Becoming a better travel photographer takes time and practice. But you also need to actively try to improve areas that you may struggle with. Some of these areas of improvement will include things like settings and specific scenarios. For example, you may struggle with capturing sharp photos when handholding the camera. So you will need to practice to become better at doing so. But there are also certain attributes that will help you become a better travel photographer. You may already have some of these attributes. If not, try to develop them as they will help you in your photography.
Be an early riser
Most travel photographers will tell you that their favourite time for photography is early morning around sunrise. This is mainly due to the soft golden light that appears at this time which can transform a scene. But another reason for getting up early is that you will generally benefit from fewer people being around. Go to a famous landmark in the middle of the day and there will be lots of tourists and visitors. But visit at sunrise and you will only find a handful of people. Obviously there are some exceptions. Some experiences have become so famous at sunrise that they can be even busier than during the day. For example, Angkor Wat at sunrise pulls in huge crowds. But generally speaking, you will find yourself alone in most places early in the morning.
Become an explorer
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have walked down a street in a city and hit a dead end. But I have also on occasions come across some great spots for photos that most people would miss. Part of being a travel photographer is capturing images of already photographed destination and locations in a new way. Sometimes the only way to do this is to explore places on foot to try and find new shot locations. Sure it can be frustrating as you might find yourself walking around and not finding somewhere. But ever now and again you will come across somewhere that gives you a unique shot.
Keep a positive attitude
Travel photography can be incredibly frustrating at times. After all, you are at mercy of everything from weather to unplanned closures and construction work. Sometimes even other people (like for example a truck parking in your carefully composed shot). Unfortunately most of the time you can’t do anything about it. So the best way to approach the situation is to keep your calm and be positive about the shots you can capture both at that time and for the rest of the shoot. For example, can you crop out the truck that has parked in your shot? Or can you come back another time? If there’s bad weather, is there something else that you can photograph? Such as museums or parks and waterfalls? The more positive that you are, the more chance that you’ll be able to find those hidden gems to make the best of a bad situation.
Leave your “shyness” at home
This is by far one of the most common reasons that amateur photographers give me for not wanting to photograph people. I can certainly understand why people may feel uncomfortable photographing strangers. I always say to people; imagine if someone took a photo of you? Or even if you were asked by someone who wanted to take your photo. Would you be offended or angry? Or would you be flattered? Most people would react in the same way. If someone really doesn’t want their photo taken, they would normally just wave a hand to indicate it. So don’t worry unless you are taking a photo of someone you shouldn’t be photographing, like military or police, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Learn to relax
Being a travel photographer can be difficult. You are often getting up early in the morning and usually not getting back to bed till late. You spend most of the day on your feet walking around. Meals become a distraction and so you are often eating as and when you can and there’s no time to just sit by a swimming pool and relax. But whilst you may not be able to relax in the same way as someone who is on vacation can, it is still really important to try and give yourself a bit of time to relax. That might just mean a few hours during the middle of the day to relax and catch up on some sleep. Or it might mean giving yourself a morning off to sit and enjoy a coffee. Depending on how long you are going to be away, having a bit of time to relax is important as it will keep you fresh and able to shoot more.
Get into a routine
When you are on location, it is important to ensure that you don’t forego some of the admin and maintenance parts of the process. For example, you need to ensure that your camera equipment is in working condition and clean. So get into the habit of giving your lenses and camera a wipe every night. They will no doubt get dirty from the dust and smog in a city. Or make sure that you charge all of your batteries and clear your memory cards by backing up your photos on a hard drive. You can also give your filters a clean and even prepare for the next day by packing your bag, checking your shot list locations and laying out the clothes you will wear. By getting into a routine you won’t suddenly find yourself running out of batteries or memory card space.
Travel photography is such a rewarding branch of photography that everyone does it to a certain extent. But beyond your skills as a photographer, you also need the skills above to be able to maximise your creative output when on location.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.