I should start by saying that I am, by no means, a professional photographer. I'm someone who loves to travel and take lots of pictures along the way. And, while documenting my adventures around the world, I have found a few strategies that have helped me take some great pictures.
I say this to point out that this is not an expert manual to follow by the book but rather some helpful tips on how to take better-than-average travel pictures of yourself, from one traveler to another.
For example, are you traveling by yourself and want a photo? I've been there, done that and can share what's worked for me. Or, are you traveling with someone who, history has shown, is not the best at taking pictures? Been there and handled this situation as well. Here are some tips for those scenarios and more:
Traveling By Yourself
- When I’m traveling by myself, I sometimes ask strangers to take my photo, though this is very hit or miss, so I try to be strategic about who I ask. If I see a couple or group in which someone is holding a camera, I approach them since I figure they must know something about taking a picture. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't, but more often than not, those with anything above your typical point-and-shoot have a good eye. If this approach doesn't work right away, I thank the person, wait a little until they've moved on and then ask another couple/group to take my picture until I'm satisfied with at least one or two of the photos. At times it can be a lesson in patience but it's always been worth it.
- If I'm on a tour by myself, I almost always ask the tour guide, who is used to these kinds of requests and often does a good job.
- Something else I occasionally do when traveling by myself (and when no one is around) is use the 10-second timer on my camera. The actual process is pretty ridiculous when you think about it because you have to set up the camera on a flat surface or tripod that's high enough to take the photo you want, angle it in the direction of where you'll be standing and then set the timer and get in the position you want in less than 10 seconds. So, yes, ridiculous. And you likely have to do it a few times before you get something you like. But if you really want the photo, that's what you have to do. Some of my favorite pictures were taken with the 10-second timer on my camera.
Traveling With Others
- When traveling with people I know and am comfortable with, I tend to be directive with them in terms of where I want them to stand and the angle I'm looking for. For example, I've often traveled with my sister, so if I see a place where I want a photo, I'll point out the location and then tell her where I want her to stand, all while trying not to be too bossy. If the photo still needs more direction, I may act as the photographer myself and then have that person stand exactly where I'm standing and hold the camera there. I swear it's not as insufferable as it sounds. Or at least I hope not!
- One thing I like to do when someone I know is taking the picture is to ask them to just keep shooting. This is often met with a quizzical look, but my favorite photos are usually the ones that are not posed photos. It's usually when I'm caught laughing or swinging my arms or being silly or doing something else unplanned that ends up looking more appealing.
- I also often ask the person taking my photo to not zoom in or to back up. Again, I'm met with quizzical looks followed by people saying, "I can't see your face" but sometimes that's the point. It allows you to either later crop the photo in a way that works for you or keep it as is with you, the subject, as only one small part of the picture.
Other Photo Tips
- Find a pose that you know works for you and go with it. I love sitting and looking out at the scenery while someone takes my photo from behind. Another travel blogger I know often has a photo of herself holding her hat and looking off in the distance. Do what works best for you.
- Angle is so important. I'm pretty sure only about 1% of people look their best when the photo is taken from below. It's all about taking from above and angling down.
- A photography pro tip that I find works well is the rule of thirds. If you want to make a photo interesting, don't just stand right in the center and pose. Instead, frame the photo so you're off center in the one-third space of the shot.
- Conversely, sometimes it's effective to be right in the middle but in doing so, broaden the frame so you're showing your surroundings in the photo.
- Pay attention to colors - how they complement each other, contrast each other and make certain elements pop. Use the colors of your clothes and of your surroundings to your advantage.
- As far as editing goes, I like to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop on my laptop and Snapseed on my iPhone.
- And, lastly, channel your inner Tyra Banks/Top Model and SMIZE.
What other travel photography tips have worked well for you?