There’s nothing better than going through old photos and reminiscing. It truly takes you back to past experiences, into the moment of when you were in that place at that time. I have been complimented by many on my ability to capture moments from my travels, but I am not a professional by any means. I am only here to help guide you to hopefully getting the photos you dreamed of. There are 3 major things I believe that go into getting the perfect shot: your gear, the photo setup, and the editing.
What camera and gear should you use?
I find the biggest waste of money for a lot of people is purchasing a beautiful, complex DSLR camera with a multitude of settings, and then only using it on auto for point and shoot. If you aren’t going to put in the time to learn the settings and play around, save your money and just buy a point and shoot! You will get the same quality of photos and spend a quarter of what you’d pay for a DSLR. Another great option is your phone. We all have a phone anyways, why not use it? They have gotten so advanced now, it may even take better quality photos than a point and shoot camera. I personally use the Google Pixel 2 XL and the photos it takes, even in low light, are unbelievable. Here is a shot I took in Iceland from my phone, with minor colour editing.
Now if you love photography and want to purchase a DSLR, my best advice is to take a few days, go outside, and shoot all different subjects on manual while playing around with shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, and focus. Even watching some basic Youtube tutorials will help, and they can aid in teaching which settings work best for what you want to shoot. For example, I use completely different settings when it’s 11am and sunny shooting a portrait, versus 8pm with a cloudy sunset shooting a landscape. Once you get a feel for your camera, you can start purchasing different lenses for an array of different photo possibilities.
When it comes to tripods, I rarely use them, but they can be very helpful when you’re travelling alone and don’t want to rely on strangers to take photos of you. The tripods with bendy legs are the most useful, because you can basically use it wherever you need, wrap it around or place it on any surface. Click here for an example of a flexible tripod! Attach your phone or camera to the tripod, set it on a timer, pose, and voila!
One more helpful piece of gear is the dreaded selfie stick (specifically a collapsible one for easy transport and use). A lot of people are embarrassed to use these, or think they look like too big of a tourist. Sometimes, it’s the only option you have if you want a specific photo! I usually only use my selfie stick if i’m doing something active (hiking, biking, swimming, etc.) with my GoPro and want footage, like the photo below, because it’s the easiest way to get myself and the background in the shot. It takes a bit of practice to figure out angles, but it can produce some great content!
How do you take the perfect photo?
The hardest part is actually taking that perfect shot. The first step is getting inspiration, I look towards other travel blogs, Instagram, and Pinterest for that. It lets you open up to new ideas for photos you might never have thought of. Look at the locations you’ll be going to and look at photos others have taken in those spots, take some mental notes of the poses and spots you think look best.
Always keep in mind the rule of thirds: this rule is where you mentally, or on your camera screen, divide your photo into a grid of 3×3, then place the important elements in your photo along or intersecting those lines (simple example below). When aligning a subject with these points, it creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than just putting something in the centre of your photo. It keeps your eye looking at the photo longer.
A very hard aspect of taking photos is knowing how to pose, and I myself am still learning how to do this properly. I find it very corny if it’s just me standing and smiling at the camera in every shot, it doesn’t give depth to the photo. Obviously I take some like this for the happy memories, but the one’s I use for any media are more posed. My favourite so far is just facing away from the camera, looking at a nice view, bonus points if my hair is down blowing in the wind. The focus is less on myself and more on what’s around me, and it’s a great excuse to not have to look great while I travel! I’m not one to put on a long gown, makeup, and heels just for a picture, so this is a great go-to (like the photo above).
Sometimes, the view is so extraordinary, you don’t need yourself in the shot because it would take away from that. Just to be safe, I usually take a few photos of just the view, as well as some with me in them. Another rule to remember: the more photos you take of a subject, the better the chances for the perfect one. The more you capture the better, you can always delete some later! For example, the photo below came from an idea in my head of what I wanted, so I took about 25 in the same area with different angles and poses to ensure I got the perfect one.
I do know sometime’s it feels silly to pose for photos, and it can feel a bit forced. If you want that dream shot, it’s worth it in the end, and the results can be truly breathtaking.
Where to begin with editing?
Editing is where the magic happens, and where you can really bring a photo to life. There’s only so much you can capture in a photo, and sometimes it takes some tweaking to make it really stand out!
I use solely the Adobe programs, the majority of my time spent on Lightroom. At this point I have presets I’ve made myself for portraits, landscapes, sunsets, and all different types of travel photos. If you are interested, there are COUNTLESS preset packages already made by many artists and influencers that they sell and use for their own photos. For a small cost you could download these pre-made presets and play around with them to figure out how it all works.
A huge part of editing is not making it obvious you’ve edited the photo, but simply bringing out certain aspects that weren’t as visible before. Maybe making a colour pop more, or making it a little less bright so you can see more detail. Take a look at the example below, left being the original and right being edited.
As you can see, the right photo has a bit more pop than the left. I played with the following settings: highlights, shadows, contrast, whites, blacks, vibrance, sharpening, noise reduction, clarity, temperature, tint, and specifically adjusted the blues, greens, and browns with luminance, hue, and saturation.
It takes practice, and my best advice again is to sit down with some photos you love, and play around with settings on an editing program. Figure out what you think looks best, and when you do, save it as a preset for next time! Or purchase a pre-made set, and play around with those. The options are endless on those programs, and a picture you’ve taken that you may think is just okay, could turn out to be so beautiful with the right editing.
Whether you print them out and make an album or keep them as your phone wallpaper, photos are important to all of us. I love looking at candids from my childhood and remembering those special moments, and I can’t wait to look at my recent travel photos when I’m 80 years old and remember all of the crazy adventures I had. I hope this gave you a little bit of help towards your next picture taking experience, and you capture the photos of your dreams.