Hey guys, here is Part 2 of the series ‘How to improve your Travel Photography’.
After explaining some of the basics of travel photography in Part 1, this time it’s gonna be about the research and preparation part. I can’t stress this enough, doing your homework will increase the number of good shots you bring home tremendously. So lets get started …
Travel Photography – Before the Shoot
There are countless sources that can help you to prepare for your upcoming trip. Obviously getting a good old fashioned travel guide is a good way to get familiar with your destination. You can ask friends or colleagues about their experiences and tips and of course there’s also this thing called internet.
browse 500px, Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration
Pinterest is helpful to get an overall idea of what a certain country or city has to offer. 500px is especially useful when it comes to exact locations. Often people not only share the name of the place were they took a specific shot, but also provide the gps coordinates.
Doing your homework by browsing those sites not only fires up the imagination but can also help to create a shotlist for your upcoming trip.
organize things in advance
Some of the photo spots you found online might be not too easy to reach cause they require a longer hike, are only open to the public on certain times or are located on private ground – like one of the shots I took in Dubai of the Burj Khalifa.
This shot was taken from the roof top terrace of a five-star hotel in Dubai. I knew from some online research, that this place exists and I was eager to get some shots from up there. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to stay at such a place. In cases like this, it is advisable, to contact the relevant locality in advance in order to explain your intention and ask for permission.
know your route
No matter if you’re traveling by train, bus or plane, it’s always a good idea to get a little familiar with your route.
Lets say you’re taking a bus down the scenic coastal highway 101 from north to south, you definitely wanna make sure to get a window seat on the right side to shoot all the amazing seascape.
Or you’re flying over Paris at night. Well, it can be very useful to try and anticipate on which way you have to sit to be able to get some nice night-time shots of Paris.
If you fly from north to south in the evening for example, chances are good to see an epic sunset where every dude sitting on the right side goes uhh and ahh. You surely don’t want to be that guy on the left side seeing exactly nothing.
Based on your flight route and your previous research you can then reserve the most suitable seat via online check-in.
check climate tables / weather forecast
Obviously the thing with the weather always is a game of chance. Still, checking some climate tables can prevent you from ending up in Myanmar in the middle of the monsoon season or in the United Arab Emirates during midsummer.
Once at you arrived at your destination, a reliable weather forecast might increase your chances to shoot that awesome sunset after a stormy afternoon.
check the time for sunrise and sunset
The majority of photographers prefers shooting around sunrise and sunset for a very good reason. Chances to get good light around these times of the day are at its highest.
– around 30-50 min after sunrise and before sunset – is perfect for landscape photography. The sun is very low in the sky, the light is less harsh and more directional and shadows are softer and longer, which adds more dimension to the scene.
around 30-50 min before sunrise and after sunset. Often a gradient of colors, from orange to blue can be seen in the sky. The deep blue hue of the sky makes for the perfect contrasty background for some cityscape and architecture photos. It is the time of the day, when natural and artificial light are equally bright and complement each other perfectly.
There is an abundance of useful apps that inform you about everything imaginable fact surrounding the light issue. The Photographers Ephemeris being the most sophisticated and all-encompassing of them all. It shows you not only at what time the sun rises and sets, but also what time the golden hour starts. when the blue hour ends, when the moon is at its fullest and where exactly the sun sets in relation to your location and day of the year.
know your gear
This point might seem a bit too obvious. Nevertheless it is important to be familiar with your camera, its menu and all the settings. There’s no point in buying a new fancy camera right before an upcoming trip, hoping that this might improve your travel photography and then switching it on for the very first time while staying infront of your subject.
It’s fine to get new gear, but
always undertake a few test runs
with it. Just pack all your stuff exactly the way you would do it, before heading to the airport. Then find some place in your own city that gives you the opportunity to shoot similar subjects like the ones you expect on your trip. Go to the zoo or photograph some architecture. Just make sure that you don’t experience any bad surprises at a point when you can’t adjust anymore.
try to travel light
As the word travel photography suggests, it is somehow about not being in your very neighborhood. And in my opinion, there is absolutely no point in carrying 15 lenses and 20 kg of gear to some far away land if all of that stuff just sits in your hotel room. In the end, this gear doesn’t help you at all when you’re too lazy to carry it around all day.
Having problems to decide what to bring and what to leave at home?
Try this: open up LightRoom or any other decent retouching software and check the last photos you took. Is there any kind of pattern? Maybe travel photography is an area where you’re using your wide-angle lens in 90% of the cases. Or maybe it’s your 35 mil. prime lens. However, it might be ok to leave the macro lens at home then.
double check your packing list
Now that you found out everything you need to know for your upcoming trip and all the shoots planned, there’s still some stuff to do.
First and foremost:
Don’t forget to charge all your batteries and format all your memory cards.
It is ridiculous how often I was shooting the most stunning landscape, constantly worried about my dying battery or my full memory card.
Make sure you packed all the lenses and filters and chargers you might need and have it all ready and in place. So the only thing you have to do for your first shoot is grab you bag and go.
Any questions or comments? Any additional tips on how to take your travel photography to the next level? I’d really like to know what you would recommend so feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or just use the comment box below. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
And if you like what you see, feel free to connect on Instagram for travel photos from around the world.