Travel photography can be a tricky thing. In a world of infinite images and photography possibilities, how do you take better photos, and how do you manage them all? We speak with photography instructor Ralph Velasco about how to improve your travel photography.
To see more travel photography advice and stories, visit our travel photography page.
The 3-5 second rule
Don’t pray and spray: take an extra three to five seconds to compose your shots. See if you can remove any excess “stuff” from your framing, and micro-compose the scene to get the strongest possible image. You’ll take less pictures, but you’ll have more “keepers”.
No one wants to spend a long time doing post-production while they are travelling. You want to spend time out exploring your destinations, not stuck in a hostel common room with your laptop.
Research shots at your destination
Take time to research your destination before you go. But don’t just look at your travel planning, look at what photos can be taken there. This is especially true if you have limited time in each place.
Use a shot list
Everyone has their own favourite styles of shots to take … landscapes, portraits, street scenes. But that means a majority of your photos are going to look similar or have similar styles. By having a shot list — a list of photo styles you want to capture — you are likely to come home with a well-rounded portfolio of photographs.
Ralph has created an iOS app to help you plan and track your shot lists.
Taking candid people photos
The ethics around taking someone’s photo, especially if you plan to publish it somewhere (from your personal Facebook page to professional usage), is tricky. If you ask someone if you can take their photo, you’re likely to get forced, posed photos … no good! A “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to photography means you’re likely to get candid, natural photos of people to use.
(Editor’s note: there’s a good discussion around the ethics of taking people’s photos in Transcending Travel Photography.)
Use RAW if you can
Shooting in JPG, no matter how high quality, “bakes in” certain parts of the image — things to do with colours, sharpness and light balance. If you shoot in the RAW file format, you’ll have more opportunities to correct or enhance your photos in post-production. RAW is available on most DSLR cameras, but only some point-and-clicks.
RAW files are much bigger than JPGs, but all professional photographers and many enthusiastic amateurs use this format. If you don’t have the skills to do post-production now, it might still be worthwhile, since later on — after you learn to use Lightroom, Aperture or Photoshop — you’ll be able to go back and make improvements.
About Ralph Velasco
Our interviewee, Ralph Velasco, is a travel photography instructor based out of California, USA. He is the author of On Travel Photography: 101 tips for developing your photographic eye and more and created the iOS app, My Shot Lists for Travel. Ralph supplied all the photos in these shownotes and in the enhanced version of the podcast.