There is no perfect picture.
Photography, after all, is simply one form of communication, a universal language, if you will, in today’s world given the proliferation of digital SLRs and smartphone cameras that make communication as easy as point and shoot, then share. We all have a lot to say.
Instagram is the 21st century’s answer to yesterday’s postcard, minus the stamp. The challenge in all that sharing becomes capturing travel photos that evoke strong emotions, and thus a stronger connection to your travel experience.
I've come to rely quite heavily on my 5 Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos to achieve that strong connection.
I’m just as guilty as the next guy/gal when it comes to an itchy trigger finger; I can snap pictures indiscriminately with the best of ‘em. Call it target practice, if you will. Eventually you’re bound to hit something, right?
When I shoot with a purpose, my photos hit the mark with much greater accuracy.
Ireland’s Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Galway County, was all about a fairy tale existence for a prince and his princess one hundred fifty years ago. The striking juxtaposition of the Gothic Revival castle in such a serene setting, complete with fog to add an ephemeral quality to the surroundings, captured the romance at the heart of the beautiful love story behind this historic landmark.
That was the feeling I wanted to capture when I snapped this picture. Think about why a scene captures your attention and how best to convey the emotions that drew you to take that particular picture.
2. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LIGHT
By day, Budapest’s Parliament Building is stunning. At night, illuminated, this neo-Gothic architecture was extraordinary.
Here’s the same Parliament building in the light of day with a completely different perspective, a rare opportunity when it comes to my travel photos.
This particular image of Budapest showcases nicely the two halves of this blended city, Buda and Pest, but it lacks the ethereal quality of the first photo. The first picture will forever elicit the magic and mystery that was so much a part of my experience when it came to this Queen of the Danube.
And speaking of magic, it’s the late afternoon light that imbued these aspens in the Lake Tahoe area with such extraordinary color and depth. Early morning offers the same opportunities for dramatic results via soft lighting. Shadows from the afternoon sun are long and dramatic; the light has a pleasant warm cast, and the sun isn't as intense, thus reducing contrast. This is also the best time of day to take portraits outdoors.
3. COMPOSITION IS KEY
In real estate, it's all about location, location, location. In photography, it's all about composition, composition, composition; which is just a photographic term for location, as in the location of the subject of a picture is governed by "the rule of thirds."
My first camera I owned had this gird to represent the “rule of thirds” as part of the viewfinder, a reminder to utilize this very basic element of composition.
The same grid appears on my LCD screen on my current camera when I'm shooting in Panoramic Mode, but at this stage of the game, I think in terms of that grid whenever I'm composing a picture, such as this water lily I snapped while touring Coral Gable's Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. That same "rule of thirds" comes to mind when I do any cropping during editing.
4. LEARN TO USE FILL FLASH FOR OUTDOOR SHOTS
It’s a given a good digital SLR camera will flash for indoor shots in low light situations; mid-day outdoor shots, or shots where your subject is looking directly into the sun (contrary to popular opinion, facing into the sun is usually not the best option when it comes to portraits), typically need an intervention (that would be you, the one operating the camera) to compensate for the harsh lighting that can leave the subject squinting and/or covered in unflattering shadows. That compensation usually means fill flash. This technique is not restricted to "people" subjects.
The setting in the picture below, on the left, has potential, but zooming in for a closer look reveals my son-in-law was blinded by the sun shining in his eyes; he literally closed his eyes. Certainly not the elements of a good portrait. My daughter Jenny managed to keep her eyes open, but squinting certainly wasn't her best look, either.
This portrait lacked the warmth of the sun in the previous picture, but I did manage some drama via the reflection of the sun on the water.
5. BE PREPARED
I’ve missed my share of special travel moments, but I have learned to reduce my losses.
For starters, I always carry at least two memory cards and two fully-charged batteries for my camera; as in “on my person.” It’s too easy for a bag containing said items to get left in the car or the hotel when my camera needs more juice or my memory card becomes corrupted.
Needless to say, I have my camera with me at all times so I don’t miss those unexpected, unplanned, spontaneous moments that make for some of my more cherished travel photos.
I like incorporating those details when possible (I call it local color even though all the other people show up in black and white in this particular picture); those details help to provide a sense of time and place, which in turn provides depth to the story and thus interest to the picture.
Here's one more photo for the road, and for acknowledging the power of a truly memorable picture. WOW!