We can all benefit from better pictures. Maybe you want to capture more vivid memories, maybe you want a more eye catching blog, or perhaps you just want to come home from your next trip satisfied with the photos you took. No one knows better than I how frustrating it can be to come back from a big trip with disappointing photos.
After 6+ years of self taught trail and error through 30+ countries, I’m happy to say that I’ve finally figured out how to consistently take the kinds travel photos I’ve always wanted.
Three things I’ve learned
1. Photography is simple.
There’s nothing complicated about it. I really, truly believe that simplicity is the key to taking good pictures. It’s not about Photoshop or Lightroom or HDR. The best pictures always stand on their own as good pictures. Editing just makes them better.
Here’s a straightforward look at the Washington Monument taken from across the highly visited Reflecting Pool. The photo has pop for two simple reasons: I placed the camera near the water to maximize the visual impact of the reflections, and I shot it just after sunset which gave the dramatic colors. Almost no editing was needed.
2. Your camera doesn’t matter.
Please, put your wallet away! Throwing money around does nothing to help you take better pictures. Some of the best shots I’ve ever taken were captured years ago with my trusty Canon Rebel XTi, worth about $200 today.
The scene below is from Zurich, Switzerland. Shot in December 2007, I took the picture handheld on my Canon Rebel at ISO 800 (this was a really high ISO back then). Then picture remains one of my favorites to this day. Seriously, save your money.
3. It’s quality, not quantity
Digital lets us take pictures all day long for free. The problem is there’s no penalty for mindless photos. A single quality photograph of something interesting helps me remember the places I visit far better than a hundred bad ones.
Here’s a recent shot of Chicago, USA, one of just five pictures I took that night.
Skip the Trial and Error
So how can you avoid the errors I made and skip straight to the good stuff? That’s what my new series of regular guest posts is all about. The best and easiest way to get started is to get to know the difference between seeing and photographic seeing.
Next time you’re out experiencing something amazing, ask yourself if the experience can be captured photographically. In other words, can you imagine a picture sized rectangle around it? And if you can, would the experience still look good? This is seeing photographically, and unfortunately most of the time the answer is a resounding no. You can try this anywhere, and you don’t even need to bring a camera (but it’s better if you do).
Let me show you what I mean. Amidst Istanbul’s daytime crowds and chaos, I looked up and imagined a rectangle around the scene above me. I thought it would make a good photograph, but the shot was unbalanced because the daytime sky was too bright. I returned the following morning before sunrise (what can I say – I was jetlagged), and I ended up with a travel photo I’m happy with. I’ve always wanted to take travel photos like this, but I didn’t always know how.
About these guest posts
When I got my first digital camera I remember reading all I could about ISO, aperture, and what kind of expensive photography equipment I should buy. I realize now that it hardly made any difference at all, and it would have fallen into place anyways if I only knew how to take a half decent picture. With my ongoing series of guest posts here, I want to share the things I wish I knew then so that you can come home with the travel shots you want, far faster than I ever did.
I’m thrilled to be a regular contributor here at Go See Write. Thank you for reading, and thanks Michael for having me.
Ed Graham runs the travel photography website The Polar Route. He has photographed his way through 30+ countries over the last 6 years and counting. He plans to help simplify the often complicated process of photography so you can avoid the mistakes he has made and start taking better travel photos right now.