Capital Photography Center | Photography Classes in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia

Travel Tips for Photographers

June 13, 2012 by Marie Joabar

Summer’s here and for many that means vacations and travel. Wherever you’re going, chances are you’ll come home with a few souvenirs and memory cards full- proof that you enjoyed every minute.

The first consideration when traveling is deciding WHAT camera equipment to take and then, HOW you’re going to take it.

What gear to take.  For compact camera owners, it’s simple enough to throw your camera case with an extra battery and memory card into your carry-on, pack the battery charger and manual in your suitcase.  SLR camera users have more decisions to make starting with which lenses to take, whether or not to take your tripod and how you’re going to carry it all. Ask yourself what you intend to photograph while on your trip and let your answer dictate what to bring.

  • If your itinerary includes beautiful views and vistas, you’ll want your wide angle lens but don’t forget about the telephoto for candid shots or close-ups of any interesting finds.
  • If you have lenses or accessories that you rarely use when you photograph at home, ask yourself if you’ll really use them on your trip. (Chances are, you won’t so leave them home.)
  • Any combination of lenses ranging from 18mm to 200mm would cover most of what one would shoot on a typical vacation. (However, below 18mm is great for extreme wide angle shots, and longer than 200mm is good for wildlife and birding.)
  • Include a circular polarizing filter for your outdoor, sunny day shots to help reduce glare allowing richer saturation and crisp images. These are also useful to take the reflections off water or storefront windows.
  • Extra batteries, the charger, and memory cards… don’t leave home without them.

How to carry your gear.  Some people use one case to get their gear to their destination and another once they get there. This is especially true when flying.

  • Carry-on bags with wheels are a huge help for getting around in airports and it’s better to carry on your gear rather than check it.
  • Once at your vacation spot, consider a backpack, a holster bag or some other easy way to move around with your gear. If it’s heavy and uncomfortable to carry, it becomes a ball and chain so give this a lot of thought.
  • Depending on where you are going, be street smart and try not to use a bag that announces to the world that you’ve got a camera.
  • Tripods are challenging. (I usually wrap clothing around each leg and then sandwich it in between more clothes in my checked bag. Fingers are crossed the whole time that it’s not damaged from the delicate handling of the baggage people.)

Once you arrive it’s time to start shooting.  Hopefully you’ve done a bit of research before your trip so you have an idea of things or places you’d like to shoot and where they are. But don’t plan out every detail, sometimes the best opportunities come along when we least expect or plan for them.

Tips for better travel and vacation photos;

  • Everything looks better when it’s bathed in the warm, early morning or late afternoon sun so plan your best shots for that time.
  • The middle of a sunny day is when the light is the most harsh with a lot of contrast and dark shadows. Use this time to shoot subjects indoors, scout out areas, enjoy lunch or just rest instead of photographing in the hard light of mid-day.
  • Take advantage of cloudy days for the even light and ‘mood’ they provide.
  • Most buildings look better in sun than in shade so determine the direction they face and shoot them sunlit.
  • Include people in some of your scenes for local color and interest.
  • If you’re shooting close-ups or portraits of people, they’ll look better in shade where they won’t have dark shadows in their eye sockets or under their chin. If they’re in the sun, use a bit of fill-flash to open up the darker shadow areas.
  • When photographing your husband, wife or friend in front of a landmark, place them off to the side of the frame and compose showing the upper half of their body with the landmark behind them. The focus point should be on them, not the landmark.
  • Look for pictures within pictures. Work an area; take a photo of the entire scene, then move to a different spot and see what the view from that vantage point looks like. Zoom in close, shoot up, shoot down, move around. There are many photos in a scene all for the taking if we just move around and zoom in and out.
  • No one knows an area better than those that live there. Talk to the locals – they may help you discover a hidden gem off the beaten track.

Storing and or backing up your images.  Before you leave on your trip, have a plan, here are some options;

  • Take a laptop and an external hard drive.
  • Purchase a storage device such as the Epson P3000, P5000 or P7000 which let you download your images and view them as well – no laptop needed.
  • Buy several large capacity memory cards and save downloading until you return home (use care that these are not lost, stolen or damaged if there is no back up).

Once home download, back up and enjoy the memories. Look through your images, pick out your favorites and from the rest, learn what you could have done different or better for the next trip.