Social media feeds are the new diaries. Whether you’re headed for a weekend getaway or a month-long adventure, you’ll want to document it. But since few of us have the time for professional training, we’ve listed the must-dos to master travel photography basics before you go.
RESEARCH YOUR DESTINATION
Before you go anywhere, it’s important to have an understanding of the place you’re travelling to. Use a travel guide, poke around Instagram geotags, or read photography forums to decide what you want to see and how you want to photograph it. Famous landmarks have been photographed countless times so think about how to get your own angle to create something original.
We also recommend reading up on local customs, rules, and expectations at your destination. For instance, some people will expect coins in exchange for a photo and certain attractions don’t allow photography at all.
BRUSH UP ON THE BASICS
While you don’t need to be a photography expert to take compelling travel shots, it’s helpful to know the fundamentals. To nail composition, use the rule of thirds rule to frame and crop your image to look better balanced. Most importantly, remember to fill your frame. Your viewer shouldn’t need a magnifying glass to find points of interest.
Secondly, familiarize yourself with key camera settings like Shutter Speed. The video above illustrates the effect of shutter speed on movement. When the shutter speed is slower the image has more blur and as it gets faster, the movement becomes frozen.
Lastly, check the sunrise and sunset times as the best times to shoot are during golden hour, which is the hour just after sunrise and just before sunset.
KEEP RESOURCES HANDY
Don’t worry if f/stops and composition rules are throwing your mind into a frenzy—you don’t need to memorize every setting before you go. Bring along some resources to help. Any of these short introductory books will make great reading for the plane:
- Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs of Places is an accessible, jargon-free introduction to travel photography. It demystifies the essential techniques, provides practical tips, and includes iconic images from more than 50 travel photographers.
- The National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide to Travel Photography comes straight from the experts at National Geographic Traveler. The book includes straightforward, comprehensive coverage from portraits to panoramas. It outlines how to capture a sense of place, create a narrative, and develop an eye.
- The pocket-sized Understanding Digital Photography: Techniques for Getting Great Pictures is an oldie but a goodie. It uses real-life bad image/good image pairings to highlight the photography basics every traveler should know. It also features some helpful information about Photoshop techniques.
- Lonely Planet’s Travel Photography: A Guide to Taking Better Pictures will help you capture high-quality images as you travel. It covers people, landscape, urban, and wildlife photography.
And because no one’s retention is perfect, save a super-digestible reference chart on your phone as back-up. We like photography this one for the overall basics.
DESIGN A SHARING SYSTEM
Let’s face it: one of the most exciting parts of travel is sharing the experience to your social network. (Who doesn’t love a humble brag to make everyone back home jealous!). Whether you prefer nightly editing sessions at your hotel or posting on-the-go, you’ll want a camera with built-in Wi-Fi. This makes it easy to send photos via email or share them directly to your social media accounts.
If you’re after extra engagement, time posts accordingly. According to the scheduling app Later, weekdays around lunchtime or 7pm generally get the most engagement on Instagram. Just remember to post according to your audience’s time zone, not your destination’s.
No matter how much or little equipment you plan on bringing, you’ll want to pack it securely. A good camera bag is one of the most important things you can get. It’ll keep your gear safe as you travel and make things easier while you’re out shooting.
Once you have your bag, consider the accessories and lenses you need. An extra battery, charger, travel adapter, lens cleaning cloths, and memory cards are non-negotiable. If you can only fit one lens, choose one with a good focal length range for wide angle and telephoto in one.
Take it from us: the basics aren’t as intimidating as they seem. A basic understanding, a little planning, and a compact, lightweight camera are all you need for your next adventure.