Change Your Vantage Point | Travel Photography Tips

One of the most common mistakes an amateur/novice photographer makes is to take the majority of their photos standing up with the camera held near chest or eye level.  Although this is the most comfortable/natural orientation it’s not the one that is going to yield impressive or unique photos.  Everybody else is doing it and if you’re interested in taking photos that are going to impress an audience outside of friends and family it’s time to get down & dirty, climb, contort & twist your body all over the place :P  These are five travel photography tips to improve your photos by changing your vantage point.

 

1)  Look Up / Look Down

As mentioned previously, taking photos from chest or eye level is what 90% of other photographers are already doing.  Start noticing what’s going on up & down.  You might notice a man shaving nearby an overhead window or a cute dog scurrying about at ground level.  Try taking photos of somebody climbing up steep steps from an overhead perspective.  The next time you take a portrait of somebody have them sit down and look up towards the sky or ceiling before taking their shot from an above perspective.  Try capturing architecture or a statue from a close-up perspective pointing your camera upwards to capture a distinct or select element.

2)  Climb a Mountain, ladder, tree or just some steps :P

One of the easiest ways to change your perspective is to shoot from a higher vantage point.  In other words, be prepared to get physical and do a little exercise climbing a mountain, ladder, tree, or just some steps :P  When shooting above and looking down it’s almost as if you have a bird’s eye perspective of what is going on below.  From a higher vantage point you can take great shots of parades, crowds, traffic or scenic valley views.  The rewards of doing this are that ‘many’ other photographers are simply too lazy to ‘climb’ something.  This is a travel photography tip that can’t be underestimated:  putting in a bit of grunt work :P

3)  Get Down & Dirty

I’ve often mentioned that one should wear their worst clothes out when taking photos.  As a general travel photography tip, if you’re not prepared to get some stains, tears or a little dirt on your shirt or pants you haven’t noticed what’s doing on at ground level.  Capturing a photo of a cat, dog or other animal from the eye level perspective the creature is experiencing provides a whole new dimension to the photo.  The exposure will speak to the subject’s way of viewing the world as opposed to your own.  Furthermore, landscape & street photography is greatly enhanced with some shots of traffic, insects & scenery from a low vantage point.

4)  Shoot from the perspective of your subject

If you’re taking a travel photo of an ant or small insect be prepared to get down on your hands and knees and shoot from the perspective of it crawling on the ground.  If you’re shooting a large animal or billboard try crouching down and shooting upwards at a wide angle to exaggerate its already impressive size.  Whatever subject you are photographing try to mentally visualize what you are trying to emphasize in the photo (subject’s size, background, foreground, etc) to capture the moment from a unparagoned viewpoint.

5)  Twist & Shout

To improve your travel photography you need to be willing to twist, contort & misalign both you body & camera from typically held positions – shouting is optional :P When it comes to your camera, try shooting in orientations other than typical landscape and portrait poses.  Try twisting the camera in a diagonal manner (left or right) for some creative shots.  When it comes to your body be prepared to contort it in positions, as if you were playing a game of twister and you suddenly noticed something interesting that involves capturing it in an awkward position.

These are just are a few ways a photographer can improve his/her photos from the majority of others who are taking the ‘typical’ shots from ‘typical’ angles and vantage points.  None of these tips involve upgrading your camera or lenses to see the world from a unique perspective.  It’s just a matter of using whatever you’ve currently got available and improving your skills & techniques to produce better photos.  Sometimes, just a few refinements in your techniques can aid in your quest to have a top travel blog.

As a travel photography tutorial, check out the following photos & see if you can match them with some of the 5 tips I’ve mentioned above:

Nomadic Samuel Jeffery

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather July 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Really lovely photos in this post!! And good tips of course :-)

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Nomadic Samuel July 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Thanks Heather :) It was fun trying to select some photos that would best demonstrate the concepts from the article.

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Annie July 24, 2011 at 2:04 am

These are fantastic tips and great photos, so I assume you definitely know what you are talking about! I always try to get a bit out of my comfort zone when I taking pictures but sometimes I get in such a hurry I forget. This post was a great reminder!

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Nomadic Samuel July 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Annie, thanks for the kind words. I have to remind myself of a lot of these things as well. Getting out of your comfort zone in any regard is tricky at times :)

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Angela July 25, 2011 at 6:01 am

Great tips, I absolutely love the photo of the cat winking :D

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Nomadic Samuel July 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Thanks Angela, I can remember where I took the shot of that cat (Chiang Mai, Thailand).

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Raymond @ Man On The Lam July 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Poor birdie… :(

Great tips Samuel!! And great photos!

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Nomadic Samuel July 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm

I know! I saw the bird just outside the Agra Fort. Thanks, I need to remind myself of many of those things often.

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Sweet Ronit July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

All of these shots are fabulous! I love them all, but the kitty winking is especially great, and you nailed the focus on the cow’s nose.

My mentor (who studied with Jay Maisel – bonus!) and I recently discussed working an image from all angles. It’s something I try to do, but sometimes I move on too quickly. Shooting is like yoga – no matter how deep you go, you can always go a bit deeper. That’s often when you find the best angle/shot.

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Nomadic Samuel July 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Oh, what a great analogy between yoga and photography. Going that ‘little bit deeper’ can improve a lot of areas in your life, I think :)

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Traveling Ted July 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Great photography tips and awesome examples of each style. I love the Wat Aran photograph looking up the stairs. I have seen a lot of Wat Aran pics, but I have never seen one like that.

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Nomadic Samuel July 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Thanks Ted, I found Wat Arun very under-rated among temples in Bangkok. Actually it was probably my favorite. Even though I don’t like heights I did climb it. How does it rank for you?

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Traveling Ted July 26, 2011 at 1:20 am

It was my favorite as well, although I do not remember climbing it. I think it was actually closed for climbing when I was there because I do not remember having to make a choice.

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Kris Koeller July 26, 2011 at 1:16 am

These are great tips. I think many new/amateur photographers are agraid of looking silly while taking photos, so they restrict themeselves. You have to be patient but also assertive about getting the photo you want. I can stand in the same spot for an hour waiting for the crowd to clear or the light to hit just so. Its worth it, and always cheaper to wait then to travel back for a better photo.

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Nomadic Samuel July 27, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Kris, sometimes I’m not patient enough but it’s definitely a necessary skill to have in order to improve your photography.

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Traveling Ted July 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I linked your cool photos to my most recent post.

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Nomadic Samuel July 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Thanks Ted, that’s awesome! Is Thailand one of your favorite places in Asia? It’s definitely one of mine. I’ve been there over 10 times.

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Traveling Ted July 28, 2011 at 6:49 am

Sadly, only been there once. Thailand was my favorite country in Asia and possibly worldwide. What country are you in now?

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Nomadic Samuel July 30, 2011 at 1:45 am

Oh man, how I’d do just about anything to be in Thailand permanently :) I’m back in Canada (rare occasion) for the summer and then off to Korea in the fall to teach English. How about you?

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HDR Photography July 26, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Good tips, and good photos! I like the cow (?) shot, the ears look way to low though.

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Nomadic Samuel July 27, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Thanks! Those ears are definitely distorted in the photo :P

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flipnomad July 28, 2011 at 5:08 am

great tips man… now i really cant wait to get my own dslr…

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Nomadic Samuel July 30, 2011 at 1:44 am

You’ll have fun when you do get it!

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Grace July 29, 2011 at 3:55 am

Love the twist and shout tip. For the down and dirty photo was that over at Salar de Uyuni.

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Nomadic Samuel July 30, 2011 at 1:39 am

Grace, I’ve split my shorts open (LOL) trying to take some photos. If that’s not embarrassing I don’t know what is :P

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Marina K. Villatoro August 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Excellent tips. I always get caught standing straight. I never move my body to work with the subject!

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Nomadic Samuel August 8, 2011 at 1:33 am

Thank you, I wrote these tips as much for myself as I did for others – plenty of reminders are necessary :)

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Laura August 7, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Fantastic photos! I especially like the one looking up the steps. ;)

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Nomadic Samuel August 8, 2011 at 1:31 am

Thanks Laura, it was REALLY steep to climb

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Nancie August 8, 2011 at 5:31 am

Great shots and tips! I wish I was 25 again….haha….getting down is the easy part…getting back up is another story……haha :)

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Nomadic Samuel August 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Nancie, I just hurt my back a few weeks ago while running. I wish I was 25 again too :P

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Pete Heck August 9, 2011 at 8:06 am

Some great tips here. I’m not afraid to get in the dirt or lie down somewhere odd and gain that perspective. Sure you get some strange looks, but I do what it takes to get the shot i’m looking for.

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Nomadic Samuel August 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Pete, that’s awesome! I always remind myself when I’m traveling that nobody knows me or cares what I’m doing. If I can provide a bit of comic relief that’s ok too :P

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jade August 10, 2011 at 5:36 am

wow- love the photos and really great tips! I have found that I really like taking photos of animals- their faces are so unique and usually pretty cute, too.

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Nomadic Samuel August 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Jade, animals make great subjects! I often find they have unique facial expressions that are harder to find with humans and they generally aren’t shy of the camera either :P

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Jim August 12, 2011 at 1:33 am

I found myself in a tight situation with elephants all around us, so no way to you have a long lens poking at them so close so put my camera on my lap but still kept snapping pics from that angle. Gee, the results are spectacular!
http://holesinmysoles.blogspot.com/2011/08/elephant-ambush-chobe-game-viewing-at.html

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fotoeins August 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Great tips/reminders for keeping (travel) photography fresh and alive! Thanks for your article, Sam!

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Nomadic Samuel August 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Thank you! I’m glad you found it beneficial. I have to remind myself of these tips over & over again myself.

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Caz Makepeace August 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Great tips and well backed up with awesome photos!!

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Nomadic Samuel September 1, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Thanks Caz! I’m really pleased you enjoyed the post :)

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Ashley Beolens September 6, 2011 at 8:03 am

Some excellent advice it is always worth exploring different angles when shooting one subject as you would be surprised the different ways the light can hit the same thing when viewed from elswehere.

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Nomadic Samuel September 7, 2011 at 7:16 am

Ashley, that’s a great observation! A photo is really nothing more than the quality and direction of light and playing around with angles and vantage points allows you to a variety of shots.

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NLM September 15, 2011 at 3:13 am

Great advice–thanks. I’m just starting to work harder/smarter on my photography–I’ll think of you when I’m all twisted up somewhere! I had some cool shots in China taken from below, but haven’t thought to climb much…will try it tomorrow!

Keep having fun.
Nancy

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Cole @ Four Jandals March 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Been trying to get “down and dirty” with our photos lately. Love finding a special spot that is away from the other tourists in the area which allows you to get that different perspective.

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Paul February 6, 2013 at 6:15 am

Great tips Samuel. Easy for anyone to follow, and they really do make a big difference.

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sohbet April 10, 2013 at 12:27 am

asdnyone to follow, and they really do make a big differenc

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