Have you ever wondered what it is that makes professional travel photography different from your own holiday snaps? One of the biggest differences is that the professional will try to avoid the obvious, clichéd shots and seek out something unusual, something creative.
If you arrive at a site and start to shoot away then you can only expect to get the same set of snaps that other visitors generally shoot. Only by consciously seeking out the unusual will you get beyond these and into the realms of photography that will satisfy you and impress others.
The more effort that is required in order to get your shot the more likely that it will be one worth taking at all. The same goes with your photographic skills. You will need to practice lots at home in order to get the best out of your camera whilst away.
Creativity generally means breaking the rules, and that’s not something you can be taught. However, here are three principles to work on:
All good photographs have a clear subject. The challenge is not finding the interesting subjects but in then finding a way to emphasize the features of that subject that make it so interesting. The minimalist approach says that you can best do this by removing all distractions. You can move closer to remove elements unwanted around the subject, or you can use a shallow depth of field to put other zones out of focus. Sometimes a shot needs some other elements for context – but then that usually means your subject is not the one you first identified.
As we walk around we see things – but always from the same perspective – from eye level. If you are able to vary this then the shot will already contain an element of creativity. If you are able to generate surprise with your choice of angle then it is likely that viewers will react and remark accordingly – which, after all, is probably what you most want them to do.
It pays to be on location when others are not. Some shots benefit from having people in them – it adds to the sense of scale – and there are processing techniques to remove people from shots if you really do want a clean look. However, some sites attract big crowds and these can make your photography difficult in other ways.
Timing also affects the available light with early morning and late afternoon favoured by photographers for obvious reasons. Whilst on holiday you may not feel like early starts but certainly it is worth choosing a suitable location for sundown as this can be enjoyed by your non-photographer partner too. Of course, these are not the only times you can shoot. Interiors can be shot at pretty much any time, and many great shots are taken after dark.
Ian Ford is Operations Manager at Photo Tours Abroad.