Every place has its distinct look, character, and ambiance – in other words, it has its own flavor. Of course, you’d want to take that home with you, but you just have to settle for the picture, that one picture which will take you back to that wonderful place every time you look at it. Follow these tips and you’ll significantly improve not only the quality, but also the meaning of your travel photographs.
Don’t be lazy
Probably the best advice anyone could give you. Great photos aren’t taken from a car, or from your hotel room. Nuh-uh, that’s not how it works. Find that great shot you want to take and go for it, no compromise. But don’t be afraid to search more angles, play with your exposure and settings, experiment! More often than not, you’ll take a better photograph than in the first try.
However, be careful you’re not breaking any laws or annoying anyone in the process; also, don’t endanger yourself to go that extra mile – it’s a risk not worth taking.
Use the golden hours
This is something many people don’t know at all. The best times to take a picture is during the hour following sunrise and the hour prior to sunset; the light is so much softer and delicate, it will feel as if you’re painting and not photographing at all.
There will be times when a bright, sunny day is what you want to go for, or when you want to capture the night lights for example, but usually, if you want to take the best picture of something special, those are the periods you should aim for.
This is what turns a nice picture into a great one! Say for example you’re taking a photo of some vegetables at a colorful local market; add the signage in your picture – if it’s in a foreign language, all the better. You want to photograph a great meal you got served at a restaurant? Photograph the waiter bringing it to you. As a matter of fact, adding people to your pictures is usually great. People buying their newspapers or morning coffee, kids playing on the street, a cute girl smiling, a nostalgic old man – all of these would look great in themselves, but with a great landmark? That’s just great stuff.
Take a story, not a photo
Say you’re visiting the Eiffel tower. You’re gonna take a picture and you’re gonna view it time after time; why do that? You could just look at the thousands of pictures available on the internet; ah, but this one is your picture. You took it, and it takes you back to when you visited Paris and did all those wonderful things. Try shooting it maybe from a different perspective, maybe zoom in on metal beams or some other architectural details. Do this every time. That’s your story – add it to the picture.
Get off the beaten track
I don’t know about you, but the pictures which I’m most fond of aren’t those with famous objectives or landscapes. Some of the best places in the world are not famous, some of the best restaurants are not expensive, and some of the best photos are taken off the beaten track.
I remember one time, in Krakow, just walking around aimlessly, I got to a bridge filled with lover padlocks – I had absolutely no idea this even existed; this became one of my fondest memories, and although the picture was lost when my laptop broke, it was my favorite one from that trip.
Get a polarizing filter
Photography equipment is somewhere between expensive and very expensive – I was shocked the first time I entered a professional store. But a polarizing filter adds great depth to your photos.
Mainly, it has two great applications: it reduces reflections from some surfaces, and it can darken the sky. If you want to take pictures of the deep blue sky, this is what you should go for. If you want to take pictures of shiny things, it’s a must. A worthy investment.
Don’t be afraid to photograph something unspectacular
Many people won’t take a picture of something they feel isn’t special. Don’t do this. Seriously, don’t do this. If you like how something looks, snap it. If you like how something makes you feel, snap it. Snap it!
So, those are just some of the basics you have to follow. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and bear in mind that with experience, things will become much more clearer. For more tips, check out this absolutely fabulous article by National Geographic photographer Robert Caputo.