I was discussing this with a friend the other day who was going to Peru for a holiday with a couple of mates. I asked him what he thought was the most important thing to remember when taking travel/holiday photographs? To my surprise he said “get yourself a decent camera!” Now while a point and shoot without optical zoom may be a bit limiting, I have seen very good quality photos taken by people with very humble digital cameras (even mobile phone cameras) and also some really poor travel photographs by those with tripod, full spec digital SLR, and all the trimmings.
No matter where you are going, the secret I would say to getting good travel photographs, is plan! Whether you are going to somewhere exotic, like the Maldives, or just a trip to Blackpool, make preparation before you go. These plans should encompass two things- the physical, and the mental.
Physical. At least two to three weeks before you go, read your camera instruction manual and see what it is capable of. Very many people I know only use the basic on their camera, and don’t realise there is a lot of opportunity, potential and adventure “under the hood” and locked away in the latter parts of the manual. Try out some different settings and experiment. The great thing about digital cameras is that it doesn’t cost you time or money in taking shots. You can review them instantly, unlike in the old days, when you had to pay for film and developing and wait for them to come back. The idea is that by the time you are ready to travel you will have become a lot more familiar with your camera and know what it’s capable of.
It’s also an opportunity to check that you have all the accessories you’ll need for you travel. Batteries? Charger? Camera Bag? (essential if you are going anywhere with sand or salt water). It’s also a time to see that you are going to be able to take all the pictures you will want to take when you get there… “Hang On” I hear you say “How do I know what I will want to take until I get there?”
Mental. This is where the planning comes in. Getting in the photo mind-set for the travel. Yes there will be off-the-wall photo opportunities that present themselves on your holiday travels that will be unexpected- and of course you should take them, but you should also plan out what pictures you are likely to want to take. And here you can imagine yourself as Ridley Scott or Steven Spielberg- write a plot. I mean it. Do it on paper or on your lap-top and get the kids to join in with ideas. Sketch out a story to encompass the holiday and rough out a storyboard. From the preparations, to leaving home to the airport, to the destination to the trips to the return. Write a synopsis of what might happen and how you might picture it. Perhaps have a loose story about one of your family thinks they may have been an ancient Greek in a past life and you are going to Rhodes to check it out. Or that your great grandfather was a Victorian explorer and you are following in his footsteps. Or even for that trip to Blackpool, you are there on a fact-finding tour to understand and document the history of the place.
In having a loose theme, you can then plan out what sort of shots you want to take when you get to certain places. Have people in certain poses. Even if by the time you come back you’ve taken such good pictures not connected to your plot, it will have given your trip some visual record structure which you can then weave into a set of more meaningful presentations when you return. By presentation I don’t mean standing up at a local school giving a PowerPoint presentation, but just some pithy comments alongside each photo when you post them on Facebook or Twitter. I bet you people will note that your photos are linked and fit together much more than some random higgledy-piggledy hotchpotch of images slung together without thought.
Good luck, and let me know how your travel went!
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