“A camera is a save button for the mind’s eye.”
My photographs are without a doubt my most treasured travel keepsakes. They capture and preserve precious moments in time better than any souvenir ever could, and, even if it’s just for the briefest moment, they hold life still, capturing it exactly as it were at that exact moment in our lives.
That makes travel photography special and very powerful. It also makes it all the more frustrating when you don’t manage to capture an image as you remember it.
Who wants to look back on out-of-focus, overexposed or mediocre photos of beautiful destinations with a pang of regret? No one, that’s who!
Steer clear of that disappointment by avoiding these 7 common travel photography mistakes – all of which I’ve made over the years – and you’ll have a collection of treasured photos and memories in no time!
1. You do not need an expensive camera
Let’s debunk this myth from the get go – the most expensive, latest and greatest gear does not result in better photos. Photos are made by you, and the best camera you can buy for your travels is one you’ll actually use. While I love travelling with my digital SLR and two lenses, some of my most favourite travel snaps have been taken on my trusty iPhone. So don’t get sucked into thinking you need to spend your life savings on fancy camera gear to take great photos and don’t let what you’ve got (or don’t have) hold you back (chances are you don’t even need it anyway!).
2. Learn how to use your camera
Following on from my first point, no matter what kind of camera you use, make a point of getting to know it inside and out. Learning how to use your camera properly is imperative to getting the most out of it and will improve your photography more than anything else.
3. Find a different perspective
When it comes to major attractions or landmarks, we’ve all seen the same photo again and again. Sameness of perspective is boring, and no one wants their travel photos to be boring! I’ve found there are two sure-fire ways to improve your photos in this instance and avoid getting an identical shot to everyone else.
Firstly seek out a different vantage point or shoot from a different angle to create interest. Find a lesser known viewpoint, crouch down, shoot from above, shoot from below – basically, get creative! Secondly make the photo unique to you. Whether that means jumping in the shot yourself, capturing an action as it unfolds or placing something in the foreground of the photograph, it’s these shots that will always be more unique and feel all the more personal.
4. Don’t skip the details
Look beyond the main attractions to capture the small details that might have otherwise gone forgotten. Take the beach for example. A sweeping landscape shot is sure to be impressive, but what about the shells along the shore, the seagulls taking flight, your footprints in the sand or that sail boat you can just make out on the horizon? The beauty is in the details and that’s what tells the story.
5. Embrace the darkness
Lighting can make or break photos. I used to only like taking photos in the middle of the day when the sun was out and would avoid taking photos altogether on overcast days, thinking my photos would turn out grey and drab and wouldn’t be worth the effort. How wrong I was!
Now I try to avoid taking photographs in the middle of the day as this kind of light creates harsh contrast and shadows which makes it especially unflattering when photographing people. I now LOVE overcast days as the darkness creates a lovely moodiness in photos that is difficult to achieve otherwise, and I try to get out at sunrise and sunset whenever possible to take photos during the beautiful soft light known as Golden Hour.
6. Include people in your photos
Early on when I first started with travel photography, I would activately try to avoid taking photos with people in them. I have no idea why but I think I thought that they detracted from the beautiful landscapes, dramatic scenery, picturesque towns and little details that caught my eye.
I soon realised that including people in these shots made them far better than before. People can help to add a sense of scale, tell a story, create a mood, add interest and help others to make a connection with your photos so don’t be afraid to include them! (Just be sure to ask!)
7. Get snap happy!
As with anything, taking great photos takes a bit of practice and there’s no time like the present to get out there and start. Travel photography isn’t an exact science, in fact it’s definitely more an art than a science. You are the artist and what and how you photograph something is under your complete creative control! So experiment, get creative, have fun with it and you’ll have a collection of photos that mean something to you when you look back on them. At the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about.