Five rules for excellent travel photography

It's no secret that I love photography - and travelling is a great way to practice and experiment. I don't think it is at all necessary to have a super fancy camera either. Our first trip to Europe and our week in Japan were all documented on a point and shoot and I am still incredibly proud of those photos.

Don't use your flash

My biggest pet photography peeve when I travel (aside from selfie sticks) is seeing people with beautiful DSLR cameras who are using their flash to take a picture of something like the Eiffel Tower. Regardless of whether you are using your SLR, DSLR, point and shoot, phone or ipad - actually scratch that please don’t use your ipad, it’s a dick move - you do not need need to have your flash on. The only time I will accept you putting your flash on is if you are taking a portrait picture at night.

Play around with light

So what do you do to get good photos now that your flash is off? You learn to play with light. Use it to enhance your photos. I’ve included a few examples below of photos I’ve taken where I have really focused on using the light to capture the moment. Once you start experimenting with light it will become your favourite thing to do.

Tips for photos at night

If you can, sit down or lean your camera on something to help keep it steady. Take a deep breath in and breathe all the way out before taking the photo. Keep trying - night photos are worth it when you get them right! Once again I have a few examples below of photos I have taken at night.

Be respectful

I have three points to make regarding being respectful: 

  1. Be aware of your surroundings: I am very conscious of taking photos of people (especially children) when I'm out and about. Many people aren't comfortable with them (or their children) being shared publicly. I try not to take photos directly of people without their permission. One of my favourite photos ever is of a young boy in a classic car in Paris one morning, not long after the Charlie Hedbo attacks. The light was perfect and at the last moment he realised I was taking a photo and shot me the cheekiest grin. Although I am so proud of this photo I will never show it publicly because I didn't have the parent's permission to do so.

  2. Be understanding: I once took some photos of some beautiful flowers on my phone. Afterwards someone came up to me and asked why I had taken a photo of them. I explained that I hadn't and it was of the flowers. They asked to see the photos and when they saw that they were in the background they asked me to delete the photo. I said yes and deleted them immediately. My point is; it is not your business to know why someone may not want to have their photo taken - and if someone asks you to delete a photo that features them please be understanding enough to say yes and delete them immediately.

  3. Read the signs: If it says no flash photography please do not use flash photography. If there is a sign saying no photographs then don't take any photographs. Rules regarding photography are there for a reason, sometimes to protect the place you are taking photos (such as the catacombs in Paris) and sometimes to protect the sanctity of the place (for example in a church). Some moments are simply not meant to be documented.

What do you want to remember?

I’m just going to give it to you straight, this tip is the best way to get the kind of photos you go back and look at multiple times as well as not infuriating your fellow travellers.

Think about what you want to remember in 20 years. What moments do you wish you had captured? I bet you if you think about it the thing you won’t wish you had captured was a blurry up close photo of a painting in the Louvre. It will be the light in Tuscany, or your morning coffee, or the sweet rabbit you saw on top of the Palatine Hill (though that last one may be just me).

But - I hear you say - what if I want to remember that I saw the Mona Lisa or that insane meal I had. Well this is where journals come in - I write a journal every time I travel and also use it to store ticket stubs and other paraphernalia. It lets me save all these important things and gives me a chance to write about what was happening and gives me a really nice down time task for lazy afternoons and train journeys. I know not everyone is a writer but I do think anyone can jot down the moments they want to remember that maybe don’t qualify for a photo.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo