Introduction to Travel Photography

If you’re a traveler and a photographer you’re blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime to capture moments in time from throughout the world and allow others to experience the world through your photography. Your adventures will become others dreams and inspiration. Often a particular photograph could make someone want to follow in your footsteps. Just one photograph could trigger the travel bug in someone and the next thing you know, you, the photographer, and enhancing people’s lives through the use of your camera.

Besides the impact travel photography has on others, it’s also very rewarding to the travel photographer. Chances are you would have had a camera on you anyways, so why not apply the creative principles of art photography to help enhance the pictures you take.

How to take the best travel photographs

There are two types of travel photography.

1) The “stand in front of that sweetie” brand and the “spontaneous and interesting” brand. Unfortunately most travel photography falls into the former category. We’ve all seen this type of photographer before, and regrettably most of us are guilty of it as well. We will try and capture the shot of something for no other purpose than to just prove we were there. The result is an often scripted, uncomfortable, predictable and visually boring picture. These types of pictures clog photo albums. Page one; the family in front of a water fountain. Page 2; the family in front of a monument. Page 3; the family in front of a sign that says something only funny to tourist. Congratulations, you’ve taken the same shots, in the same position as thousands and sometimes millions of other people. Let’s now turn our attention to the other brand of travel photography, the spontaneous and interesting brand.

2) with this type of photography you are still free to capture the tourist site and you are still allowed to include yourself in the picture. However, there will be a stark difference in both composition and character engagement. Let’s say for example that you and your family have gone on a kayaking for the day. Some people may line the kayaks up, gear up and stand in front of the kayaks, throw their thumbs in the air and “click”. The picture is taken. When you get home to look at your shot you realize that the picture didn’t capture the peacefulness of kayaking, the calming backdrop of mountains or the scared look on sisters face when she had to duck under a log. You’ve simply captured proof that you’ve been there and done that. A better idea would be to have someone on shore (because you probably don’t want a camera in a kayak unless you’re very skilled), and have them take pictures of the action while its happening. Even if you have to recreate events, it is still better than the scripted and visually boring alternative. Obviously capturing the moment spontaneously is best, but recreation finds itself in second place if that’s the only other option.

Likewise if you’re in Rome and you’d like to get a picture of your friend and the Coliseum all in one, try quickly pulling out your camera while they are looking at the size of the structure and snap a shot of the wonder and curiosity in their eyes. Often this takes some preplanning with however you’re with. You will need to tell them; “Look, when I take out the camera I don’t want you to stop what you’re doing and “say cheese”. Just keep doing what you’re doing because I’m trying to capture our unpredictable and beautiful life as it unfolds”. It may take a couple of times before they stop turning and looking your way, but once you get this down pat as a team, your pictures will turn out much better.