Welcome to my first “Reader’s Request” post—5 Tips for Great Travel Photos. I’ve received several article ideas from readers and want to ensure everyone is getting the most out of their Global Debauchery experience, so this is an opportunity for me to address your travel wants and needs. If there’s a topic you want to see featured, email me via the Contact page or leave a reply below, and I’ll try to add it to the mix.
I’ve heard a few comments (good ones) about the imagery on Global Debauchery and have had an official request to divulge any tips I might have for travel photos.
To be clear, I am by no means an expert photographer. I haven’t been formally trained in the art of photography, and I don’t own an expensive camera. I might have a slight leg up in the sense that I’m a designer with a lot of Photoshop knowledge under my belt, but I actually don’t do anything that groundbreaking to my photos with this program. My personal five tips for the amateur travel photographer in all of us…
1. Recognize the difference between an awe-inspiring sight and a great photograph
There are so many wonderful things to be seen in this world; unfortunately, they don’t all make for great photos. I’ve experienced this a thousand times. You take a picture, look in your viewfinder, and for some reason, it doesn’t have that jaw-dropping effect you were seeing with your own eyes a moment ago.
That’s okay. Save the memory for yourself. Just because something is extraordinary in person doesn’t always mean it’s going to translate into a good shot for us untrained photographers. Acknowledge it when you see it, and let it be what it is. (But keep taking those photos—you might be able to edit them later.) For better results, train up and invest in equipment.
Exhibit A: Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada’s Banff National Park. I find landscapes in particular to be difficult translations. If you take enough shots, though, you’re bound to snap a winner.
2. Try to see the world differently
Do not stand in a crowd of people, taking the exact same photo, from the exact same perspective, and expect a novel outcome. (Definition of insanity?) These photos are great for recording memories and they may have a lot of sentimental value for you, but they might not provide a “wow factor” for viewers who, let’s face it, weren’t even there.
Test out a different approach. Examine the details instead of focusing on the landscape. Zoom in. Crop. Try weird angles. Find patterns. Look for color contrasts. Some of my favorite photos are abstract details without context. Be careful when photographing people, though; this is frowned upon in some cultures.
Exhibit B: Fishing boats in the Caribbean? We’ve seen it a thousand times. Find a pop of color and a subtle detail, and you’ve got yourself something special. Psalm 121 spotted in Saint Lucia.
3. Get rid of extraneous visual information
If you want truly powerful artwork, you’ll need to let viewers focus on the intended subject. This means reducing the number of people walking through your shot, if your intended subject is not people. It means cropping or removing power lines from landscapes. It means zooming in ever so slightly to cut that awning or tree branch out. Give your audience a clear focal point. Less is more, folks.
Exhibit C: Who needs the whole building to get the point across? Stewman’s Lobster Pound in Bar Harbor, Maine is a cool enough shot without all the extras.
4. Go easy on the filters
One thing my design education taught me is to let your craft speak for itself. Everyone can tell when you’re relying too heavily on stock tricks to get the job done. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Instagram filters as much as the next person, but there’s a time and a place for everything. Choose one, not four. Let the photo, not the technology, shine.
…Unless that’s what you’re going for. And it may very well be in some cases. But ask yourself this: Does it add value? (I should note here that less expensive software options, like Lightroom, probably have all the same features you’re looking to use in Photoshop. Save yourself a couple hundred bucks. I get asked about that a lot…)
Exhibit D: Does a saturated Photoshop filter increase the visual interest of this rusty gray train in Scranton, Pennsylvania? Why, yes it does. Use sparingly.
5. Make sure you’re taking high res travel photos
Most cameras are automatically set to do so… but your iPhone camera isn’t. If you want to take pics with your phone, make sure you’ve got the HD setting flipped on. You might see that you get two of the same photo recorded in your roll—one is HD and one is a lower resolution.
High res eats up a lot more memory than your standard takes, so you’ll want to email them to yourself and delete from your phone after. This will give you high enough quality to print later, should you choose to do so. It can give you larger photos, in terms of dimension. It will let you crop and zoom more freely than on a low res photo. And, it’s easier to edit the small details later.
Exhibit E: Giving wildlife its space is always advisable. With your high res settings, you can make sure you get the clarity you really want from a distance. These land iguanas in the Galapagos Islands grow more than three feet long and weigh up to thirty pounds. …Did I mention they’re territorial?
More Tips For Great Travel Photos?
So, there you have it: Global Debauchery’s 5 Tips for Great Travel Photos. I hope these easy-to-implement suggestions get you the results you’re looking for. I’d love to hear any additional ideas you might have, and I’m sure other readers would appreciate them as well. Post to your heart’s content in the comments section!