Today’s smartphones go a thousand times over the best cameras of the past, so travelers have it easier and easier. When you return from the trip with thousands and thousands of photographs, it is worth considering taking fewer but better photos. Richard l’Anson, the author of the Lonely Planet Image Gallery, gives some of his tricks for the best travel photo essay.
Control The Taking Of The Image
In order to go beyond mere automatic or scheduled settings, it is worth learning the camera’s instruction manual. Knowing the equipment well is the basis for the mechanics of taking a photo to become second nature.
Automatic features are great if you know how they work and what effects they have on the image; from there the photographer can determine if they are worth it or not to get the photo he wants.
Once you understand the exposure triangle (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture), you can instinctively combine the many options that provide a correct exposure. Adjustments will no longer be simple technical instruments, but creative resources with which to control the atmosphere, quality, and feel that the photograph will convey.
As for the equipment, at least one would have to know how to change the ISO, the shutter speed, and the aperture, turn the flash on and off, change the lens and filters and mount the camera on the tripod with the cable release, and all this with as quickly as possible.
Know-How to see the light
The ability of light to transform an ordinary subject or scene into something extraordinary is one of the most powerful weapons at the photographer’s disposal. Being able to “see” light and understand how it travels to the sensor and influences composition is critical to creating amazing images. What differentiates one photograph from another, if all other factors remain the same, is the light under which the photographer takes the shot.
But one thing is the light and another the “correct” light. The keys to achieving the latter are its color, quality, and direction.
When you discover a possible photographic subject, you must notice where the light falls on it and look for an angle from which the light will enhance it. All things have an optimal time of day to be photographed, and be prepared to wait or come back at another time if you don’t find the vantage point that works.
However, most subjects are enhanced by the warm light of the grazing sun in an hour or two after sunrise and before sunset. At these times of the day, shadows lengthen and textures and shapes are accentuated. If you really want to take good pictures, these are the hours you should be out there shooting.
Practice, Practice, And Practice
If the photographer has a clear technique, he will be able to effectively handle the equipment and understand the light. But you need to practice photographing the subjects you encounter on your travels and in any town or city in the world, including your own.
To test the ability to study the equipment, perfect the technique, train the eye, and become familiar with the changes in light, we can make a photographic report of our own city. We should first consult a tourist guide, look at postcards and photo books, make a list of possible shots, and approach this exercise as if we were away from home. Soon we will have an idea of the distance we will have to cover, the places and subjects that we will be able to photograph in a day, and if our equipment is manageable.
Later we will be able to apply this knowledge to plan trips in more detail.
Study And Plan
Study and preparation help the photographer to be in the right place at the right time. More time means more photo opportunities: sometimes a couple of minutes more makes a big difference. The sun can set or come, the right person can stand in the right spot, the garbage truck in front of the most beautiful building in town can drive away, or the fruit buyer can hold out his hand from her with money.
If the photographer has time, they can find new angles and vantage points, visit the same places at different times of day, shoot under different lights, and get better coverage. It is a good idea to find out when special events such as popular festivals, bank holidays and weekly markets will take place. The spectacle, the color, and the people who congregate on special dates provide so many reasons for good photos that it is worth planning the trip well with this in mind.
In order for the day to be as productive and satisfying as possible, the photographer must know the streets and dimensions of the city or the area if it is a place in nature, as well as where the main points of interest and activities are located. The hotel should be as central as possible (and the room with a view). Although the accommodation in the outskirts is cheaper, you will have to spend money on taxis, walk more, get up earlier and carry the equipment, especially the tripod, even if it is not needed.
Develop A Photography Routine
The good photographer has to go for a walk, get up early, always carry the camera around his neck and without the cover, or constantly check that the ISO value is adequate when we enter or leave different locations.
Potential images abound: they flash before our eyes and are gone in a matter of seconds, and it’s easy to miss. A good routine plays an important role in finding great topics and reacting quickly.
- Before going out to take photos, make sure you have enough memory and battery for the whole day, as well as a notepad and pencil.
- Get up early The light of dawn is usually better, and the activity in towns and markets is more intense and interesting. The photographer will be rewarded with experiences and images that most people miss out on.
- Wear the camera around your neck, switched on and without the lens cap, because you’ll probably need it again.
- See existing light conditions and adjust the camera accordingly.
- Constantly check that the ISO value is correct, especially when going in and out of dimly lit interiors.
- Know where to be first thing in the morning and in the last two hours of daylight.
- If a topic comes up, never take it for granted that it will come back later. The first thing is to shoot and then prepare for a second or better opportunity.
Have Patience And Commit To The Image
Much of the time a photographer spends creating good photos is spent not shooting but watching, either moving from place to place or standing still, watching and waiting. Good photographs are rarely the result of chance, random shooting, or accidentally being in the right place at the right time. On the move, the opportunities to run into floating moments multiply. From the hotel room or the stool of a bar, you will not get those “magic” photos.
When you find a good spot and the light is just right, but there is an unpredictable element missing to take the photo, like a child in a red jacket running into the frame, you have to find a balance between wanting to see the whole and patiently waiting for the perfect moment to create an interesting photo.
If possible, wait, be patient and commit to the image. Whether it’s waiting a few seconds for something to happen, waiting a couple of hours for the weather to change, or making the effort to come back at another time of day, the quality of your images will improve dramatically.
Commitment to the image is a key trait of every professional; it is what makes you stay in a place much longer than it takes to visit it.
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