10 Unusual Travel Photo Tips

From scenic wonders such as the Grand Canyon in Arizona to architectural marvels like the leaning tower in Pisa, there’s just so much beauty to see in the world. There are also many terrible photographs trying to capture that beauty. One of the best ways to appreciate amazing sites is to hire a photo tour guide and go on a photography tour. Guides will not only show you the most beautiful viewpoints in Vancouver, they’ll also show you how to use your camera so that you can be proud of the images you take during the experience. Or consider hiring a photographer with National Geographic Traveler who offers photography lessons and tours of the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Or maybe you’d rather head a little further north and hire a professional photographer in Norway so you can learn how to photograph the Northern lights.

Nowadays, pretty much everyone has a camera when they travel. Here are 10 simple things you can do to improve your photos and enjoy yourself in the process.

1. Get closer. No, even closer. Closer!

What are you taking a picture of? Then take a picture of it. Get right in close to get the shot. Your feet are wonderful photographic tools. Get rid of what is not visually necessary. Are you taking a picture of the cute cat? Then move up, and take a picture of the cat. Not the picture of the cat and the soda bottle and your shoes – unless of course – the soda bottle and your shoes are important to the photo.

2. Look for something different

Back when I worked as a daily newspaper photographer, the ultimate criticism from my colleagues was: “Nice postcard shot!” Anybody can take a postcard picture. Take your time just to look. Try to see beyond the obvious. Look at different angles. Everyone takes a picture of the sunset. Why not turn around and see what that light is doing behind you?

3. Keep your lens clean

Have you ever driven around with a dirty windshield at night? It is really hard to see through with the reflections of the dirt on the glass. The same is true with your camera lens. Keeping it clean will make your photos clearer. Wipe your lens off with a microfibre cloth often. A dry cotton shirt will work, but synthetics might scratch the lens.

4. Don’t carry so much gear

In the tourist areas here in Kyoto, I often see travelers carrying gigantic digital cameras with all of the goodies, looking miserable. Lugging 15 kilograms of photo equipment around is not fun and is hard on your body. Almost all of my professional photographer friends have back problems. Before you travel, lay out all the gear that you want to take. Now, take only half. You’ll thank me later. No, you don’t need that tripod. You really don’t.

5. Know when to put your camera down

Okazaki Jinja Shrine
Life is about your experiences. Photography can be fun and rewarding, but there are times when you should put your camera aside. Sometimes simply looking is best. Also, remember that temples and shrines are sacred spaces. Having good manners is important, especially here in Japan.

6. Be respectful of others

Please don’t be a stalker with a camera. For example, here in Kyoto, there is a problem with tourists stalking geisha like paparazzi. Please respect other people’s privacy. While each culture has its own etiquette about photographing strangers in public, the golden rule works well: treat other people the way you’d like to be treated. Not everyone wants their picture taken, to be later flashed across the Internet.

7. Don’t show more than 20 photos at once

Ginkakuji Temple
Edit your pictures ruthlessly. If you put a gallery together, show only the 20 best photos at a time. Even someone that really loves you will get tired by the 21st photo. Less is more. Your friends and family want to know about the great things you saw on your trip. Show them a mix, including the best thing you ate. Great food is one of the best things about travel. Tell them about it. It is a good conversation starter.

8. Take a one-minute video

8. I have a good friend who is a TV producer. When he travels, he takes out his smartphone and shoots a one minute video of wherever he is walking. He scans the phone around showing the location with himself in it. It is a great way to give a taste of where you have been without boring the viewer. One minute is a great video length for Facebook.

9. Have enough charged batteries and storage cards

Imagine this scenario: you’re on a dream vacation and suddenly a UFO lands in front of you. Out walks Elvis, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster…and your camera battery dies! Always bring at least one extra battery and charge it every night. Bring lots of extra memory cards   Back-up, back-up, back-up! Transfer your pictures to another device as a backup and keep your photos on the memory card. Try to have more than one backup. Electronic things die. Don’t lose your pictures.

10. Remember to enjoy yourself

My wife says this to me every day before I walk out the door. It is a good thing to remember. It is all too easy to get caught trying to take pictures and miss what is important. As with everything, proper balance is important.

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