Dave's Travel Journal

A vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking. - Earl Wilson


How To Take Pictures That Everyone Wants To See

What do you take pictures of on your vacation? Yourself in front of monuments we've seen a hundred times? Your kids at Disneyland with Tiger eating ice cream cones?

(I once met a woman who's goal in life was to travel the world alone taking pictures of herself in front of every world monument. She simply wanted to prove she'd been everywhere. When she returned home for a few weeks between trips she'd show hundreds of pictures to jealous friends. I would NOT want sit through that event.)

If you wonder why everyone clears the room when you pull out your photo book or your travel blog, this post is for you.

Why are they bored with my pictures?
It's because they've seen it all before, just with different people. Everyone takes the same old pictures. Actually, now that everything is digital, you could create an around-the-world photo album with you posed in front of the worlds greatest monuments without ever leaving your house. (hummmm...not a bad idea for a website, but I digress.)

Where to start
First off, go ahead and take that picture of yourself in front of the world famous building, waterfall, or mountain. Go ahead, I'll wait for you. Done? Okay, great, now that that's over, promise me you'll never show it to anyone.

Now let's get started with some great travel photography.

50th State Fair

Here's a few guideline, a sort of checklist you can print out and put in your pocket as a quick reminder while on location:
  • Travel with one lens. If you carry too much equipment you'll tire quickly and will miss the shots that matter. Rather than carry a huge zoom, get a modest zoom with the widest aperture you can afford. Personally I carry just two very light fixed lenses, a wide angle and a portrait lens. It's because they both take awesome pictures in low light (One lens is f2.8 and the other is f2.0.) and they are so light I hardly notice I have them with me. Yes you can pump up the ISO for slower zoom lenses in a pinch but the quality of your pictures will suffer It's better to use lower ISOs and "faster" lenses. Not only will the pictures look sharper normal size but they will be fantastic if you should enlarge them later. (If you only want to carry a point-and-shoot get one that has the best lens you can afford.)
  • Vary your scope. Instead of using your zoom or changing your lens, walk around some. Get a feel for the area. Use your feet. Take close ups (hands, clothes, patterns and designs). Then stand back and take that wide angle shot. The results will be so much more interesting in a photo book or on your website.
  • Vary colors and shapes. This is a fun thing to try. If you enjoy staying in a place for a few days instead of madly dashing place to place, make a themed photo challenge for yourself. Shoot only images in the next hour that are red, or that are square, or that have water. Later you'll have a very interesting page of pictures that everyone will enjoy lingering over.
  • Vary your subjects. Take pics of buildings if you must but be sure to also take pictures of people doing things. Even common things like sweeping, polishing shoes, or taking care of the monument grounds Take close ups of their work (they most often will welcome that) and then later get a closeup of their tools, hands in action, or garb. Often they will invite you to do this if you show sincere interest in their work.
  • Smile. Smiling is the universal language. It's infectious. Smile even when you are not taking pictures. People in tourist areas notice you even from a distance. If you apply a plastic smile only when you approach them they will be less likely to accommodate. Enjoy the journey, enjoy the people, and you'll get better pictures.
When things don't go as planned . . .
Not everyone will allow you to take pictures of them. Every day will not be perfect weather for photography. Not every trip will yield eye-popping images. Set your expectations low, be happy when things turn out better.

If it rains, keep shooting but exclude the sky and you'll get great saturated colors. If some people are not accommodating, look for others or put the camera away and just chat with them at the local coffee shop. You might later get a good shot later or at least an interesting story to tell. You can always shoot a picture of your own slice of chocolate cake and cup of coffee at the outdoor cafe.

I hope these suggestions will increase the quality of your next set of travel photos. I'd be anxious to see them.

Have more suggestions? Comments welcome.

...dave
When you look like your passport it's time to return home.

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2 Responses to “How To Take Pictures That Everyone Wants To See”

  1. # Anonymous The Hsinru Social

    I love this entry. The content is great, but even better is the casual and funny way in which you write. It is quite engaging.  

  2. # Blogger Dave Terry

    Thanks Hsinru. I hope to see you back here again. I'll try to keep if funny and engaging for you.
    ...dave  

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