Your visa is secured, the flight is booked, and you’ve been willingly injected with a cocktail of vaccinations to protect you from diseases you can’t even pronounce.
In short, you’re finally off to see the world!
In addition to scribbling wildly in a wine-stained journal and blogging about your adventures, you’re probably going to want to take some photos of your trip.
The problem? You have no clue how to take a great photo, and the last thing you want is to have your pictures of such a life-changing period in your life turn out like a fourth grade art project.
Based in Hoi An, Vietnam, Etienne spends his days helping newbie and established photographers capture the beauty of their travel dreams on camera and in living color.
Travel photography tips from an actual travel photographer
1. Get some gear
And by gear I don’t mean big, expensive gear. I mean something from this century. Technology is evolving so quickly that just about any kind of camera you buy today is going to be light years better than a used camera from five years ago.
Look at the latest trends, like the new lightweight DSLR cameras. They’re as small and compact as a cheap digital camera but take photos comparable to their bulkier counterparts.
2. Learn about settings
Spend a little time learning about your camera’s settings. Nowadays the auto mode of most cameras is more intelligent than ever, but why let your camera have all the fun?
Adjusting your settings as you shoot gives you far more control over your photos than simply leaving your camera in auto mode. Besides, there are only 3 things you need to know to be in total control of your camera, anyway.
3. Do your homework
If you only want to capture tourist snapshots for Grandma to see, then stop reading this instant.
We’ll wait for you to leave.
Phew, not that she’s gone, let’s dive in to the juicy stuff – creative inspiration. I want you to do some research on the place you’re traveling to by searching for relevant photographs. You can use Google search, Flickr or 500px to find high quality images.
Find photographs that inspire you and save them somewhere you can see them. These will serve as a jumping off point for the photographs you’ll be taking in the very near future!
4. Stalk someone you like
…on social media, that is.
In step #3 above, you probably found at least a few photographers whose work you love. Connect with them via social and check out their blogs.
In addition to examples of great photography, you will most likely find a huge amount of information on the craft of photography.
If you’re following a travel photographer, you’ll score travel photography tips in the form of top secret shooting locations, cultural idiosyncrasies, and so on.
5. pho·tog·ra·phy (or, the immense importance of light)
How can you begin to master a craft if you don’t even know what it means?
In case you skipped out on all of your Ancient Greek classes at school, the word “photography” literally means “writing with light.”
Yes, it is that simple. You camera is your pen. The light is…well, the light!
Once you understand that, you’ll understand that beautiful light gives you beautiful photos.
And when is the light most beautiful?
Before 8am and after 4pm, so don’t forget to pack your alarm clock!
6. Get to know your subject
If you are keen on landscape photography, go back and re-read tip #5, because it’s all about the right lighting.
If you want to photograph people, learn about the customs of the place you’re visiting. For example, you will probably have a much easier time approaching people in SE Asia than you would in, say, Saudi Arabia.
7. Get lost
If that’s the case, I give you permission to get lost!
If you stay where all the other tourists are, and only visit sites all the other tourists are visiting, chances are you’ll be taking the exact same photos Aunt Jane took when she visited Thailand 10 years ago.
Get lost, get away from the tourist areas, find some local villages and walk through them. People will be surprised and happy to see you there, and that will make your experience – and your photos – that much more captivating.
8. Get close
If I could only give you one tip it would be this one – get close to your subject.
There are many reasons why this is important, but getting close will greatly improve the overall quality of your photos (not to mention help you immerse yourself in the culture and make friends with locals).
Disclaimer: this tip does not apply to African safaris!
9. Lose the badittude
Remember that you are a guest visiting another country and culture – smile! Your attitude and approach will have a huge impact on both your subjects and the photos you take of them.
You’ll most likely be using a digital camera, so start shooting! Don’t be shy, and remember that the best shots almost never happen within the first few clicks. Work your subject and shoot as much as you can.
What questions do you have for Etienne about his travel photography tips? Post them below!
Etienne Bossot is a French photographer who’s been based in Hoi An, Vietnam for the past 7 years. In addition to shooting commercial and travel assignments for local publications and huge corporations, Etienne runs a variety of photography tours and workshops throughout Southeast Asia. For more information on his photography and photo tours, visit http://www.picsofasia.com/photo-tours/
All photos © 2014 Etienne Bossot
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