After having published my first tips on how to get started in travel photography, here is my second series of tips for you to try out. I hope you can try them out and improve your skills as travel photographers.
1. Wake up early
You may imagine that travel photographers have an easy job. They travel the world, see beautiful places and just happen to take good photos. It is far from the truth. Getting the best photos of places, especially the crowded tourist attractions, involves some mind-boggling planning. Usually it involves getting up early and head to your landmark before everyone else does. Sometimes you need to go off season to get the best conditions or a scene different from the usual cliché images already popular online.
I have been to so many places I wish to return to! This is just because I was not able the shot I wanted. When these places are close to where you live it is easy to return. However if these happen to be on the other side of the world, well the story is different. My advice is to plan ahead and forget about staying cosy in bed till late.
Below are some images of places at different times of the day or the year. You will realise that a little planning will make all the difference.
The first photo of the Eiffel Tower was taken around 11:00 am while the second one was taken before 8:00 am. It involved waking up very early, skipping breakfast and get there before everyone else does. Just a little effort made a huge difference in the quality of the photo however, as there was nobody there yet.
These images have been taken during different times of the year; August the first and April the second. Comino’s Blue Lagoon is a huge tourist attraction and during the summer months you can barely find a spot where to put your stuff on the shore. To take some beautiful shots of the island, you have to forget about going there to swim. I had to go in April, when there is still greenery on the island and the weather isn’t too hot to go around the island to be able to do some trekking. You can see that in the second photo the shrubs are completely dry, while in the first shot they are in full bloom.
2. Shoot Vertical Panoramas
When we see a beautiful landscape most often we are unable to capture its awesomeness in a photo. I cannot tell you how to do that, as I haven’t yet managed to figure that out. Ecxperiencing things in front of your eyes can never ever compare to a photo seen on a screen. However capturing a beautiful panorama, may bring that sensation closer. Usually the most obvious solution for panoramas is to shoot several landscape shots and then stitch them together using a software (maybe your camera can do that automatically).
But have you ever tried using vertical shots? This is pretty useful when you have high peaks in front of you, that just won’t fit in your landscape shot. Having a wide angle lens helps a lot as well, the wider your lens, the more you will be able to capture in your photo. However if you do not own a super wide lens you might try this option. It will significantly improve your panoramas.
Below is an example of a panorama shot obtained with several vertical images. Had the images been horizontal either the peaks or part of the lake would have been left out.
3. Chase sunsets and sunrises for landscapes
Landscape photographers are obsessed with these situations. Sunsets and sunrises have the optimal light for any type of landscape. The light is soft and the pink/orange/purple shades in the sky give that surreal atmosphere to your shot. When you travel, chasing sunrise and sunsets and finding the perfect spot may become very trickier. You are in a new place and you won’t know exactly when and where the sun will rise and set. However there are free online tools that can help you get it right, sometimes with the first try. You can know beforehand the exact time when the sun will ascend and descend as well as the angle. Check out the Photography Planning Section in my Expert guide for planning a trip for more information on these tools.
Below are two examples of shots taken during daytime and then another shot of the same place taken during sunset. Not that the daylight shots are to throw away, but you can see how dramatic everything is during sunset. You can get the smooth water effect and the light on the surrounding landscape is simply magical.
4. Chase the blue hour for night shots in the city
If the golden hour, or sunset and sunrise, is the best time for landscapes, the blue hour is the perfect time for night shots. Actually these kind of shots are taken during either very early in the morning or in the evening. This is quite debatable and maybe some of you prefer the sky to be pitch black, creating more contrast with the lights of the city. However I prefer to shoot during the couple of minutes right before that happens. Usually this is a window of 15 – 30 minutes (depending on the latitude where you are) that happens after the sun has completely set or before it starts to rise. Hopefully the lights on that famous building will be on by this time and you will be ready with your equipment to take the shot of that famous landmark.
5. Plan ahead and search for inspiration
When I travel I never just go and leave everything up to chance. This is not in my style, in anything I do actually. I want to be in control of the situation and know what is going to happen. This is particularly true for when I travel. Part of the fun in planning a trip (for me) is making research beforehand and create a ‘to shoot’ list before I leave. I search for inspiration from great photographers who have already visited the place. Here are some of my favourite travel photographers in case you want to check out their work:
- Elia Locardi
- Marta Kulesza
- Stefan Liebermann
- Lisa Michele Burns (from the Wandering Lens)
- Elisa & Max (from Bestjobers)
- Matthew Karsten (from Expert Vagabond)
- Cory Richards
- Jarrod Castaing
- Samuel Scicluna
- Alison Buttigieg
Replicating the same exact photo you have seen before is never possible and you do not want to do that. You want your photos to be unique. However saving images beforehand can help you get to the right spot where you want to be. Thanks to Google Maps nowadays finding the perfect spot beforehand is quite easy.
I hope that these tips can help you out with improving your photography skills. Practice makes perfect and do not expect to go abroad and happen to just shoot astounding photos. Practice at home and try to improve your skills before you leave for that big trip. This is especially true if you have purchased new gear and equipment.
I would love to hear your opinion on these tips and whether you use any of them or there are others you might like to add (comment below).