10 Basic Tips for Successful Travel Photos

Adelie Penguins Take a Plunge

I’m aboard the Linblad National Geographic Explorer cruising around Antarctica. My goal on this 140 passenger, adventure cruise is to help everyone go home with better photos of this incredible journey. There are many, different levels of photographers on the ship and from my discussions with them I’ve come up with ten tips to help you when you travel with your camera.
1. If you bought a new camera for your trip, familiarize yourself with it before you head out.
2. If you procrastinated about tip number 1, at least bring the instruction manual with you so that someone else, (like me) can help you understand your camera.
3. Bring extra batteries and extra memory cards; you always shoot more than you expect. On this trip we are witnessing thousands of penguins – swimming in the sea, diving from ice floes, sitting on their nests, and marching up and down the beaches. Shooting wildlife means shooting a lot of images. A good rule in this situation is: shoot first, edit the garbage later.
4. Look for images that you can shoot with the equipment that you have. Don’t be envious of a fellow traveler’s super telephoto lens. If you can’t get close to your subject then think of other types of photos you can do.
5. See like your camera. Our brains can look at a big scene and focus in on details – cameras do not have that ‘wide angle telephoto’ ability. If you shoot what your brain sees you will come home with a lot of wide scenes with teeny, tiny detail over a wide area. Keep something large in the foreground as an anchor to your images.
6. Bring a camera that you will take with you when you head out. A large camera left behind in your room is no match for a smaller camera you can easily carry. It’s always better to bring back a photo of lesser megapixels than no megapixels at all.
7. Don’t depend on your zoom lens – use your legs to zoom. By walking up to and around your subjects you can shoot from different angles and create unique images. If you just walk, stop and zoom, you will never discover your subjects’ full potential.
8. Research your destination before you leave home. If you are familiar with the culture and geography, you will be prepared to make more intelligent photos. Look at published travel books and online sites to find photos of your destinations. These images can serve as guides to what you may want to photograph.
9. The primary factors that will make your photos better are light, composition, and moment. Look at the light, watch the shadows, and see what angles make the best use of light to give your subject dimension. When you compose your photo, make use of all the space or real estate in your frame – do not put the focus bracket in the center of the viewfinder on your friend’s face and then shoot. You will end up with the top half of your photo filled with sky or unimportant background. After you focus on a face or object, lock in your focus and recompose to take advantage of the full frame. Look at all four corners of the finder and know what’s in the picture. The moment – whether it’s your friend laughing or an animal turning it’s head just the right way, can make an ordinary photo into a great photo.
10. Patience is a virtue– do not leave it at home. If you want to create images above the ordinary, there is no underestimating the importance of taking your time. Wait for the light to look great on your subject, wait for the moment. And in my case yesterday, wait for the crazy bunch of Adelie penguins to make up their minds to dive into the water.


2 thoughts on “10 Basic Tips for Successful Travel Photos

  1. Pingback: Links and Articles of Interest « Van Houten Photography

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