Tips

10 TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

We are constantly asked to give tips on how to prepare & capture great travel images. Some of these points are blatantly obvious however there are a few we have emphasised because we constantly run into people that want to take great Travel Photos but don't equip themselves with the right advice. So here goes...
  1. Read you camera manual. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know what your thinking. We bump into sooooooo many photo enthusiasts who claim to have read their manual but really haven't absorbed all the abilities of their equipment. We suggest not only reading your manual but also taking it away with you. One of the first things we pack in our bags before a trip is our camera & flash manuals. Great reading after the 4th or 5th movie on a long-haul flight. 
  2. Always attach a UV or Skylight filter to your lenses. Some people hate this tip in the industry as they think that it degrades the quality of the images, but they really are splitting hairs here. In Travel Photography you are constantly on the go and your camera equipment gets a beating. It is constantly pulled in and out of bags and is exposed to the elements. It is only a matter of time before the surface of the lens gets dirty or scratched. It is much cheaper to replace a UV filter than a new lens. If you are adamant that the filter degrades the quality of the image then simply remove the filter when necessary. We also suggest removal of the filter when taking sunset shots to reduce lens flare.
  3. You don't need to carry a bagful of lenses. Not only does it attract attention to you but it is a pain to carry a lot of weight all day. We can travel & shoot for 30 days straight and walk for 8-10 hours a day and the last thing we want is pain and a visit to the chiropractor. Paul carries 3 lenses covering 20mm - 200mm & Helen shoots with a single lens. If your budget allows, invest in at least 1 VR (vibration reduction) lens. These lenses cover all the needs of a Travel Photographer. Also, invest in a good quality weatherproof camera bag. Paul uses a Lowepro backpack bag as he carries more lenses (and sometimes the Fuji G617 Panoramic camera) and Helen carries a Lowepro sling bag. Don't forget you will need a tripod as well so the lighter you can make your bags the easier it will be. 
  4. Always shoot in RAW. If you are a keen enthusiast and upwards you should be always shooting in RAW mode. If you are just shooting happy snaps of family or events and you know that the output will only be for your computer screen or the family album then you may want to consider shooting in the best quality JPG setting that your camera has. Also keep in mind, that to shoot in RAW means some level of editing skills to obtain the best results from your image. Personally, we always shoot in RAW + JPG Basic. The camera creates the 2 images when shooting and we usually only use the JPG's as a reference file for viewing. 
  5. Always back up your images. The most nervous time for us is only having 1 copy of our images. We usually download our images onto a laptop and then copy the images to 2 passport external hard drives. The copy on the laptop is used for viewing (the JPG's). We both carry one of the passports  with us everywhere we go as the laptop is not with us at all times. We do not bother with any file re-naming or editing until we return home. This workflow covers all your bases and has worked perfectly for us over the years.
  6. Always look over your shoulder when taking sunsets.We have taken many sunset shots over the years and they can be pretty mundane & boring after a while. Instead, concentrate on capturing the light that sunsets create on their surroundings and hang around until the sun fully sets. Most crowds will start to dissipate once the sun has set and miss out on some fantastic light in the sky and the surrounding landscape. 
  7. Don't be afraid to increase your camera ISO. Most of the newer SLR cameras are now excellent in low light photography with high ISO quality getting better & better. On top of this there are now so many great Noise reduction plug-ins that using a high ISO is not a problem any more. Personally, where possible we would still prefer when practical, to use a tripod with a lower ISO. Most churches, for example will not let you set up your tripod and bumping up your ISO is the only option. The Aya Sophia in Istanbul for example does not even let tripods past the ticket office. So bump your ISO up and get the shot!!!
  8. Try to take photo's from different angles. Always try to take shots of the same scene from different angles and different exposures. Don't forget to take vertical shots as well. With many SLR cameras now having Live View it makes it a lot easier to get down low and even to hold above your head to shoot over crowds. 
  9. Always carry a Polarizing Filter. Always. A Travel Photographers best friend.  The only filters we carry are a UV , Polarizing , and a set of ND Graduation filters for all our lenses (except for Paul's 20mm). Especially useful on bright sunny days when shooting beach scenes or reducing reflections on water and skies. Be careful when using the filter as the effect can sometimes darken the sky too much. Usually we adjust the ring to get the desired effect and then reduce the effect a little. Always only buy the Circular Polarizers for Auto Focus cameras and to avoid vignetting try to purchase one of the thinner types of Polarizing filters. The strength of the effect also varies depending on your angle to the Sun and are essentially useless on overcast days or at night. They are extremely useful as ad-hoc ND (Neutral Density) filters as they reduce the aperture by up to 2 stops when you have a bright scene but don't want a small aperture. If shooting in 'A' (Aperture Priority) mode make sure that the corresponding shutter speed selected by the camera does not fall below your minimum hand-holding requirements.
  10. Shoot in A (Aperture Priority) Mode. We shoot primarily in this mode. The only time we will revert to 'S' (Shutter Priority) mode is when it is critical to freeze movement or when we are moving. Also, Paul will always use 'S' mode when using the heavy 80-200 2.8 lens as he wants a consistent 1/250 shutter speed to handhold it. For all other images we use 'A' mode as the depth of field is our primary concern. We try to shoot most images at between F8-F11 as these are usually the sharpest apertures ('sweet spot') of most lenses. 

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