For many travelers photography plays a large part in the travel experience, but even with top of the line photography equipment and post processing software there’s no guarantee you’ll come home with the “beauty shot(s)” you were hoping for. Timing, lighting, bad weather, crowds and impatient families all factor in.
I’m no professional, but I am an avid photographer and have spent years happily snapping at every opportunity. This makes me an expert, right? Obviously not, but I’ve learned a lot from the photography classes and tours I’ve taken and I’ve happily received advice and tips from fellow travel bloggers, professional photographers, and other snap happy friends.
Speaking of friends I’ve asked some of them for their best tips on how they get THE shot. Whether you’re in front of or behind the camera, into selfies, landscapes or family pics here (in their own words) are some of their (and my) hints for bringing home your “beauty” shot.
No photo is worth serious injury, or your life. Stories of travelers and selfie takers losing their lives in the pursuit getting that perfect shot are becoming more and more frequent. Make sure you’re wearing appropriate attire for your surroundings, stay on marked pathways, and if it feels unsafe, it probably is.
Located just outside Page, Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed spots on the Colorado River. I really wanted to see it, but I wasn’t willing to walk to the edge of a 1000 foot drop to get the big picture. I literally crawled to get to this point and still didn’t get everything into the frame.
Be Aware of your Surroundings
Clare Thomson, Suitcases and Sandcastles
Clare is the creator of Suitcases and Sandcastles, a brilliant travel website, which focuses on making travel and culture more fun by slowing down and taking the time to really experience a place.
Clare’s pursuit of the perfect photo hasn’t always gone to plan. She says clumsiness and lack of sensible shoes mean she shouldn’t even be trusted with a camera, and admits to getting carried away by the beauty of a place. I’m a big fan of her work and hope she gets safely carried away more often!
This is the tiny Mediterranean Island of Gozo. The rock formations in front of me are extraordinary and I scramble down to the rocks only to discover that I can barely walk across this jagged surface in my flip-flops.
Clutching my camera to my chest like a baby, I stumble on. I’m used to cuts and scratches but I’m so frightened of damaging the camera that I end up bum shuffling across the rocks, much to the amusement of all the sensible tourists in trainers.
- Getting that perfect shot takes time and patience. Be prepared to wait ages for the right light or for the crowds to disappear.
- Try each shot from lots of different angles.
- Bring sensible footwear and plenty of plasters (bandages).
- Carry your camera in a padded bag.
- Make sure that your travel companions have got something else to do while you take lots of photos.
Beverly Friedman Photography
Beverly Friedman has traveled and photographed the world. She focuses mainly on landscapes and wildlife, and in the interest of full disclosure, also happens to be my aunt. She has definitely succeeded in getting The Shot!
This first photo is on the Isle of Skye; a place called the Fairy Glen. The stones really gave the scene an eerie or magical effect. It’s a simple composition that reflects the place.
- Simplify, simplify, simplify. Including too much in the photo detracts from its effect.
- Remember to check the edges for distracting elements.
The second photo was taken at Machu Picchu. Here, I wanted to show the perspective of the size of the monument compared to the size of the people, therefore, the people are small. Notice that the image shows all of the figures.
- Remember to avoid cutting off the feet and/or bottom of the legs. Head only or head and shoulders only are also okay.
- When photographing people, the simplify rule still applies. If the emphasis is on the people, zoom in.
Katy Untold Morsels
Katy is a travel blogger, photographer and the mastermind behind Untold Morsels, a very successful website, which focuses on food, wine, history, art and design. In her own words, “For me, travel is not just about visiting a destination. I am always looking for experiences and details that ensure each trip is forever etched in my memory.”
This gorgeous photo of Castel Sant’Angelo was the final result out of 100 photos. Katy has two favorite methods for getting a shot she is happy with:
- The first is to patiently wait until people move out of the way or clouds float away in the sky. By that stage I have framed my shot and know the light.
- The other, more common method, is deployed often due to having to control two 5 year olds. On those occasions I put the setting on burst or multi shot mode and pray one is going to turn out ok. Then of course I have to spend hours editing. But it’s worth it!
Paul and Mark Anywhere we Roam
Anywhere We Roam is a travel blog documenting the fabulous adventures of Paul and Mark. Their desire to know the world and their ability to document and share their travels in a friendly and inviting manner is truly inspiring.
Photographing people can be a sensitive issue. In some countries there is no expectation of privacy in a public place, whereas in others, it’s illegal to photograph people. Some cultures frown upon it for religious reasons and in some cases it’s just plain rude.
- Rather than covertly sneaking a snap of someone without them knowing, the best way to photograph people is to ask them. I’ve rarely had anyone say they didn’t want their photo taken. With their consent, I have time to set up the shot properly to make sure it works.
The only problem with this strategy: they instinctively start posing; ruining the unforced moment I was hoping to create.
- Take a bit more time and help them relax by asking some questions. While they’re telling me their name, occupation, family history, I can snap a few shots in-between responses and create a much more natural moment.
Cappadocia in Turkey is a dream location for photographers and Instagram aficionados. I caught these two in a romantic moment just inside the corner of the frame.
- Try to shoot into the sun for maximum warm glow, making sure there is enough light on the subject so they’re not obscured by shadow. In this case it didn’t matter because they were only a small part of the overall shot.
The charming village of Moustiers Sainte Marie in Provence is said to be one of the most beautiful in France. It’s built on terraces about 100 metres up a limestone cliff.
- Capturing a shot that includes the sun is an easy way to add some extra atmosphere to your photo. But, you want the sun slightly obstructed to get that nice flare effect.
- Wait for the sun to dip partially below the horizon or position yourself so it’s just poking around the side of a tree or a wall. That way, you’ll get nice golden rays without overexposing too much of the frame.
Melissa’s Secrets To A Good Selfie
We can’t have a post about travel photography without including the Selfie. Lucky for you my friend and fellow travel junkie, Melissa, loves to take selfies and she is truly the master. I’ve coaxed her into sharing some of her selfie secrets.
Ah, selfies. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here to stay and there’s absolutely no good reason why you can’t look your absolute best just because you’re taking the photo.
A good selfie starts with self-awareness. Do you have a good side? Do you think you look more attractive posed a certain way? You’re probably right! When I take a selfie or a picture with anyone else, I elbow my way to the left-hand side of the group because I feel my left-hand side looks better than my right. Try it. Take a photo of both sides of your face and figure out which one you like best. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Everyone looks better when photographed from up high. A high angle will take 10 years and 5 pounds away. Take a selfie with your camera at arms length first at face level and again from as high as you can get your arms, angled downward. You didn’t know you had those cheekbones, did you? Almost nobody looks good when you take a selfie from below (hello, multiple chins)!
Make sure the person with the longest arms takes the photo, angled from above. My darling husband has arms the length of an orangutan and it’s just one of the many reasons I love him.
Backlighting (sunlight or any bright light behind you) will make you look super cool. As an example, I took this bikini photo at the Disneyland Hotel pool. I was feeling good (probably all those vodka sodas on the way to Anaheim) and decided to snap this photo. I’m a 50-year-old Mom of two and I thought it was pretty cute. Note the high angle & backlighting. Sunglasses help too!
Will you Take My Picture?
“Will you take my/our picture?” If you’re a traveler you’ve heard this sentence countless times, and maybe you’ve even asked it, I know I have.
It’s always the same… you find yourself somewhere special, and you want to preserve the moment, so you ask the nearest person to snap your photo… then you snap one for them. When you look at the picture it’s blurry, your legs are cut off, there’s nothing of interest in the background, it’s crooked, or worst of all it’s someone else’s face.
Oh no! You might never be in this faraway place again, now what? Keep asking people until you get just the right shot? Take a selfie?
This was the only family photo we got during our visit to Stonehenge, which was a dream destination of mine. I should have heeded my own advice, and asked for another photo, but my impatient children and husband weren’t in the mood…
- Don’t be afraid to give your “photographer” some photo direction. Tell them just what you want. You may never be back to this place, so don’t be shy.
- Somewhere special? Make sure you ask them to include the background. This may seem obvious, but believe me it’s not.
- Remember to stand up straight and push your glasses up.
- If you ask someone to take your photo, offer to take one for them as well.
- You’ll get the best results when you hold the camera level with or above the subjects.
- Take the photo you’d want for yourself, and do a good job!
We should have requested that our “photographer” include the Mickey Fun Wheel in our photo. Whoops!
It’s not cheating when you straighten or brighten a photo. Even professionals do some post production.
- Think outside the box: consider other angles or perspectives, Get down low, aim high, or from the side and focus on small details rather than the big picture.
- Reflections make wonderful photos and even the smallest puddle can do the trick. If using a phone hold it upside down just over the water to get the best effect.
Do photo research. Going somewhere special or new? Take cues for what and what not to do from photographers who’ve already been to your upcoming destination.