If you’re often traveling but often disappointed by the photography you’re bringing back from your vacations, this article might help you to get nice and memorable souvenirs.
The good news is that you do not need to invest thousands of dollars in equipment. Too many people give credit to equipment, forgetting that technique and knowledge are far more important. Don't get me wrong, a good camera might help you get further technically, but this won't make you a better photographer.
I am sharing with you 12 tips that will help you get your photographs to the next level.
1- Learn how to use your camera
Today's cameras are wonderful tools, however, too many people use them in full automatic mode. What is the point of doing this while your smartphone is likely to provide you with an equivalent or better result without the trouble of transfering pictures and so on.
Learning about your camera means learning how to use the manual mode, learning everything about the menu and all the different modes. Knowing all this will help you navigate and adjust very quickly in all types of situations. This will feel cumbersome at first, and you won't learn everything overnight, but once you master it, you will be able to achieve more than you expect.
2- Learn about composition
Composition is the base of photography. How many times have you seen great places where the photographs you were taking were not doing justice to the place? Working on your composition skill is one of the first thing you should target. This will immediately up your game and results will follow very quickly. However, do not expect linear progress. Once you reach a certain level, improving your composition skill will become more and more complicated and progress will be slow. There is no harm, although it can be slightly frustrating at times, it only means that you already reached a certain level.
Learning about photography composition will help you get to the next level technically.
3- Look for creative perspectives
As photographers, we often go to places that have been seen millions of times by thousands of other photographers, and we usually end up taking the same shot as everyone else. If shooting the obvious is satisfying and enjoyable, getting a new perspective is even more rewarding, provided that the final result is great too.
Simple tricks like looking for another angle, going closer to the ground or including flowers or grass in the foreground can do magics.
So, don’t hesitate to try everything out.
4- Get up early
Too many times we see pictures of amazing places in the middle of the day or packed with people. This will be a nice memory, but no an exciting one.
There is no secret, if you go to popular places very early in the morning you will be lucky to get some shots not only without anyone, but also with an amazing light.
Of course, if you’re on vacations, you might not want to wake up very early every day. But, once in a while, while being at nice places, you’ll enjoy waking up and have some places for yourself.
5- Scout online and on site before the actual shooting
This is a very important one. Scouting online (Google Maps, Google Earth, Instagram, etc.) will help you save time and know what to expect about a location as well as where to go to get great shots.
On top of that, if you can go on site beforehand, whether the day before especially or an hour or two before the light is good to shoot, you will be able to observe the area and prepare yourself for your shoot. In this case, you will be able to have a couple of compositions you might be interested in and will not waste your time during the perfect moment looking for them.
6- Get inspired by other photographers
Another way to improve your landscape and travel skill set, is to get inspired by other photographers. I, personally, am always looking at pictures from other photographers. This inspires me in my daily work. The most difficult is to try not to copycat.
Good and inspiring photographers are so easy to find nowadays on social medias so enjoy it. This is an invaluable source of wealth when it comes to inspiration and creativity.
I personnally like to watch videos from Nigel Danson on Youtube. On Instagram, some of my most inspirational photographers include among others MaxRivePhotography, Daniel Kordan, Marc Adamus, Ted Gore, Nigel Danson (again!).
7- Stop comparing yourself
How difficult it is in a world driven by social medias where seeing other people lives became the normality.
In any kind of art, including photography, comparing yourself will be a poor choice. I'd rather recommend you to seeing this as inspiration to get better results. Comparison will only lead you to frustration, lack of ambition and discouragement. Therefore, don't do it. It is a difficult thing to do I must admit, but keep your fire on and learn every single moment you can. Ultimately, you'll love the result you're producing.
I personally, look at other photographers' pictures of similar places I photographed and try to understand why their picture has more impact than mine when I see it. Is it the composition? The post-processing? The colors? Analyzing other photographers' work will help you define what you like and where you you want to go.
8- Don’t be afraid of bad shots
The truth is that many professional photographers also get a lot of bad shots. Micheal Jordan said that to be successful, he failed nearly thousand times as he missed shots along his careers. This applies to photography too. Bad shots remain a very conceptual thing, but let's define it as a shot which is not up to your own standard.
Going on a trip and shooting a lot is very tempting, and we all do it. It is, however, sometimes better to concentrate on one or two great shots as opposed to ten average.
As your photography skills improve, your good shots rate will improve too so keep going.
9- Don’t be shy
If you'd love shooting portraits or life scenes but re not used to it, this might be a little difficult to do. Approaching people and asking to photograph them feels a bit awkward and to be honest, I was and am still in this position from time to time nowadays.
It can be especially complicated when you don’t speak the same language. But you would be surprised how can people be receptive and sympathetic about it. Approaching people and talking to them, explaining what you are doing and telling them that you would share your shot afterwards will be greatly appreciated in all cases. Most important, do never take a photograph of someone if they do not accept or if they don’t know it. In some cultures, this is very rude.
I remember that time in Bolivia, when a Cholita (traditional Bolivian indigenous woman) in the local market was grumping when she saw me with my camera looking at her. She clearly didn’t want me to take pictures of her.
Instead of being offended or so, I approached her and started talking to her to understand why . She then explained me that taking a photographs of them is like taking her soul. This is actually the case in many cultures in Latin American countries. I then started talking to her and her friend for about 15 minutes, and then asked her again if I could take some few pictures, Seeing that I wasn't the usual tourist, she then accepted with some little discomfort as she wasn't used to the camera, but she was happy with the shots. I then bought some few things they were selling to thank them. This was a truly great and fulfilling moment.
10- Be honest with yourself
This is one of the most difficult thing that can be done as an artist. Self-criticism is hard, but honesty will be your best ally here. We can see so many poor photographs online from people who think they do a great job. To be honest, I feel for them and I can clearly say that's clearly a lack of self criticism. One can argue that you should not care about what other thinks of what you're doing as long you like it. That's true, but to a certain extent.
I am personally rarely satisfied with my final photographs and that's what keep me going. I learn from my mistake and try to do better next time.
11- Join a local photography group and get critics on your work
As the previous comments suggest, being honest about your work is critical. But we are unfortunately not always honest with ourselves. That's the moment you need to get other involved into your world. Joining a local group of photographers, ideally sharing the same photography niche as yours, will be extremely beneficial. Not only will you receive honest feedback on your work but you will also be able to provide feedback on other people work. Therefore, everybody benefits from such interaction.
Just keep in mind that you need to put your pride aside with this exercise as feedback can be harsh sometimes. But believe me, this is only for your own good.
12- Invest in online courses and workshop
I keep seeing countless photographers talking about gears and spending all their cash in the latest equipments with an end result which is in many cases quite poor. You do not want to be one of these.
Instead of buying expensive gear, spend part of this money in online courses or workshops. This will really lift your skills. Your satisfaction over your end result will only be greater and push you to always get better.
I still invest once in a while on online courses or workshops when I want to learn new techniques or when I am in need of something in my photography.
We always put too much value in tangible stuff. But keep in mind that photography is an art, and intangible knowledge will push you forward. No one really cares if you shoot with the most expensive camera in the world or a 5 years old DSLR as long as the end result is amazing.
Considering these tips will definitely help you improve your photography skills while travelling. But, keep in mind that photography, like any other form of art, requires a lot of practice. Therefore, do not give up if you do not see immediate result. Compare your own work on a yearly basis and enjoy the progress. No matter if you're using a DSLR/mirrorless or a smartphone, applying these will for sure make a difference on your photographs over the long run.
I hope that you enjoyed this article, and if you have any comments or questions, feel free to let me know in the comment section below.
About the Author
Rémi Bergougnoux is a French travel and landscape photographer based in Zurich, Switzerland. His most influential destinations include Latin America, where he spent about a year, Namibia, Iceland, Lofoten and certainly many others.
Aside from photography, hiking, cooking, enjoying good wines and socializing are his main hobbies.