5 Techniques for the Travel Photographer

When you travel to far away places, you want to make sure that you bring back the best possible images. Equipment is one aspect of achieving that, but good technique is equally important.

The digital camera has changed the way we view photography. It allows us to have more finite control over the post production of  our images and gives us more in-camera control. Different brands and price points offer different features but whether you are a DSLR user, a point and shoot user, or a photographer that employs both, there are certain techniques you can use to produce stunning travel photos.

For the purpose of this post I am going to assume that you already have an understanding of your camera's features and a basic knowledge of digital photography terms. I will cover some of what I consider to be must have techniques for the best travel photos.

1. Composition– Now this may seem like a no-brainer, but when you are traveling and have to shoot from the hip (maybe at some once-in-a-lifetime festival or event) it is important to have an understanding of the rule of thirds and how to employ it quickly and effectively. Imagine that your photo is cut into thirds like the grid on the photo below. We want to make sure that the main focus of the photo is not in the center square. Placing the subject either in another section or where the lines intersect gives the photo more impact and more energy than just centering it. So, the next time you are taking a photo, give it a try and see the difference for yourself.

ruleof-thirds

The Rule of Thirds

2. Lighting– This is a very involved subject, but here are a few main points. When shooting outside remember that at midday the sun is at its harshest, so – from a lighting standpoint – it is the worst time to take a photograph. If you can, early morning or late evening is best. When the sun is low in the sky, you will have more contrast and better colour. Another rule of thumb is to try not to have the light directly behind your subject (back light) unless you are going for a silhouette effect, as it can cause your subjects to lose colour and detail. And finally, move around your subject and observe how the light falls from different angles. This will give you a better understanding of light and how direction, quality, and colour affect your photos.

The histogram in your camera shows you what the camera sees in terms of information. It is simply a graph that allows you to judge the brightness of an image.The trick is to make sure that we don't go off the edge at either end of the graph. When we do it is referred to as clipping, which means that information is lost. You should bias your exposures so that the histogram is snugged up to the right, but not to the point that the highlights are blown. There is no such thing, in my opinion, as the perfect histogram. If you experiment with your camera before your trip you can get a better understanding of how it works.

900-mac

3. Angle – This is usually overlooked, as we tend to take all of our photos from one angle: straight on. The key here is to experiment, especially when you are at places that are photographed a lot. Look for a unique angle, something that hasn't been done before. When photographing children it is always best to get down to their level; it shows a level of respect, as photographing people from above tends to have a condescending effect. Low angles tend to lend strength and dominance as well as dramatize the subject, whereas high angle shots help orient the viewer because they show relationships among everything in the picture area and tend to minimize the strength and size of the subject.

4. The 3 Question rule – this one is something I always do before taking any photograph. I ask myself:

  • Is there anything in the frame that is distracting?
  • Where and what is the primary light source, and how does it affect the image?
  • Impact: Should I get closer or further away?

By answering these simple questions you have already become more aware and a better photographer.

5. Depth of Field – This one tends to confuse people, but it is very important in defining the impact of a photo. DOF is defined simply as the range in a scene – from near to far – that is in sharp focus. DOF can be used to separate your subject from a background or to keep the foreground in focus as well as the background. It is great if you have an idea of what kind of photo you want before shooting, as this allows you to prepare for it. When you are shooting wide angle landscape shots it is best to have the largest depth of field as you can. In order to achieve this you should use a small aperture and a short focal length, and try to be far away from your subject. That's the easy one. For shallow depth of field you should opt for a wider aperture, a longer lens, and be closer to your subject. Most new DSLRs come with a DOF Preview, which gives you a preview through the lens of the desired effect. Unfortunately this feature is not available on most point and shoot cameras, so you will just have to experiment. Sometimes taking advantage of DOF will require a tripod or a shutter release. Although not everyone can travel with these, you can use a sturdy surface and the timer on your camera in their place.

dofsmall

Shallow Depth of Field

I hope these 5 techniques will help you in producing great travel photos. I know they have helped me.


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