5 More Tips for Improving Your Travel Photography

Guest blog post: by Ralph Velasco, travel photographer

Well, I hope you enjoyed my last post outlining some simple but powerful tips to help you return with better images from your next trip.  This is the second in a series of articles I’ll be posting over time here on the Contiki blog.  Please feel free to provide comments on other photography topics you might like to know more about.

So let’s continue…

Consider my “Zen of Photography” I have a theory that 75 percent of successful photography is simply making an effort to put yourself in the right place at the right time.  By this I mean consider the time of day that you’re out photographing.  It’s typically advantageous to be out early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky and it creates long, soft shadows, but often more importantly, that appealing warm glow that will put your subjects in the best light.  This is the time of day for great sunsets and sunrises, too, but you’ll have to hope for some great clouds for the sun to bounce off of and to give interest to the sky (for me the worst time to shoot outdoors is when there are no clouds). Often times you don’t have control over the time of day you’re in a place, so you’ll need to make the best of it, but we’ll discuss this in a future post.

Keep it Handy: I guarantee you’ll miss out on 100 percent of photo opportunities when you don’t have a camera with you.  So at a minimum have your cell phone camera available, a point-and-shoot in your pocket, and/or a D-SLR in the car or with you at all times.  Especially in the evening I’ll often just have my point-and-shoot available, a small camera that I can easily put in my shirt pocket and have with me to capture those spur of the moment moments.

Be aware of color. Look for appealing “pops” of color to add to a scene.  It could be a single yellow hat such as in this image of a woman enjoying the view of Prague, or a red car on an otherwise monochromatic background.  I’ll suggest that my students and tour participants wear red or other bright colors.  Jackets, hats, scarves or other accessories can do the trick.  This way we can act as subjects for each other and provide that bit of color in each other’s images.

Enjoying the View of Prague

Add a Human Touch Be aware of opportunities to add what I like to call a “human touch” to your photography.  Simply put, this means providing a sense of scale and/or definite point of interest to the image.  Notice the difference between these two scenes captured at Double Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.  The first image shows the interesting formation, texture and color of this natural arch created by wind and weather over millennia.  But for my taste, I much prefer the second image because it has a definite subject that adds a sense of scale, which gives the viewer an idea of how large the arch is.  It also can make the viewer ask him or herself several questions: How’d that person get there?  What’s he doing there?  What’s it like to be there?

Be Aware of Your Camera’s Settings If you’re shooting with your camera on Automatic, there’s no shame in that.  Let the camera do the heavy lifting and you just make an effort to point it at interesting subjects.  However, you should aspire to removing that safety net and venture into the camera’s other settings that will allow you to be more creative.  If you get to this point, each time you find yourself in a new environment, check your camera’s settings for that situation.  Perhaps last night you were shooting in low light and had your camera properly set up for that situation, but now you’re in full sunlight and so the camera needs to know that in order to give you the proper exposure.  Just be sure to check your camera’s settings for each new situation or environment you find yourself in so that the camera can do its best work.

Continue to keep an eye out for more practical hints and tips to make better your trips, and in the meantime THINK OUTSIDE THE CAMERA!

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About the Author:  Ralph Velasco is an award-winning travel photography instructor and international tour guide who has photographed in more than forty countries on six continents. He’s just released his first app for iPhone and iPod touch called My Shot Lists for Travel and is the author of “Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More.” Ralph has led cultural photo tours to Cuba, Egypt, Eastern Europe, and throughout the United States. For the past two years he was awarded “Open Photographer of the Year” by the Professional Photographers of Orange County and he belongs to the exclusive Circumnavigators Club, a group of travelers whose charter requires that its members have traveled around the world, in a single journey, having crossed every one of earth’s meridians.  You can read his blog at RalphVelasco.com/blog.

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