one day ends and the next begins.

CHOOSE A CLOSING SHOT
Before you end your visit to any site, stop and think about a closing shot…something that sums up the visit and captures your mood. These images often make the best additions to your photo album.

PUBLISH THOSE MEMORIES
Photo albums are great, but new technology makes it easy to turn your digital photos in to books, cards, digital slideshows and stickers. Online services such as Flickr, Moo, Shutterfly, Kodak, and Apple’s iLife make it easy to produce amazing products. And remember, be ruthless in your editing – only include your very best images or the photos that best tell a story; it’ll save on printing costs and keep your collection interesting.

This article was inspired by a list I created for Taking Great Photos in Ireland at www.IrishFireside.com. You can browse my photo albums at http://flickr.com/photos/irishfireside/sets/

Corey is the Ireland Editor for Wandering Educators.

 

 

Comments (1)

Leave a comment