This is the second part of a three-part series on How to Improve your Travel Photography.
Now that you know how to get into the photographer mentality, it is time to go out and take those great shots. Here are 10 tips that will help you compose and deliver your story through your pictures:
1. Understand composition… and keep it simple
Composing an image goes beyond just placing your subject and other objects in a scene. It is also a way to tell the story you want your photo to convey.
When composing, look for patterns, angles, textures, colors, objects, light, and other details that will help tell your story. A composition is strongest when you pay attention to detail, especially in travel photography.
But, be careful not to put too much into a single photograph. Try not to have more than two main subjects in the image, or else it can be confusing to the eye.
2. Don’t forget about your horizons
Horizons are a good reference of orientation and a measure of how leveled the image is. Horizons, also considered as a datum, can be horizontal and vertical. The most obvious horizons are found in sunset images, the line created when the sky meets the water, but other horizon references can be window sills, floors, linear patterns, columns, and even non-linear objects like trees. Don’t forget that the horizons not only level the image, they help compose it too.
3. Know how to balance, frame, and use the rule of thirds
A balanced composition doesn’t need to be perfectly centered, (ie. you in the middle of the image). Balance can be achieved asymmetrically with “heavy” objects on one side of the image while “lighter” objects or open spaces are placed on the other side. This also helps the image “breathe” and not be cluttered.
The rule of thirds is a balance relationship on pictures. It states that the focus or main object should be placed on one-third of the image in order to achieve an aesthetically attractive composition.
Framing also helps balance and focus your subject in the image. Good framing objects can be doorways, windows, arches, and column spaces, among others.
4. Consider the foreground, background, and depth of field
Play with what you place in the foreground and background. Depth of field depicts the distance between the main subjects and their backgrounds. The subject in the foreground is usually sharp and in focus, while the background gradually fades out and blurs. Try blurring the foreground in certain shots while blurring the background in others. Both techniques tell a different story.
5. Get high, low, and around
Taking all your shots from a 5’-6” point of view can turn out to be boring. Don’t be afraid to kneel, lay on the floor, and to safely climb in order to shoot your subject from different angles. Be creative; get far, get close, use stairs and balconies, shoot a detail, shoot the whole scene, or look for unique angles.
For an uncommon perspective of your subject, go high and point the camera down; to make it look monumental, go low and point the camera up. The more unusual you are, the more interesting your shot could be.
6. Don’t be afraid to get close, really close
We all know cameras have zoom, but zooming from a far distance doesn’t have the same perspective, depth, details, and colors than actually getting close to your subject to take the shot. Getting close also enhance the depth of field effect in pictures.
7. Be aware of the light and its effect
The best times to shoot are during the early morning and late in the afternoon, just when the sun is low in the sky, casting soft, warm rays of light that create a desirable glow on your subject. During midday, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, the sun is at its zenith and the radiant light is at its strongest. This creates a very bright light that washes away the colors and makes it difficult to capture details with the camera lens.
Make the effort to get up early and to stay out late. Another advantage to this is the ease to get your shots with fewer tourists or distractions that constantly interrupt your shots.
8. Capture action
The best travel photographs often portray some action. Have in mind that action doesn’t necessarily involve physical movement. Action can be effectively achieved with a deep stare of a person, or by projecting potential movement. On the other hand, it can also be a capture of a running marathon or a flag waving in the air. The action is part of the atmosphere of your environment; when we manage to capture it we deliver a better sense of place.
For landscape shots, placing a subject in the image helps to bring life to the image and keeps it from being boring and static. They also help establish a sense of scale in comparison to the background.
9. Evoke something
Evoke a sense of action, of time, of place. Recognizable cultural icons help establish a sense of place and the sunlight helps establish time. These little details help create a better photo and deliver your story.
10. Capture faces and expressions
Don’t be afraid to photograph faces and expressions, without being annoying or invasive, of course. No one wants to see pictures where all you see are back of heads, no expression. Adding faces to your location both tells a story and adds humanity to the image. Be spontaneous and get the expressions of merchants in the market, performers on the street, people chatting, among others.
It’s important to note that successful travel photography is not about getting an award-winning photograph with every shot; it is about delivering a story and an experience. You want to deliver the real sense of what you experienced to your friends and family.Previous: Getting Into the Photographer Mentality. Next: Simple Post-editing of your Pictures.