Travel Photography for Writers: 10 Tips for Getting Started
Before the trip
1. Decide a camera strategy that suits you
Determine whether you want to carry one (high end) camera kit, or do you have two or three cameras (good camera phones will do as well) at hand that you use in different situations. Both strategies have their advantages. If you want to become a photographer who may sell photos and perhaps exhibit them, only the best gear will do. If you shoot for your own blog, for an upcoming travel book, or for an article, having multiple (less expensive) cameras can be a more flexible approach.
It is vital always to take a camera along, no matter where you go. You never know what happens or what a photographer’s eye can spot on the street. A compact camera or a smartphone fits into a pocket, but of course, for a day trip, pack the whole camera kit with a tripod into a backpack. If rain is likely in the destination or the conditions are wet in any way, you must have a strategy for this as well. If one of your cameras is waterproof, you are all set. Otherwise, prepare yourself so that your camera survives wet conditions.
2. Study the manual controls on your camera
Learn to adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings on your camera. A good camera lets you capture fine shots in auto mode as well, but sooner or later you will need to know about manual settings. The first time you try to frame something in low light will be a reminder for you to learn the manual settings. You have to arrange some time for practice sessions where you photograph the same objects with different settings, and in different light.
3. View the photos taken during practice sessions on a PC and a tablet
Examine the photos you have taken during a practice session. The LCD display on the camera doesn’t tell you the whole truth, but you have to view the photos on a PC monitor or on a tablet. Is there too much light in the frame, or is it too dark? What about composition? Focus? Didn’t get that blurry background? Tip: when you practice, take several photos of the same subject, but with different settings. This is the fastest way to learn.
On the Road
4. Take a deep breath before composing an image
You know the golden section rule, right? The frame is divided into nine sections of equal size, and the corners of the central section indicate the optimum positions for the main subject. Mistakes in composition are difficult or impossible to correct in a photo editor app, so take your time. Try with the zoom and without the zoom. The most annoying problem: the top of the tower of an ancient castle didn’t fit into the frame, and now you are back home with a photo that maybe fine for Facebook, but not for a book or an article. Take your time when you frame the image at the destination.
5. A new angle for an old building
Stop, think, and be creative when something must be photographed. Especially large buildings and statues can be challenging to photograph, but they have to be documented, anyhow. Move around and try to find a fresh angle to the subject. High or low angle? Can you find something in front of the subject that doesn’t block the view, but gives it depth? Are birds circling around the building or statue, just waiting to be photographed?
6. Night lights
After the sunset pictures have been taken, it is time to shoot night lights. Now, you will need your best camera that comes with manual controls — an automatic compact camera won’t do. High-end smartphones may have an image sensor that allows night time photography. Using the built-in flash won’t get you anywhere. Set a slow shutter speed and start shooting with the camera on a tripod. Tip: if you have a high-end smartphone and love to shoot with it, get a tiny tripod that has a phone holder. It is amazing how beautiful images the best phones can capture.
7. Photographing people isn’t easy, but try it
Photographing people is perhaps the most difficult skill to master in photography. If you keep your eyes open, and a camera at hand, anything is possible. Forinstance, local people chatting and shopping at an outdoor market, encounters at a café, or lovers walking a dog. If you intend to take a portrait of a person, you should ask permission. In some cultures, it is not advisable to photograph people at all before you know them and can be sure it is alright.
8. Morning and evening light can make wonders
Morning and evening light provides more contrast to images than photos taken in midday. You may also catch colors that are not visible in the midday sun. Depending on where you are traveling, you may also witness morning dew or evening fog that can look spectacular in photos.
After the Trip
9. Manage the captured photos
If you take a lot of photos, you should browse the day’s catch every day so that you don’t have hundreds or thousands of photos waiting to be sorted when you get home. Examining the photos is also a safety measure: if you are supposed to photograph Paris, but missed the Eiffel tower’s top floors, you have to return on the location the next day. Tip: I delete hopeless images during these sessions, and while I’m examining them, I also name the photos that I’m going to keep.
10. Backup your backup
Every day, copy all new photos from memory cards to your PC or any other device where you store your pictures. Then, make a backup copy of the copied photos. For this, you need a backup hard disk, like an external USB drive, or a cloud service, like Dropbox or Hubic.
One more thing: always take multiple photos of a subject with different settings and from multiple angles if it is an important element for your story.
Travel Photography10 Tips for Getting Started
"Credits" Original Quote From @klaavamedia
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