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 😛  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 😛

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 😛  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 😛

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 😛 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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  7. says: Cole @ Four Jandals

    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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  12. says: NLM

    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

  13. says: Ashley Beolens

    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.

    1. 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.

  14. says: jade

    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.

  15. says: Pete Heck

    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.

        1. 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?

  16. says: Kris Koeller

    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.

  17. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

  18. says: Sweet Ronit

    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.

  19. says: Annie

    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!