Don’t be an average photographer, be awesome!
As a photographer – learn how to go from average to awesome. This simple guide will help you bring out the creative photographer in you!
I have been lucky to have lived in a number of countries and have travelled to many more and each new adventure has taught me something different. Every single journey has made me a better photographer.
I’m still growing my skills but I want to share these practical tips, creative ideas and simple hacks that will help you take that leap between an average photographer to an awesome one.
Lets kick off with these tips
Shoot in burst mode
The beauty of digital photography is that it doesn’t matter how many photos you shoot, so set your camera to “burst” mode. This means that the camera will take a series of photos in rapid fire you can choose the best photo from the series.
Especially useful when preparing for an action shot, like this shot I took in Kakadu National Park. This giant Jabiru flew overhead carrying sticks to build his nest – a rare sighting!
Burst mode is also a great idea when asking a stranger to take your photo. You will get several to choose from, instead of getting one where you’re blinking or someone photo-bombing your photo in the background.
Carry a small tripod
A tripod will seriously lift your photography game when traveling. As a photographer you can finally be included in the photo too!
With a tripod, you can take shots of amazing landscapes with yourself in the picture. Be totally in control of the photo shoot.
What is the best tripod for travel? I love my Joby GorrillaPod tripod because it is small and portable. It’s flexible legs allow me to wrap it around tree branches or fences for unique angles. As an alternative, try a mono pod for keeping your camera steady.
Use a Polarizing filter
This inexpensive filter can really take your photos to the next level.
Shooting on a crisp winters’ day with clear blue skies using a polarizing filter will make colors pop. I love using polarizes around water as they gives clarity, depth and richness to the colours. Explore with filters and have some fun!
Sometimes getting the perfect shot takes takes time. You need to be patient with the crowds and critters. Wait for people to pass by and it’s likely that you’ll end up with several awesome photos … and one of them will be ‘the one‘. Make it worth the wait, be patient.
Shoot the Golden Hour
No matter how talented you are, there are certain times of the day which will improve your photographs dramatically. Around midday the light is harsh, so plan to take most of your photos when the sun is low in the sky casting a warm glow instead.
When traveling try to be aware of sunrise and sunset times by Googling sunrise time wherever you are.
Read next: See our Creative Photography post – Shoot the golden hour.
Don’t be afraid of a little rain
Cloudy days can sometimes be disappointing when you’re on holidays, but often they make the most interesting photos.
As we walked through Pier 39 in San Francisco I couldn’t help but notice this ladies enjoying a wine on a cool rainy night by the fire. Perfect!
Take advantage of these ideas for fun rainy day photos:
• Take a photo of people walking in the street with colorful umbrellas.
• Get a close up shot of droplets on a city window, and blur the background.
• Zoom in and get a close up of the rain droplets on flowers or another interesting surface.
Tip: If you do take your camera out on a rainy day, be sure to protect your camera so it doesn’t get water damaged.
Make sure your lens is clean
Short of stating the obvious, there have been too many times I’ve returned from an amazing shoot to find that there’s a spot in every. single. shot!
Note to self: Carry a travel cleaning kit to wipe your lens wherever you may be.
Consider the Perspective
Watch other photographers taking photos .. and then do the opposite! When everybody is taking pictures to the right, turn left. Look up. Look down. Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground and shoot from below. Dare to be different!
This old lighthouse in Key West had 88 steep steps to the top!
Look for Reflections
Look below your subject for reflections in puddles, rivers, lakes and other waterways. Experiment. Discover your unique photo style and be the photographer with the edge.
Fun Fun Fun
Sometimes when we travel, we get so caught up in the famous landmarks, that we return from a trip with only photos in front of iconic tourist attractions.
Make sure you take photos of the ‘fun times’. This snapshot was a simple pose with a street performer in Las Vegas. He was a hoot so we made sure the snap did the rounds of social media!
Tip: Not every photo has to be a masterpiece. Sometimes you’ll find your favorite shots are the unexpected ones!
Make sure you take close up shots to capture the detail. This beautiful Kingfisher was happy to sit and pose for me. I love his glassy eyes!
Sometimes movement can give your pictures life. This bike rider is in the midst of the Finke Desert Race and the speed he’s traveling at is a dead giveaway. Focus on the vehicle and let the dust and the background blur to tell the story.
Tip: If you are trying to capture movement, make sure your camera is set to “burst mode” and track your focus on the mobile object.
Get in your Shots
Sometimes it is more comfortable to be behind the camera than in front of it, don’t be afraid step into the frame too. A human element will often give you perspective for your photo and creates a point of interest.
Tip: This is easiest if you have a travel companion or a tripod. Ask a stranger to take your photo with the scenery in the background, and offer to do the same for him.
Get comfortable photographing strangers
When traveling overseas, photographing the locals are often some of my favourite activities. They tell the story for you!
Whenever taking someone’s photo up close, be courteous and ask permission first. You don’t have to speak the same language to get permission. Simply make eye contact, smile, and point to your camera or say ‘photo?’. (If they’re busking, be sure to leave them a generous tip).
Most people will understand and will either nod or shake their head. Many people I have encountered happily say yes, and it is a positive interaction. If they say no, however be sure to respect their answer and move on.
Pick a theme or focus on a colour
If you’re already an experienced photographer, boost your skills by creating a fun photo essay.
When you’re away next, perhaps you could photograph all the beautiful carved wooden doors in Madrid, or capture all the old cars in Cuba, or do as we did – photograph all the motorbikes whizzing by loaded up with people in Bali. Pick a theme and make it fun.
Look for a point of difference
There is beauty all around you. Sometimes it’s easy to see, like a beautiful flower, or a bird in a tree. Notice the reflection in puddles and the pattern in tiles, take notice of the colour and texture of tree bark.
You’ll start to love cobwebs with spiders suspended in the web, a long and straight highway or random textures. You’ll start seeing beauty in even unexpected places. Shoot it.
Don’t overthink it
Sometimes you will be caught unawares and only have a moment or two to capture a shot. Take the shot! Be spontaneous!
Take your camera everywhere
Take your camera everywhere. You never know when you will need it!
If you don’t want to carry the extra weight, get a smaller camera. Buy a camera that fits easily into your bag and makes sense for you and the type of traveling you do.
Pack yourself a small photography ‘pick up and go’ bag with a few essentials like these …
- Pack a spare battery or two
- Take extra memory cards
- Pack a mini tripod
- Carry some cleaning cloths with you
- Make sure you have the right lens
Back up and Insure
There’s not much that would ruin a trip faster than losing all your photos. I used to shoot to my heart’s content and back them up when I got home but I can tell you from experience that often things will conspire against you.
Be prepared. Backing up your photos while on your trip is the smartest way to ensure they stay safe. Your memory card could corrupt, or your camera could be stolen. A range of cloud storage options are available so research which option is best for you. We use Google Drive and love the flexibility it provides.
Be prepared. Make sure you have travel insurance so you’re covered in case your camera is damaged or stolen whilst you are away.
This list of tips is designed to inspire you and help you think more creatively about your own photography. As a photographer you will learn how to go from average to awesome and use this opportunity to have some fun on your next trip.
This simple guide really will bring out the creative photographer in you!
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