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How To Guides, Tips, Travel

How to: Treat yourself to great Travel Photography!

The summer months have arrived for most of us which means tiny hoards of people will be packing their leather bags and setting off for adventures near and far. Whether you’re traveling 20 blocks or 2,000 miles – nothing can prepare you better for your vacation  than an arsenal of tips to make sure you capture the true spirit of your trip like a boss! Ready, Set, go Go GO! 

The most important part of travel photography is really capturing the environment, the people and what they do, the local landmarks and just overall the essence of “place.” All photographers should aim to tell a story with each photo. The location should come alive to the viewer with just a glance. Your point should be clearly illustrated without the need for words.

Capture the essence of Place.

When people think of Miami, they often think of celebrities, latin food & culture, the beach, bright lights and the plethora of clubs with quarter million dollar tables along A1A in South Beach. However, that’s just one very small part of the area. With all of the tourism & hot spots it’s easy to keep thoughts of the “other side” at bay. You don’t want to think of Miami and the projects, poverty, and the abundance of homeless beggars trying to live one day at a time. But,  It doesn’t change the fact that there is more than one side of every city and I encourage you to find it. Take the path less traveled, and less photographed! You don’t have to create images that have been created 100 ways from yesterday, you don’t have to do the expected, instead, embrace the versatility of a city, tell the whole story.

The majority of Miami.

When you mention Nevada to someone, immediately their reaction is Las Vegas right? Did you know just a few hours west of that over-populated and commercialized hellhole is a stunning little ghost town? Another example of capturing the off-beaten path. How can one city be so successful, and a few miles away another dead and forgotten?

Watch the people and place interaction. 

It’s sometimes hard to stop and really appreciate a place when you’re a photographer. Break Free! My style is generally minimal and candid. I seek places without people so that they don’t ruin the aesthetic I feel is a huge factor in Fine Art, but guess what, travel photography is generally isn’t fine art, but more journalistic or editorial. Even though it is your little adventure, when capturing an iconic place, you need to tell the story. The story isn’t only about you, its about that “place” it’s about all of the people who come to enjoy it and how they interact with it. One thing I never do, and personally cannot stand is to see people constantly photographing themselves in front of landmarks, you know that “I’ve been here shot” and then walking away. I get it, I just don’t participate. Be there to capture the place, and know yours.  The place makes the memories for me, not looking at me looking at the camera, I know I was there – it always seems to fake anyway.  I’d rather tell the story.. I am the photographer, not the subject – especially when traveling. Don’t pass up shots of you interacting with the environment though, just try and be creative, tell a story. Standing around limp legged and cheesing is not interesting to anyone but you.

Dutch Tourists visit the John Lennon “Imagine” Mosaic in Central Park – Manhattan, New York City, NY.

Fremont Street in Las Vegas, NV. Photographing the people and how they interact with the environment.

Talk to Strangers. 

Not everyone was born to be a street photographer.  In fact, it takes balls to be one. Unless you are purely candid, which can lead altercations between a photographer and stranger.. eventually you will need to start being comfortable with talking to people, and asking to take their photo. I know it’s hard to get over the preconceived notion that strangers are bad people who are out to get you but hat is simply NOT TRUE for the majority. They are human just like you. Keep your wits about you, and you’ll be fine.  You need to get over that hurdle to be successful.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone if you can take their photo (hand them your business card so they can find you later – and so they don’t think you’re creepy), most people will be flattered and open to the idea, some will not – don’t be discouraged. If someone says no, be polite and don’t piss them off by taking it sneakily – just move on. You don’t have to ask anyone if there is no expectation of privacy which you can read more here in my blog post about “The Photographer’s Right .”

Chinatown inhabitants – Friendly shopkeepers from the streets of New York. They actually asked that I take their picture after they were drooling over my camera and asking me all sorts of questions. You can tell they were very excited.

This was a candid portrait. When he noticed I was photographing him on my way off the ferry, he stuck his middle finger up at me in front of his face so I would get the idea. When I noticed that,  I put my camera down; point taken and respected.

Appreciate the terrain. 

Chances are if you’re traveling somewhere far, the terrain is likely to be a lot different than you’re familiar. It’s also quite interesting because over the years it will probably change a bit. When you think of San Francisco the hilly steep streets probably come to mind, or how about Florida and our everglades and flat roads as far as the eye can see. It’s these small things that can make a huge impact on your photos. So, stop and smell those flowers. Get on the ground and look far, look up, look behind, explore the local flora and take it all in. You can tell a story of the landscape in one photo. Connecting with nature for some, is not their cup of tea; but personally it’s what I live for.  Here’s a tip for shooting landscapes: Get yourself a ND Graduated Filter, or at least a polarizer, they are your best friends.  The ND Grad filter will help prevent blown out sky’s while keeping the land exposed properly, it’s more expensive then a polarizer. The polarizer acts sort of the same way, and darkens the sky, you can also turn it to take off glare and reflections from water too.

One of the things I loved Most about Artist’s Drive in Death Valley national park was the extremely steep hills and hairpin turns around nearly unbelievable craggy rock formations 6 inches away from the car doors.

Along the Blue Ridge highway the hay barrels are plentiful They really are a part of the whole laid back, horse country lifestyle.

Strive to find pattern, details, and great composition. 

There are a few basic and general rules for creating stunning composition in your photography, the rule of thirds, patterns, and lead-in lines. You should familiarize yourself with and keep them in mind when shooting anywhere, anyone, or anything. They all help keep the eyes and mind interested in what they are trying to decode. Shape, color, and light are also important and you generally find them in the small details rather than the whole scene so it’s good to be aware.

Looking at the pattern of the columns on the front of the White House in Washington, DC really sparks interest in this photograph. The symmetry really rocks the appeal of an otherwise, boring photo.

A photographer captures the ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway. This is a signature style shot. It’s simple, minimal and yet still tells a story with very few elements.

No matter what your skill level, you can easily learn to take better photos when you are visiting a new place by just keeping a few things in mind. I hope these tips help you out. Any questions? Leave a comment below!

This post was inspired by one of  the Teams on Etsy that I hang with. The lovely photographers over at fpoe we’re looking for some travel photography & tips! It’s an amazing group of ladies who all bleed passion for their craft. Check out the fpoe blog for inspiration!!

About PixelGrin

Photography. Punk Rock. Art. Travel.



  1. Pingback: The Dirty, but Beautiful, Streets of Miami. « .PiXELGRiN. - 5 January, 2013

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Hi Hello I'm Jennifer Jackson. ...and the world is my oyster...



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