Travel photography has quickly become one of the most popular genres of photography out there. With the increasing popularity of Instagram, flights to faraway places becoming cheaper, and the advances in our phone camera capabilities, just about everyone and their grandma is a travel photographer. Does this mean that their photos or caliber of work can live up to that of a professional photographer? Probably not. But none the less, it’s becoming incredibly difficult to have your travel photography standout online.
So, as a travel photographer, how do you cut through the clutter? Well, I’m here to solve your problem. I may not be able to change the world, but I can sure as hell try and get some photographers to start creating and thinking in new ways. Or as Steve Job’s so strongly ingrained in our heads… to think different.
A few members of the Flixel team, myself included, recently took a trip to Guatemala—a land filled with mountains, volcanoes, crystal blue waters, and old colonial towns (among many other things). As you can see above and below, it was picture perfect. My goal as a hobbyist photographer is to avoid the cliches, to capture the location through my eyes, and to maybe even inspire others through my creations in some way. There are a few things I learned throughout our adventure that I think every creator should be exercising in order to create better travel photography.
So, alas, I guess I should give you some tips.
4 Steps to Better Travel Photography
Step 1: Avoid Lookouts / Play with Angles for those #VIEWS
We’re all sick of seeing the same shots. Of course, pretty much everywhere you go people will have travelled there before you, and maybe even stood in the exact same spot, facing the exact same direction, and snapped a picture of the exact same view. That doesn’t mean that every photo has to look the exact same. For example, take Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada. As a Canadian, I’m proud of our beautiful country, and all that it has to offer. Alberta is a province with some of the most Instagramable views out there. With so much beauty to capture, it’s shocking that over and over again my eyes are exposed to the same photos from the same iconic spots. Near replicas, really. Just checkout the Moraine Lake hashtag to see what I’m talking about….
My advice… avoid the lookout points. These are the places that practically every other traveller is stopping to take photos, resulting in a mass amount of similar images. OR, if you do go to the famous lookout points, try something different. Play with angles and composition. At least that way, your photo won’t be a carbon copy of the masses. You can use your imagination and creativity to craft something new, and that’s special.
Step 2: Don’t Just Stick to Photos
Whenever I visit somewhere new, I immediately want to capture it; that essence and beauty of each location. I’m sure if you’re reading this blog, you feel the same way. I’m in a constant battle between choosing how, exactly, I want to immortalize said place. Though photos, video, and now, cinemagraphs. It’s a good struggle to have. Each medium has their strengths, and each one tells a slightly different story. So, why not use your camera and skills to the best of their abilities?
From Better Travel Photography to Better Travel Videos
Too many photographers stick with traditional photos and never branch out…. and that’s a shame. 99% of cameras have the ability to shoot video, too. I actually don’t know the real percentage, but I wanted to add some drama. If your DSLR or mirrorless doesn’t have a record button, prove me wrong in the comments. I digress…
Even if your photography skills are top notch, with the increase in “photographers” out there, it’s time to step up your game. Everyone can click a button and hope for the best… Cinemagraphs are an art that can really only be mastered by professional creators. Video is your friend. Embrace it. And if you’re feeling even more adventurous, why not shoot some nice video clips to turn into a small travel video!
Take a trip around the world by exploring more travel cinemagraphs here.
Step 3: Capture Culture, Not Just Pretty Views
As noted in Step 1, most travellers will end up going to the main lookout points to take pictures, avoiding the small details that really make a new place so exciting and beautiful. There’s more to travel than nice landscapes. I’m not saying you should avoid photographing landscapes or vast sprawling views… capture those too! But to really encapsulate the essence of a place, you need to broaden those horizons.
Photographing people is a great way to open a window into the life and culture of a location. In Guatemala, it was the colourul hues and traditional Mayan dresses that captured my eye.
Just make sure that if you are taking photos of people, that you are respectful, and when needed, have their approval. Imagine someone walking around your home town, coming up to you and snapping pictures without saying a word. It would be weird, to say the least. Stay conscious of the fact that what you are shooting are a part of people’s cultures, histories, and life. Kindness and appreciation for those histories goes a long way.
Step 4: Wake Up Early for the Perfect Shot
I know not everyone is a morning person (ahem, myself included), so this can be a lot to ask… especially if you’re on vacation. But for real, if you’re serious about getting better at travel photography, it’s worth it to set that alarm clock to an ungodly time. Sunrise can provide amazing lighting for your images, videos, and cinemagraphs. From the blue/purple tones as the sun is just starting to rise, to the warm orange/gold as it starts to break over the horizon.
You’re also more likely to avoid big crowds, which means less people stepping into your frame, and more time to setup the scene. Sunsets also provide that perfect magic and blue hour for your travel photography needs, but tend to be a busier time to shoot.
So, just do it. Wake up early. Challenge yourself to get out of bed and do something you love.
Step 5: Stay Hydrated
I said there were only 4 steps, and that’s because there are. Our Video Editor, Brody, specifically asked me to add this one in. So, it isn’t really a photography tip, just a life tip. Whether you’re travelling the world or not, water is life. Keep that thirst at bay.
Get out there, travel often, capture each place through your eyes, and have fun while doing it! If you’ve got any additional tips for our readers, or have any questions at all, comment below.