Take better travel photos

6 April 2018

Travelling is an adventure; whether going to an exotic overseas destination or exploring another part of South Africa, you’ll want to document those memories. I can’t remember where I heard this, but it stuck with me: The new expensive car becomes the old car over time, while adventures and memories just get more precious as time goes on. Needless to say, here are some tools to help you photograph engaging images on your next travel.

A girl in yellow photographed by Graham van der Merwe at Taste of Amsterdam

© Graham van der Merwe

Travel photography gear guide

You need a camera capable of providing quality images, even in low light. Some travellers choose to keep a GoPro by their side, which makes recording, editing and instantly sharing videos (using the GoPro QuikStories App) quick and effortless. Another option is to use your smartphone as it’s always by your side. It is the perfect pocket-sized camera and, with a few added accessories, will undoubtedly up your Insta-game.

How to protect your photo gear while travelling

To pack like a champ means packing light and smart. Unless you’re a professional photographer whose lugging around tonnes of gear, a backpack that you can take with you on the plane and keep safely by your side is best. For added safety, you can use cable ties to secure the zips. Just be sure you have some creative way of “untying” them after your flight. On a trip to Thailand, we had this problem and I found that with a bit of elbow grease our car key could break it.

Travel photograph

How to take better photos when travelling

  • Beat the tourists! So wake up early to go photograph.
  • Time of day: Decide what you want to photograph and determine what kind of light you’ll need and at what time of the day you should shoot.
  • If you’re going to a popular travel destination, ask some of the locals about “secret” locations. In Phuket, we asked our taxi driver to take us to his favourite beach. To be totally honest, it was quite scary (we nearly went back to the resort). When we arrived the “beach bar” we could not help but think that it looked like a gangster hangout. Yet, it was there that, we experienced the most serene, secluded sunset that we’ll never forget.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone to move out of the frame. Just be polite when doing so. If you don’t, you’ll regret it every time you look at the photo.
  • Use people to make your photo more interesting. Ask them if you can take a photo and don’t be shy to direct them. People from other countries tend to “pose” for the photographs but, tell them to simply continue with what they were doing.
  • Think “outside of the box” and try photographing those images that have been photographed a thousand times in a different way.
  • Have patience and take note of the little things surrounding you.
  • Learn to anticipate moments and capture them.
  • Get in closer! My photography lecturer, Maryna Cotton, drilled this concept into us! This helped a lot when we were at Maya Beach. There were tonnes of tourists everywhere and it seemed impossible to get a good shot, but by wrapping a shirt around my camera I walked into the water (quite deep) and managed to take a photo with no tourists – YAY!
  • Don’t be intimidated to take short video clips using your camera or phone. Just remember to use a tripod!
  • Leave the post-processing for when you get home! Don’t be foolish and spend time sitting in a room editing when you can be spending time at the beach.
  • Print your photos! Why store all of those beautiful memories on hard drives or folders on your PC? Bring your artwork to life!

Don’t be glued to your device

The last tip is to (once in a while) put away your phone and leave your camera in the room. You need some time to truly experience life without a screen in front of your face.

Photo of traveller admiring the view
City life in Paris
Beautiful seascape photographed by Iswanto Arif
Maya Beach, Phi Phi Island photographed by Wouda Mc Micken

About the Author:

Wouda Mc Micken is a self-confessed klutz and can be easily bribed with a stylish pair of jeans or good food. The privilege of doing interviews with professional photographers from all over the world is what makes her get up in the mornings, excited for a new day’s work.

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