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Rick Saez Photo Blog | 10 SIMPLE TIPS TO TAKE BETTER TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHS
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10 SIMPLE TIPS TO TAKE BETTER TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHS

10 SIMPLE TIPS TO TAKE BETTER TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHS

I’m frequently asked by friends and family about taking better Travel photos. From digital cameras  to smartphones everyone would like to capture better photos when they travel. I have put together some simple techniques that you can employ and come home with photos that will inspire your friends and family. Here are 10 simple tips to help you take better travel photos.

AVOID TRYING TO CAPTURE EVERYTHING

This carpet and bag shop in Istanbul is an example of too much going on, your eye does not now where to focus.

We all do it, we’re on holiday and the food is great, the people unique, and the views inspiring. We want to capture all of it. Frequently this can mean busy, hectic scenes with a lot of activity. There are three options to get a great photo in this instance. Don’t do it, focus on what moves you or try and get a wide shot to show the action.  Step back and enjoy the situation. Sometimes I find not taking a photo allows me to enjoy the situation and embrace the action.

  • Shoot tighter shots, get closer, focus on the things in the scene that move you.
  • Step back or get up above the scene and shoot a wide shot to get as much of the action as you can.

In these two shots you can see that the vendors stall was very busy with plenty of distractions. In the second image I got close and captured the colors and textures of these beautifully crafted woven items for sale.

A nice solution is to capture a tight shot of the colorful handmade hats.

CAPTURE YOUR UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE

Dinner scenes such as this have been photographed millions of times. To make your travel photos stand out, look for a fresh perspective on something common. Here, I chose to look down on the table from high above.

Every famous landmark has been photographed thousands of times.  When it’s your turn act as though you’ve never seen it before.  Take some time and walk around and get a different perspective. Find what appeals to you and capture your unique angle. In this image I found a balcony right above our table. I was able to make my up and capture the table from above for a much more interesting image.

TAKE PHOTOS OF THE LOCALS

Locals playing backgammon at the Turkish baths in Tblisi. After a while, they did not even know I was there.

People shots are often times some of my most favorite shots.  Whether it be the tourists and some of the interesting things they do or the locals there are people all around you. Ive found the best approach is to be friendly, say hi and introduce yourself. The best tool you have for this is your smile, use it.

Great images of the local people were available everywhere in Tbilisi, Georgia. I watched these guys playing backgammon for quite some time before I smiled and asked if I could take a photo. They were more very gracious, although they were so caught up in the game I don’t think they cared.

STAY AWAY FROM THE CENTER

Placing the Land Rover on the right side of this image instead of the center allows the viewer to see the herd and leads the eye.

Often times casual photographers believe it is best to place the subject right smack in the center of the photo. The challenge by doing this is you actually create a rather boring image. One common compositional technique to avoid this is to use the Rule of Thirds.  This means you mentally divide the image into thirds, horizontally and vertically. Thank tic-tac-toe, then place the subject in one of the “thirds”.

I like to move the subject away from the center and see how it balances with the rest of the frame, including other potential subjects as well as the light. There are no rules to guide you in doing this, and you’ll quickly realize that your instincts are your best guide.  You’ll know when you’ve got it right.  You can also do a couple of different compositions and see which you like best.

FILL THE FRAME

By filling the frame, rather than standing back and trying to take the entire plane. Here the plane fills the frame, and the eye is drawn to the pilot.

When you’re shooting a wide scene it is sometimes difficult to determine where to place the subject in your shot. Making the subject too big will take away from the scene and compromise your story.  Making the subject too small may confuse the viewer because they wont be able to determine what the subject is.

You can minimize this by almost filling the frame with your subject and offsetting it to one side.  Filling the frame clearly identifies the subject and offsetting it enables you to include enough of the rest of the scene to tell the whole story.

In this shot captured in Arctic Alaska I zoomed in and filled the frame clearly identifying the cockpit area of the plane. You can see that it is a bush pilot in a remote area.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Caucasian Mountain Dogs resting on a hill in the National Park of Tusheti. By isolating the dogs, they become the focus, rather than the mountains behind.

While trying to photograph a scene with a lot of elements it is sometimes difficult to determine what your subject is.  The result can be a “busy” photo with too many things to focus on.  This can also distract the viewer, as they don’t know where to look.

In the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia there were three Caucasian Mountain Dogs keeping an eye on our camp. Our camp was busy with dinner preparations, tents begin set up and a lot going in. I love the simplicity of these three dogs on the hill. I Zoomed in a bit to get a closer shot of the dogs without sacrificing the hills beyond to provide a sense of place.

I always like to keep things simple.  Choosing one of the elements as the main subject, then getting closer provides more options for framing.  Either method will result in less distraction for the viewer.  Keep it simple and they’ll know exactly what you intended them to see.

MAKE IT VERTICAL

This photograph ended up looking better as a vertical composition. Don’t get stuck shooting one composition.

We all get stuck in routines, you review the pictures you’ve been taking and notice they’ve all been composed horizontally. Often times a vertical composition make for a better photo.  Fortunately it is super easy to capture vertical photos, just turn the camera!

This image in Katmandu was almost impossible to capture horizontally. To capture all the prayer flags and the top of the Stupa I had to shoot vertically.

Often times I’ll capture two sometimes four different compositions of the same image and determine the best later, when I edit them.  This way you always have options.

LEAD YOUR VIEWERS ON

Crossing the ice on the Marsh Fork of the Canning River in Alaska. The highlight of sun draws the viewer’s eye into the photo and toward the two people walking on the ice.

If you’ve done a poor job composing your image you may confuse the viewer.  They may not know where to look or what to look at.  Using lines is a good way to lead the viewer into your image.

Leading lines can direct your viewers gaze in a certain direction, converging lines provide perspective and depth.  Both these techniques serve to  draw the viewer into your photo. Curved lines lead the viewer through the photo ultimately to the subject.

Once you start looking you’ll soon realize that you can find lines everywhere.

SPACE CREATES MOTION

Leaving space to the left of this Maasai herder provided room for us to see the direction he is walking and gave space for him to move.

Even though photographs themselves are static, they can still convey a strong sense of movement. When we look at pictures, we see what’s happening and tend to look ahead – this creates a feeling of imbalance or unease if your subject has nowhere to move except out of the frame.

You don’t just get this effect with moving subjects, either. For example, when you look at a portrait you tend to follow someone’s gaze, and they need an area to look towards.

For both types of shots there should always be a little more space ahead of the subject than behind it.

LOOK ALL AROUND YOUR SUBJECT, INCLUDING BEHIND

I originally noticed the light shining out towards the sea. By waiting a few seconds for the light to shine directly toward the lens made this a much more impactful image.

Don’t just concentrate on your subject – look at what’s happening in the background, too. This ties in with simplifying the scene and filling the frame. You can’t usually exclude the background completely, of course, but you can control it. Wait for the light to change, the traffic to pass or the crowd to start moving.

I’ve got one BONUS Tip for you, HAVE FUN! Traveling is a fun, exciting time. Capturing great images to document your trip or show friends and family back home is a great way to enhance the experience. Relax, be friendly and immerse yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

Rick Saez
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