Most of us love travelling, and let’s admit it, sometimes we travel to certain destinations just for the ‘gram.
However, you may realise by now that taking beautiful and unique photographs while travelling is a lot harder than you think – for starters, you always look out of place with the standard tourist pose, and your photo of the Eiffel Tower looks exactly the same as your friend’s.
While we won’t be travelling for leisure for a while, it doesn’t mean that travel photography tips can’t come in handy. For those of us who are spending time visiting local travel attractions – whether it is Sentosa or Gardens by the Bay, here are the best travel photography tips from photographers and influencers compiled by AVENUE ONE that you can use and spruce up your Instagram feed this weekend.
1. Use natural lighting instead of a camera flash
Are you one of those who enjoy using a camera flash to get bright and sharp photographs?
While there is nothing wrong with using a flash to light up your photos in dark conditions, it makes your photos look too ‘real’. In addition, if you are using camera flash to capture scenery, it takes away the natural beauty and makes it look more artificial than it should.
Photographers highly recommend using natural lighting instead for a softer, ethereal look in your photos. Don’t worry if your photographs are not fully lit – sometimes a small light ray or reflection can create unexpectedly beautiful photos!
2. Use the rule of thirds creatively
Most photographers are familiar with the Rule of Thirds, which is a grid used to create more balanced compositions: basically, you break an image down into thirds horizontally and vertically, so that it’s split into nine different sections. The goal is to place important parts of the photo into those sections and frame the overall image in a way that’s pleasing to the eye.
While the Rule of Thirds is meant to help you organise your photography subjects, strictly positioning your subjects in the centre just creates a very boring photo.
What you can do instead is to have your subjects positioned at different parts of the grid – for example, place a person along the left grid line, and keep your horizon on the bottom third, rather than splitting the image in half. You don’t even have to keep your horizon straight either – tilt it along the points on the grid to create a slope for some fun effects!
In order to use the Rule of Thirds, you can just turn on your camera’s “grid” feature, which displays a rule of thirds grid directly on your LCD screen specifically for this purpose. Some phone cameras also come equipped with this function!
3. Include people in architecture shots
Travelling to metropolitan cities means you get to see a lot of beautiful architecture, but imagine if everyone is taking the same shot as you – boring!
Here’s a pro tip: include people in your photos, instead of waiting for people to clear from the frame!
There are two reasons this instantly spruces up your shot. Firstly, the people in your shot emphasise the scale of things – you can see exactly how tall a building is when compared to the tiny person at the foot of it. The other reason is that it adds a warm human element to otherwise cold and distant buildings, especially for modern skyscrapers.
4. Create distance with items near and far
If you are shooting a mountain or a skyscraper that is very far away, don’t just focus on capturing it in your photo.
Creating layers and the feeling of distance brings your viewers closer to your photography subject, as though they are peeking through your lens to see what you’ve captured.
An easy way to do this is by using flowers, leaves, window panes and grilles to frame your photo first, and then focus on the subject in the middle. The objects at the side should be blurred out, but still distinct enough to tell what they are.
5. Fill the frame and use the frame
Making sure you get everything you want inside the photo is important, but here’s another framing that we sometimes forget: creating natural borders that align with the photo edges so that your subject is in the middle.
Frames can be easily created by looking at the surroundings of your subject carefully before you shoot – are there pillars, windows, or unexpected holes in the wall that you can use?
6. Less is more
Sometimes we are so preoccupied with filling the entire photograph with buildings and people, we forget that simple is best, and less is more.
Instead of trying to fill up the foreground and background, what you can do instead is to leave as much empty space around your subject as possible. It helps your viewers to focus on your subject (which could be you, other people, or buildings) without the noise and makes for a clean, aesthetic Instagram feed that many would envy!
7. Can’t think of a good pose? Just take photos from the back…
We know posing for photographs is not the most natural thing for most of us, and we really dislike it when we make strange faces in the most gorgeous of scenery.
If putting yourself in the photo never looks good, here’s an easy way to overcome this problem: shoot from the back!
Shooting your back eliminates the need to think of good facial expressions, and even does away with the need to make sure your makeup and hair are always on point. Simply tidy your hair a little, stand straight, and look to the front – super easy!
Tip: You can also make this a characteristic of all your travel shots – the viewer feels like he or she is looking at the same scenery as you, and your Insta feed looks a lot more uniform as well.
8. …or take candid shots
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Here’s something that most photographers agree always work: candid shots.
Your facial expressions are the most natural when you’re going about your activities normally, whereas smiling for the camera can make your face look stiff and forced.
Instead of smiling awkwardly at the camera in standard tourist style, get your photographer to take random snaps of you while you are looking at the scenery, eating your ice cream, or getting up from your seat. Your poses will look so smooth and natural, your friends might think you are a pro at modelling!
9. Play with lens compression
Lens compression is another great compositional tactic in travel photography. In essence, lens compression is when a photographer uses a zoom lens to trick the eye into thinking objects are closer than they really are.
This is a good technique to use if you are posing against, say, a mountain that is actually very far away. By bringing the mountain closer to the subject (you) and foreground elements, it will look like the mountain is just directly behind you instead of just a blur in the background.
10. Use materials on hand as props
While some of the most popular photographs on Instagram are sometimes created with fancy gear like flashlights, reflectors, and light modifiers, sometimes all you need to create an amazing photo is already on you.
For example, the famous reflection photo of Lempuyang Temple in Bali is created by using a mirror to reflect the image, rather than an actual water body below!
You can also look for puddles and buildings with glass windows to create the same effect even if you don’t have a mirror on hand.
Other popular props that photographers use include mobile phones. Simply turn on your phone camera and point it at your photography subject, and then use a camera or another phone to take a photo of your phone taking a photo – you can call it photo-ception!
11. Do your homework…
There’s no escaping it – if you want the best possible photos in the most Insta-worthy places, you have to do your homework before heading there.
While some attractions are quite standard, it takes a lot of sleuthing and research in order to find the best times to go and the best angles to take photographs from, unless you want to learn it the hard way and figure everything out only when you’re at the location.
12. …but don’t let it restrict you
That being said, some of us do our homework a little too well, which is why we sometimes get travel photographs that look the same as everyone else – pretty, but not necessarily exciting.
The easiest way to change your view is by simply holding the camera up above you to give you a different perspective of the scene. If you are using a camera with a tiltable screen, you can see everything comfortably when you shoot – even from very high angles.
You can also consider lying down to get an ant’s eye view that can give surprisingly good photographic results. This position is also great for macro and close-up shots of insects and plants, and any other small items on the ground. Just a warning though: you should be prepared to get you some funny looks, but it’s worth it if you get a good shot for the ‘gram!
13. Get up early or stay out late to beat the crowd
If you want truly stunning photos at tourist hot spots, make sure to rise early to beat the tourists or stay until late so that all the crowds clear.
While having a few people makes for a lovely photo, no one enjoys having 13their view of the Taj Mahaj obscured by throngs of tourists that you have to tiptoe above in order to get a decent shot. If you are visiting a place that is always crowded, you’re recommended to arrive much earlier or wait until it’s late in order to get a better photo.
In addition to fewer crowds, the lighting tends to be better during the golden hour, which is the hour right after sunrise and before sunset, so you’ll have to camp for a while if you want to capture the attraction in a different light – literally.
14. Use post-processing apps
While some photographers may frown upon the idea of post-processing, it is actually one of the most important steps to take, besides capturing the photo, of course. In fact, some photographers will tell you that learning how to process your images after they’re taken is FAR more important than what camera you use.
If you’re a serious travel photographer and wants to make sure your photos are top-notch, you’ll have to use professional photo-editing technology such as Adobe Photoshop.
On the other hand, if you just want to make quick edits on your phone, there are many free phone apps that can do the work for you. Some examples of these include VSCO, Snapseed, Foodie, and Afterlight 2.
Featured image credits: jin_h_0614