Think I just happened to be sitting in the perfect spot, and in the perfect light? Think again. (Photo: Megan Snedden)
When you’re a photographer like I am, the world becomes your playground: a place to expand your creative mind and experience remarkable sights. It is your job to inspire a sense of awe in others with things you discover behind the lens. What it takes to capture these jaw-dropping shots is a willingness to get creative and pull inspiration from the inner adventurer who brought you here in the first place.
Travel photographers are known for going the distance to get the shot. They will wake up and go to bed at weird hours of the day just to get perfect light. They will scale hotel balconies to get the right angle. They will disappear into dead zones for long periods of time for the sake of authentic images. And they will ask people to do bizarre things for the camera. Being a photographer is a different way of thinking about what we see and how we see it.
Once you learn all the technical skills — shutter speed, aperture, white balance, etc. — a whole new world opens up, and you can begin fine-tuning your unique style. But here’s the secret: You don’t even need to be a professional photographer to take killer shots. Even learning the basics will make your photos look so much better. So, on that note, here are some fundamental techniques that will help you up your travel photography game, big-time.
1. Create interesting framing. One great way to do this is by shooting through fences and other objects. That way, the landscape isn’t all flat all the time — and cool angles make your photos look better.
2. Choose a flattering backdrop. And then, here’s the key: Have someone pose in front of it. This makes the photo seem real and brings the background to life.
3. Shoot with a long lens. Not just so you look like a professional with your super fancy gear, either. Taking photos with a longer lens means you can keep your distance — which allows you to capture more authentic moments, because people aren’t flustered by your camera.
4. Get people involved. More specifically, ask them to do crazy stunts for the camera. A little action never hurt anyone!
5. Ask people to remove branded T-shirts. Of course you don’t want your photos to be walking advertisements, but another benefit of going with a natural look is that you create timeless photos.
6. Add a person to a scene. Yes, temples are beautiful by themselves. But if you add a person to the photo, it gives perspective to the buildings — so you can see just how big or small they really are.
Related: A World Atlas of Street Photography
7. Look for bright, vibrant colors. Simply put, bright colors make a photo pop. And that simply makes them look better.
8. Capture super close-ups. You can see life in people’s eyes when you shoot them close up. And that life gives the photo more meaning.
9. Also, shoot from a distance. Of course close-ups are great. But superscenic, superwide shots are just as beautiful.
10. Place subjects off center. Most people are trained to believe that you should always put subjects right in the center of a photo, because that’s the way to frame things. But actually photos look too plain and boring when everything is lined up just so. It’s much more artistic to place subjects on the side.
11. Follow your instincts. If you are at a horse show and you see lots of horses jumping all around, be sure to wait around for the perfect moment — i.e. one of the horses jumping. In other words, if it seems like you can get a cool action shot, trust your gut and wait around, because you probably can.
Check out our original adventure travel series, “A Broad Abroad.”