When traveling, I’m usually always at the ready with my camera. Over the years I’ve worked on advancing my picture taking skills – I’ll never be a serious photographer, but I do like to read about simple and logical ways to improve, and today I share some photo tips that are easy to incorporate as you travel…
Tips for better photos on your next trip
Travel naturally causes folks to pull out their camera or cellphone to take pictures of new destinations with beautiful scenery, compelling architecture or fascinating art.
But often we get home and review those photos and feel that we could have done a better job with our picture-taking efforts. For those that don’t want to get too serious about photography, but would like to improve their skills, here are a few tips for better pictures.
Ultimately, better photos are not about a set of rules or perfect composition, but capturing images that tell the story or evoke a special memory when you look at the pictures later on.
People. It’s very easy to get into the habit of taking lots of pictures of famous sites, beautiful gardens, and fabulous scenery, but at the end of the day those pictures could have been taken by anyone at any time. What ties those backdrops to your travels is you, or the people you are traveling with, being part of the picture.
I have this tendency to just take a lot of pictures of amazing places I get to visit – the scenery, the monuments, the buildings – and have to remind myself to include real people, or to get in the picture myself. Make a conscious effort to include people in pictures.
Selfies came about as that need to connect with the destination. Make sure to get yourself in the photo and people you are traveling with, and don’t be shy about asking others to take a picture of your group of travelers.
Including people isn’t just about standing in front of a famous site or building but telling the story of the destination and your trip.
One of my favorite pictures from when my mom and I went to Italy is this shot in Venice. With Saint Mark’s Square in the background, it shows Mom enjoying a glass of wine in one of the little cafes on the edge of the square. This picture brings in so much about us and the destination – you get the architecture of the buildings, the rows of tables and chairs that line the cafes, the throngs of people, and the joy we had of relaxing after touring with a lovely afternoon break together.
Signs and notes. Take pictures of signs nearby so you can easily remember which site you were visiting when you are reviewing your pictures after the trip. If you visit a great restaurant or a local shop, snap a shot so you’ll have the name to refer to later.
Sometimes I will write the key places we are going to visit, each on a separate index card. Then when we arrive at those sites, I’ll take a quick picture of my index card and it helps me easily distinguish visits with similar architecture or scenery easily.
Perspective. To best show what makes a particular focal point amazing is to put it in perspective – either through size, texture, or local elements.
Sometimes you may need to step a little farther back or include a secondary feature to give perspective to the highlight of your photo. When sailing on a Seabourn cruise a few years ago, we were docked in the Thames River at Greenwich, so we could easily tour London with little effort. I included the table on my balcony to show the perspective of my view of London while drinking my coffee, and how close we were for easy sightseeing.
Include local elements, like signs in a foreign language, townspeople in native dress, or a nearby structure that shows it’s been snowing for a week. Take a few seconds to look around and see if there’s something, whether up close or far away, that gives a better understanding of the subject.
Different angles. Before departing on a trip, Google the key visitor sites of the destination and look at the various images to get ideas for different angles or ways to highlight the focal point.
I did some image googling a few years ago before my visit to the Pantheon in Rome for Pentecost Mass, which is an incredible experience where they drop rose petals from the oculus, representing flames of the Holy Spirit. The pictures of the rose petals floating down are beautiful and amazing, but I used the perspective for a floor angle from an idea I found while reviewing pictures online before I left for the trip. This shot of rose petals accumulating on the floor of the Pantheon while the priests process out of Mass is amazing and gives an added insight to this memory.
Explore camera settings. Practice using the specialty settings before you leave. When you are in a low-lit room or standing below the darkening sky, it’s not the time to try to figure out where the setting is for twilight pictures.
If you’re like me and need your cheater glasses to actually read the symbols clearly, it’s a great idea to practice at home to get a better feel for the dials and how many clicks past the regular setting to get to the specialty options. Learn how to take pictures in the dark, of fireworks, and people in motion.
Show the fun. One of my all-time favorite pictures is the one of my Holy Land group at the Dead Sea, all covered in mud.
We took a group shot with everyone gathered together in their mud, and then I said “throw up your hands” …and the result shows just what a great time we had there that day!
Try some of these ideas and let me know if you get some favorite pictures on your next trip.