Photography tips for beginners by Darren Lewey

photography tips for beginners

I don’t have the figures to hand on global travel but it seems travel further afield is increasingly popular and with it the desire to produce good photos to show to friends and family or to satisfy a creative need. Here are my 10 photography tips for beginners on how to take better travel photos and certainly something to be considered ahead of one of the numerous photography tours available.

View any scene from the less obvious position.

It’s a thrill to visit anywhere new but are you sometimes disappointed with the results from your trip or photography tour? Here are photography tips ideas once you’ve arrived in the country:

  • En-route? Photos from a coach or taxi can offer a different perspective. Think about using the window as a frame.
  • Photos from ground level. You can include or discount the ground as foreground lead in interest. Flip out screens are an added bonus here.
  • The other side of the main subject, for example other tourists or photographers looking on can reveal something fresh and interesting.

What is the essence of the scene.

The world around us is often a busy place, chaos reigns supreme and visually that’s how your camera will see things. The single lens 2D vision of camera view cannot decipher a scene into key interests, it drinks it all in. So you have to simplify what’s in front of you and that means deciding what the key focus of the scene should be. You can creatively compose: using your focal lens choice, where you’re standing and your depth of field. It also means choosing what is of interest to you and that’s all about developing as a photographer. On our photography holidays and photography tours I’m pleasantly surprised when guests produce different interpretations of a location.

Get closer to the subject.

Context is important of course but why place your subject so far from the camera when it’s the crux of the photo.  Instead think about how much of the background you need and if not much then you have a couple of choices; walk closer and have the subject more dominant in the frame or zoom in with telephoto lens making the subject bigger and at the same time bringing distant objects into play. It’s a lovely technique but does require some knowledge of depth of field.

Eliminate camera shake.

The major tripping point for aspiring photographers is blurry images. They may look fine on the back of your camera but on closer inspection they reveal a fatal flaw. It’s unfortunately not as easy to rid yourself of them on all your shots as you may think. Switch to shutter priority and up your shutter speed selection especially if you’re using a telephoto lens. You can also set this up on hybrid and compact camera models. Then check your photo’s sharpness by zooming in on review and isolating a sharp edge within the photo to see if they look sharp. A loupe from Hoodman can also help to you to see your photos whilst standing in sunny conditions.

Be prepared. Leave your camera on when walking around.

The unexpected comes quickly of course and whilst raising your camera you have forgotten to switch it on. Some camera models have easier on/off buttons to access quickly; something that’s worth looking into before purchasing. One solution is to keep your camera switched on as you walk around. Battery drain is usually associated with lens and focus mechanisms and well as reviewing. If you just have your camera on, there’s not a big drain and you may just get the shot that you can retire on. Don’t forget to charge your batteries each night!

Don’t necessarily photograph from the position you first see the scene.

You need to discipline yourself not to immediately click away on arriving at a location. You’ve often arrived via a car park or where the guide has dropped you off. Perhaps one of the best photography tips is to let your eye find things first and maybe think about where it’s best to position yourself.

Get up early.

Life has a different feel before the day really gets going. Between 7.30 and 9.oo is an ideal time to photograph locations. They appear differently to you and they will to viewers of your photos. Less people in the scene can also offer a different feel. More importantly you have the morning light which is kinder to subjects and also offers warmth and atmosphere, two key components of many great travel photos.

Late afternoon light and work quickly.

Likewise the late afternoon light is full of drama, about an hour preceding sunset is great. Although you have to work quickly as the optimum light doesn’t hang around for long. If you’re a slower practitioner, then think about getting to the location earlier to scout out what could be the best viewpoints and the composition for potential images. Most photography tours will have this in hand.

Avoid generic scenes especially on photography tours.

If in the back of your mind you’ve seen the shot before somewhere then why take the same one? If it’s a popular scene then you should think about how to bring a fresh angle to it. Even taking a familiar object around on your travels and placing it in the foreground will personalise the photo. You should also look for some quirkiness in the scene. Think about juxtaposition and using foreground elements to play off the main subject or scene. Humour especially is a much under used device in photography. Here’s a  great example portfolio.

Photograph people in twos. One can chat whilst the other snaps.

Photographing people with permission can be a bit intense for both parties especially if you’re not a confident operator. In that case team up with a fellow traveller to chat to the subject while you take photos. The subject will feel less self conscious and won’t produce such stiff poses. Of course you can swap over tasks every now and then. A 2 or 3 hour walkabout approaching people with a smile should get you a few interactions. Don’t worry if people say no, it’s normal. Getting good people shots is not easy.  If it was then there would be a vast number of decent ones and there often aren’t.

Now that you’ve got some ideas in mind, think about testing yourself somewhere closer to home before embarking on your foreign trip. Explore some photography websites and get a feel for the kind of travel photography you like.

Images in the Sun runs photography holidays and photography tours in Morocco available throughout the year for beginners and more advanced photographers. Reserve your place now!