TIP 1: Get artistic with your composition.
A common mistake is to place the subject slap-bang in the centre of the frame. Try placing it according to the ‘Rule of Thirds’ – along imaginary intersecting lines one one-third into the frame from the top, bottom and sides – for a more pleasing composition. You can also use a combination of the Rule of Thirds and Framing to create a more interesting composition.
Also remember to use other composition tools, such as framing and leading lines, to draw more attention to your subject.
TIP 2: Look for patterns.
The big advantage of photographing in exotic locations is the opportunity to capture unique sights with your digital camera.
A great example is all the interesting textures and vibrant colours that are no-doubt overloading your senses. Focus on specific areas, such as sand dunes or rows of colourful holiday homes, to fill your frame with these wonderfully photogenic elements.
TIP 3: Hunt out interesting subjects to shoot.
Your photos are memories of your travels, so photograph everything of interest. Look for captivating ‘living’ subjects, be it people, wildlife or plants. For these subjects try using a long-ish focal length (around 200mm) and wide aperture (such as f/4) to get them to stand out from their surroundings.
Also look for items that are indicative of a location – such as local fruit or spices, colourful hats or handmade blankets, shells or other natural elements – that will make striking images.
TIP 4: Shoot into the sun.
You may have been told to have the sun at your back to get perfectly exposed shots, but this will also result in flat and boring pictures! Shoot into the sun with a wide-angle lens and stop down to at least f/16 to create a natural sunburst for a dramatic image.
Try placing the sun just peeking out from behind a tree or other interesting subjects.
TIP 5: Subjects to shoot on a rainy day.
Here are some of the best subjects to shoot during the rains.
- Waterfalls – Not only because there’s plenty of water, but the overcast conditions provide soft, even light for a low-contrast images.
- Woods come alive with colour under overcast conditions, as direct sunshine tends to be too high-contrast/distracting.
- Gardens look good in overcast light and the rain will make the foliage glisten and come alive.
- Close-ups of nature are great anytime, but especially in wet conditions as more creatures come out, plus the overcast light brings out every detail in the subject.
Alternatively, you can always head indoors! Interiors of temples, museums or even shopping malls always have something of interest to shoot on a rainy day.
TIP 6: Get creative using filters.
Use ND filters for long exposures. Neutral density (ND) filters are great fun to use for various effects. They come in various densities to reduce the amount of light entering the lens, resulting in longer shutter speeds for interesting photographic effects.
In popular tourist locations, try using an ND filter combined with a long exposure to blur moving people into thin air! Anything that moves during the exposure will disappear. Use an ND for coastal scenes and the long exposure will blur the water to create a misty effect.
TIP 7: Shoot a city skyline at night.
Cities come alive with lights and colour at night, and distracting details such as cranes, wires and unsightly buildings melt away in the background. Every holiday destination will have something that looks great at night.
Good subjects include illuminated fountains, sculptures, churches or cathedrals, and market places. Use fountains or statues as foreground interest with the main subject in the background. Or juxtapose old architecture with new to give more depth and dimension to your images.
TIP 8: Try silhouettes at sunset.
Shooting a brilliant sunset is something we all do on a holiday. Sometimes, though, they don’t quite turn out quite as we saw them. A great way to improve sunsets is to silhouette a distinctive subject.
Remember to compose your subject with the right balance of dark areas, especially when it comes to the foreground. The tendency is to include too much, as our eyes see much more detail. To enhance the sunset, simply switch to cloudy white balance. If your camera allows custom colour temperature, you can increase the temperature to enhance the warm tones.
TIP 8: Capture nature’s beauty.
- Use a wide aperture to blur distracting backgrounds.
- Use a telephoto zoom with a tele-extender to get in close. Zoom lenses also allow quick recomposing when animals are on the move.
- Position yourself for a clean background, especially if photographing birds in flight. Study the bird’s flight pattern and wait until it flies into the uncluttered area.
- In order to freeze the action of an animal, increase the ISO to achieve a faster shutter speed.
- Use both eyes to shoot; one to look through the viewfinder, the other on approaching animals so you can anticipate the action.
TIP 9: Click candids.
There is nothing worse than cheesy posed pictures. Grab candid pictures when the subject is unaware that you are photographing them.
- Use a telephoto lens to capture natural portraits of locals and to blur distracting backgrounds.
- Use fill-flash in bright, sunny conditions to fill the shadows and bring out colours.
- Get in close to your subject so they are recognisable: a common mistake is to have a person too small in the frame.
- Show off a beautiful location by having a person actively doing something within the scene, such as walking along a beach.
Finally, here are some quick pointers for better travel photos.
- A lightweight, sturdy tripod will improve and expand your travel photography portfolio.
- Always carry a spare compact digital camera if you have one. You never know when a photo opportunity will present itself.
- Change your angle. Don’t shoot everything from eye-level; try moving the camera higher or lower. Images from a bird’s eye view can make a refreshing change.
- A well-placed person can add human interest to improve an image – for example, to give a sense of scale to a waterfall.