As nothing more than an amateur photog, I’ve hardly got all (or even any) of the answers when it comes to improving one’s photography; however, as someone who has become more passionate about taking photos, I have over the years learned a few things along the way. It seems almost comical that just a few years ago I circumvented my way around Asia for nearly 6 months with nothing more than a tiny Casio point and shoot camera set in automatic equipped with a humble 4 gb memory card. These days, on a glorious day of shooting, I might exhaust that same memory card in mere hours. It’s an addictive hobby, I’m telling you! However, with that being said, it’s no coincidence that many of the top travel blogs feature stunning HD photos that capture the imagination and spirit of a particular place, region, culture and/or people. I offer the following 10 travel photography tips as a way of hopefully inspiring others to take their photography a little more seriously.
10) Primp & coif your photos as you would yourself before heading out to work
If rolling out of bed and heading to work (or some social event) without a shower, brushing your pearly whites and/or running a comb through your hair sounds like a bit of poorly hatched plan, it’s equally as obscene to think about doing it with your recently taken photos. A few basic editing techniques and skills such as cropping, modifying your exposure and straightening your photos are the travel photography equivalent of showing up to the dance sharply dressed.
9) If you’re dressed nicely put your camera away
With all the talk about looking immaculate in point number 10, it might come as a surprise that I suggest you wear your worst while taking photos. If you’re not prepared to climb, get down on your knees or twist your body as if playing a game of drunken twister, chances are you’re missing out on some great angles and vantage points that ultimately lead to stunning shots.
8) Think before pressing the shutter
A lot of us have grown up a little trigger happy. I remember my first ever video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System was Duck Hunt. I know I’m pre-dating some of the today’s youth with tales of such games that are more likely to be found in a museum or attic than in actual use today; however, I was rewarded greatly for standing as close to the television set as possible and blasting away, yet that kind of technique is not something that is going to improve your travel photography. Believe it or not, I suggesting one ought to think a bit before pressing the shutter button. What is your subject? What are you trying to emphasize? Have I selected a fast enough shutter speed to capture a sharp photo? What kind of selective focus (depth of field) do I want to achieve with this photo? These are just a few questions you might want to ask yourself internally before doing the digital deed.
7) Delete More Photos Than You Keep
I totally get it! The fifteen photos in a row of you gorging down on that piece of cake are priceless and should forever be kept in storage. Actually on second thought, maybe not? Honestly, one of the things that has helped me to improve my photography more than anything else is to be my own biggest critic. I feel as though one should delete roughly half of the photos they take if not more. Ideally, I aim for 70% or more. Why am I keeping this photo is a question I often ask myself?
6) Lose your camera in style
Seriously, if somebody wants your camera bad enough they’ll find a way to pry it out of your precious little hands or safely stowed backpack. It’s amazing what a lethal weapon invading your personal space will do to change your mind about what is important in life. My motto is that I’ve bought it to take photos and I’ll lose it in style shooting as often as I can. This doesn’t mean that I think your camera should be dangling off of your neck at all times; after-all, proper discretion applies in certain circumstances. However, if you’ve purchased your camera to take photos and not collect dust, my suggestion is to use it and not live in fear.
5) Conquer your fear & dare to be bold in the process
I’m shy by nature. I used to hate taking photos of people. What I’ve come to realize is that by stepping out of my comfort zone personally it’s had an equal if not great effect on my photography. I now take shots of people with confidence – both in candid situations and with posed portraits. Any excuse that’s holding you back from taking better photos is best left behind in the rear-view mirror.
4) Hitting the bullseye is great in darts, not as ideal in photography
If you’re nailing the bullseye time and again with precision one might call you a talented shot in darts. In photography if your subject is situated in the dead centre of all of your shots chances are you’re taking lousy photos. Compositional dos, such as the rule of thirds suggest one place their subject away from the centre. It’s certainly ‘just fine’ to have your subject positioned dead centre from time to time, but one thing I’ve noticed about some galleries from those just taking up the hobby, is that this is happening far too often.
3) Notice the world in a different way
Do you remember when you bought that shirt you thought was unique only find out every 10th person you passed down the street seemed to also be wearing it. Quickly look around the room where you’re reading this article right now and notice something red. Have you found something yet? Okay, let me know what you found in the room that was green. The fact is that we see the world in a selective manner and this bias is reflected in your photography as well. Try going out and trying to capture certain tones, colours or shapes as an exercise for the day. It will not only help you to see the world more creatively but it makes for a fun challenge.
2) Reduce the shots of YOU
Remember the example of those splendid shots of you eating cake from point number 7? You’re going to hate me all over again. Honestly, the name of the game when it comes to improving your photography is not to shove yourself into every single frame your ever take. I’m so sorry.
“My sage like piece of advise (coming from a fool) is to start noticing everything in front of you instead of having to be in front of everything.“
1) Learn as many rules about composition as you possibly can & then break them all…OFTEN
There are a plethora of compositional dos and don’ts one can potentially learn to improve their photography. I suggest studying them all and applying them in appropriate situations; however, I can’t stress enough to also be prepared to break them just as often. Photography is about emotions and feelings as much as it about technical skills. Ultimately it’s about doing what feels right.