I have to make a confession, whenever people used to ask me for travel photography tips, I would refer them to researching online. It’s not that I didn’t want to help, but I just thought there would be tons of tips and articles online, and there were – and there still are. But when I finally took the chance to look through some of these articles myself, I was largely disappointed. Either the advice provided was too basic or it was too advanced. I have accumulated a lot of quick and easy tips to significantly improve travel photography, and I’m finally getting around to sharing a few here:
1) Research the location
My best shots rarely happen by chance, they are photographed with purpose. I spend hours researching before going on a trip in order to have a complete understanding of the sights that I need to and want to photograph. When I research a sight – whether a local market or a world wonder – I consider all the tiny details, including:
- the best time to photograph in terms of sun light
- the best time to photograph in terms of crowds and people, depending on if I want a clean shot or if I want to capture people
- cultural considerations around a location that I should capture
- the stories that have been told about this location already and the story I want to tell
My friend and photographer Sivan Askyo does this particularly well. She shoots design and details, especially in hotels and cafes. A while back she asked me to recommend some cafes and hotels in San Francisco that had the type of decor she liked to photograph because she was visiting the city for the first time. I’m not sure what the purpose of her trip was but she was so thorough in her research that she even made sure to find the type of accommodation that could lead to the pictures she was looking for. Next time you’re looking for a hotel to stay at and you think about your budget and location, think about Sivan.
2) Wait 5 minutes longer
Or 10, or in my case, 15:
I once stood at one spot in a museum for 15 minutes so I could get a clean shot of its interiors without any visitors. The end result appeared as if I had been invited into the museum during its off hours when it was closed to the public, but that was clearly not the case. That extra 15 minutes was well worth my time, especially if that image ended up getting published in a magazine. Patience is a photographer’s friend.
When I travel with friends, they sometimes capture a shot that is almost perfect but has one small imperfection: there was somebody walking by in the back, or there was a flicker in the corner of the frame. In that case, they generally walk away and say “Whatever, it was good enough”. But sometimes just waiting for a few more minutes and shoot again can be the difference between good enough and amazing.
3) Take 10x more images than you do now
Back when I used to shoot fashion photography, thousands of shots would be taken and it would get cut down into the 6-8 that make a magazine. Yet somehow, when people see images in magazines, they think there was just that 1 shot, or just those 6 shots.
I probably take even more shots per “look” now that I’m a travel photographer. In an uncontrolled environment, I’ll take 5 shots of the same or near same composition. I’ll adjust the focal point, and shift the angle slightly, take half a step to the right or left, stand on my toes, or kneel down. All of the same shot. I do this to make sure that I always have choices to pick from in terms of angles, composition (landscape vs. portrait), and that I never have to worry if the shot I really loved was out of focus, because I’ll have another half a dozen to choose from. And I have never regretted having choice.
Let me know if you have some tips of your own to share. I’m considering offering more photo tools and tips in the futre so definitely let me know if you’ve found this helpful.