Photography plays a significant role in my travels. Below, I’ve compiled a list of insights that have helped me improve my photography on the road over the past two months…
1. Travel light.
After a long day of hiking in daily temperatures reaching 35 degrees, you will find yourself sweating and exhausted, and I can assure you that 10 extra kilos of gear will not improve your mood. You will save yourself a lot of trouble by taking only necessary gear, rather than an entire portable studio.
2. Bring a mirrorless camera instead of a DSLR.
Consider going for a smaller option than a regular DSLR camera. Many people want to buy DSLR’s because of their high quality. However, with a decent mirrorless camera, you can still create awesome pictures with the ability to change lenses. I packed a Sony a7 Full-Frame Mirrorless Digital Camera and I love it; it is half the size of a decent DSLR and the picture quality is absolutely great!
3. Don’t pack too many lenses.
I often find myself using the same lenses anyway, as it takes too much time to change a lens when something interesting is happening. I carry around two lenses most of the time: 28-70mm and 70-200mm. The 28-70mm lens is great to capture landscapes and architecture because of its wide-angle view. The 70-200mm lens is perfect for portraits because you can stand quite far from the subject and still zoom in to capture detail. So far, the combination of these two lenses has proven to be more than adequate — any more lenses would only increase the weight of my backpack and decrease my comfort.
4. Focus on the subject, not the gear.
Although my previous tips have been about gear, there are many photographers that take gorgeous pictures just only a phone (the Samsung Galaxy S8 gets great reviews for photography) demonstrating that equipment is not the main priority in photography. Capturing genuine emotion in my pictures is what makes me feel satisfied with my art. These moments often happen in a split second, and the last thing I want to think about is which lens I should be using.
5. Take lots of leisurely walks.
Unless you want to capture something specific like a mountain during sunrise, I find it great to just walk around the town for an hour or two and photograph whatever presents itself along my path. The most spontaneous things are usually the greatest captures — you never know what will happen, and that is definitely part of the fun of the photography.
6. See with your eyes, not just your camera.
Experience life without a lens. I usually take my camera with me every other day; sometimes it’s just nice to walk around and do things without having to focus on finding the right composition or worrying about my equipment. Although it can feel like you will miss out on great events to capture, there will always be more opportunities for amazing photos.
7. Don’t always ask for permission.
Many people told me that I should always ask for permission when taking a photo. However, I have found that my most interesting pictures were taken at the moments where I just randomly took a picture of someone who passed by. The expressions of your subjects will usually be way more natural when captured without them noticing it (people tend to awkwardly pose in front of my camera when I ask permission), and this makes the picture more interesting! Of course, if someone gets angry with you for snapping a shot without asking, apologize and delete it. (This is just my opinion).
8. Form connections with people.
In some situations, you will be able to stay in one place for a longer time and, although I said that posing your subject might be a little bit awkward, it can also improve your pictures. The ability to direct your subject toward optimal lighting situations or choose a background that you like is not always possible with impromptu shooting. Therefore, it is great if you have enough time to make a genuine connection with the people you plan to photograph. They can get used to your presence, and their poses will be more natural.
9. Take time for yourself.
It is great to travel together with other people, but sometimes the group wants to move on with a hike, while you see an opportunity for the perfect picture. Try to go out by yourself and make the intention to take time for your photography. You can easily have a great time together with your travel partner(s); just remember to go outside with your camera during sunrise or sunset for an hour, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to create something beautiful.
10. Use editing software.
Try to edit your pictures afterwards with software like Lightroom or Photoshop (there are plenty of great tutorials available). These programs offer the ability to substantially improve your photos with subtle changes like contrast, colour and brightness. Sometimes your picture is not exposed completely right or the colours are a bit off, but you can easily change it later.
Do you have questions about these tips that I’ve found useful for improving my travel photography? Let me know! If you have some personal insight on what improves your travel photos, please feel free to comment, as well.