Imagine this: you’ve scrimped and saved for months for your dream vacation, and a snazzy digital camera, hoping to capture some unique travel photography images along the way, only to be flustered by the hordes of other tourists with the same intentions. With the increased accessibility of cameras on devices of every kind, this is becoming a common scenario that can frustrate many photographers, both professional and amateur. But don’t lose hope! With these tips, I’ll show you some ways to think of travel photography in a new light so that you can take unique travel photos in busy tourist locations.
1. Take shots from different angles
To get a unique photo, consider your subject from a wide variety of angles. Get down on your knees and shoot from below, or step up on a bench, or use a monopod to shoot from on high. Do whatever you can, within reason, to shoot from different perspectives; this will greatly increase the odds of capturing a unique image.
You have likely heard of the Rule of Thirds, in fact it seems as if this is the only rule of composition. To be fair though, the Rule of Thirds is a good go to tool when you are unsure of how to put a scene together compositionally. There are many other techniques that can be used to improve your composition. Techniques like balance, leading lines, symmetry, depth of field, and so on, can all make a big difference to your image.
In many ways a photograph is very similar to a painting. Photographers learned early on that composition is a key component to engage people in an image. Composition literally means to put together, so when you think about composing an image, you need to think about the visual elements that you will put together in your image.
As a photographer, you need to decide when to use certain techniques, and when not to use them. Most compositional techniques are simply guidelines, or frameworks, there are very few hard and fast rules. What they do offer is a starting point for putting an image together. Perhaps you may look at a scene and not know how to capture it. That is a good time to put some of the techniques into action and work the scene from there. They have been tried and tested by visual artists (painters, photographers and moviemakers) around the world for decades. The only constraint is don’t be dogmatic about applying them. Once you understand how to use the rules, you will then know how to break, and break out of them. By doing this, you will take your photographic creativity to a new level and your images will become that much better.
As always, with anything photographic, you need to experiment and practice. Know your equipment, experiment by shooting different scenes under different lighting conditions. Find what works for you and hone that skill. The art of composition is not a particularly technical art, but it can make an amazing difference to your images.
Photoshop Elements users: be sure to check out Focal Point for a series of actions that automate creating selective focus!
One of the most important aspects in composing a great photo lies in directing the viewer’s eye to exactly the place we want to highlight. There are a number of ways to do this while taking the shot: using leading lines, controlling the depth of field, using a tilt shift lens, etc. But what happens if you reach post-processing and want to create a selective focus effect? As wedding photographer Trevor Dayley demonstrates in the video below, it’s actually quite simple:
Selective focus is used to sharpen one area of the photo while the remaining areas are softly and gradually blurred. This allows the photographer to emphasize one area while downplaying the rest. If you think about it, this truly is a slice of artistic control: there is no such thing as “selective focus” in nature outside of what our brains choose to focus on.
Dayley demonstrates his post-processing elective focus technique on people, but it can also be used for macros, food photography, abstract photography, etc.
Just think about what you are going to do, understand the scene, watch the light, the movement of people inside the image. When you take your pictures you have to consider all factors: from the time of day and the light, to the emotional preparation of the characters. It is true that luck exists, that someone at some time photographed just that smile, that you can collect stolen photos using a long lens. But few stolen photos have survived to become part of the history of travel photography.
#2 The hair in your soup: An error for some people is something creative for others
If you’re like most photographers, nothing gets you more excited than a new tip or trick that can help you make your photographs more awe inspiring. The problem is that a lot of these processes can take some time to learn and execute correctly. Pretty quickly you realize that it may take you more than a few tries to master the new technique to become a better photographer.
When I’m teaching my photography classes, the students and I are often neck deep into discussions of the exposure triangle; shutter speed, aperture size and sensor sensitivity (ISO). You can find great discussions and explanations of the triangle here on the dPS. I’d like to dissect the ISO corner of the issue, and give you a simple technique you can use to set the ISO to the best value for the situation. Understanding ISO is one thing but setting it correctly on the fly is another.
An equilateral triangle represents a well-exposed image. If any corner is too long, (slower shutter speed for example) the image would be brighter. If the corner is short, the image would be darker.
First a definition of ISO:
ISO is an acronym for International Organization for Standardization. It is a group that sets all sorts of standards for science and industry, but the meaning of ISO for photographers with digital cameras, is that it places a numerical value on the sensitivity of the camera’s imaging component, the sensor. Often compared to the film sensitivity rating called ASA (originally developed by the American Standards Association).