HOW TO TAKE YOUR BEST TRAVEL PHOTOS
Photographs are my favourite souvenirs along with a stack of some well-used travel diaries. In years to come, I like the thought of having pretty pictures and faded, torn books filled with my own handwriting to look back on.
Documenting a trip is fun and fulfilling but you want it to look like it was you who did it. It's easy to see a stunning photo online and then be drawn to take a similar image for yourself but my most treasured photos are the ones that are different and are mine. In order for a photograph to be your souvenir, it has to have a unique stamp on it. Also, I find I only look back at photos so fondly if I believe they look somewhat professional (even though I am the one taking it) I don't want to remember special memories with bad photos!
The following are some photography skills I've learned along the way and suggestions on how to make your photos yours.
LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING
Lighting can either make or break a photograph. Harsh, direct sunlight can prevent a photo reaching its true potential and you might end up creating something you did not envision in your mind.
The best time of day to snap is during the Golden Hour. This is the hour before Sunset or shortly after Sunrise when the sun is low creating beautiful golden colours. Natural light is stunning! Try taking photos during Blue Hour when the sun has just set or yet to come up. The tones of colour are a mix of flattering pinks, soft blues and purples.
Early mornings are a stunning time of day to shoot film, it's quiet, the colours are warm and there are very little tourists around to get in the way of your photos.
Watching the sun fall inside Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
After sunset on the island Hvar, Croatia
MAKE IT INTERESTING
A great way to make to your photos different, unique and to find your own style of photography is playing with Shadows and Reflections.
For outdoors, depending on where the sun is positioned, interesting shadowed or silhouette images can be created. Next time you're out and about - walking, exploring, being mindful - concentrate, try and spot shadows and silhouettes around you. Also, try capturing yourself, other people or pretty scenery reflected on water.
If you're indoors, use a mirrored object to shoot a reflection or the window light to catch a shadow and capture a unique portrait.
Making shadows on the back of a Scooter in Pai, Thailand
'Reflecting' at the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque in Borneo
HAVE YOURSELF IN THE PHOTO
The most obvious way to make a souvenir photo an exclusive to you - is to have you in it. If you're always behind the camera, you will end up with dozens of images of scenery, nature, beaches, waterfalls (which is wonderful) but you won't have any of yourself!
As time passes I promise you will cherish the pictures most which have the element of you. You might think this is tricky travelling solo but there are lots of ways to take great travel photos of yourself.
Use a Selfie Stick with a GoPro. If you hide holding the stick in the shot, it will seem as if someone else took it. I shove my Selfie Stick in the sand at the beach and then act 'natural' to capture candid photos.
Use a Tripod that suits your camera then set the timer or have a remote control for it in hand. This way you can get your whole body in the photo as well as the surroundings. These two options are great because you can take as many as you like until you're satisfied with a perfect shot.
Only have part of you in the photo. A picture can still be unique and recognisable as yours with only some body parts in it. This way is great as you can take the photo on your own very discreetly!
Ask someone to take your photo. Don't be shy, you will never see them again and I've found the majority of people I've asked are polite and willing to help. Try and ask someone who is also taking photos or carrying an expensive camera. The chances are they will know how to take a decent photograph and they won't want to steal yours!
Taken with my GoPro Hero 4 & a short Selfie Stick in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia
Changing an angle of a photograph can be really fun, interesting and done in loads of different ways! Personally, I love using my GoPro for this - with its wide-lens, the choice of angles are endless.
Try getting photos from above the subject - this means getting higher and looking down on whatever you're shooting. Or you could reverse and get lower and shoot whats above making the subject taller and more striking.
Get crouching, experiment by getting low, sometimes all the way to the floor, capturing an object/animal/person extremely close up, this will dramatise and detail the subject and have an effect on the surroundings. I've also found myself lying flat on the ground taking photos completely vertical and straight (like the opposite of a bird's eye view)
Here in the Karri Forrest, Western Australia, I'm crouching!
GoPro's ARE NOT JUST FOR VIDEOS
When I get asked or complimented regarding my travel photos, 7 times out of 10 it's a photo I've taken with my GoPro! But I've not actually taken it - it's been grabbed or screen-shotted from a video through the GoPro App. This is when I've gone back and watched a video I've filmed, then captured and saved a single frame by pausing at the right moment.
The videos are such high quality, these single frames of unplanned moments make stunning photos. These pictures are so vibrant and special because most of the time when you're filming or being filmed you're not posing, you're acting natural, making the shots truly candid.
Snapping photos this way also makes great action shots, if you want photos of you surfing, jumping, diving, cartwheeling, somersaulting, back-flipping, cycling, running - anything involving a moving activity, then film it on a GoPro and grab the photos later.
From a GoPro Video: Belize Barrier Reef
From a GoPro Video: Island of Bohol in the Philippines
ENHANCE & EDIT
I love to edit my photographs! The basics are to make it either lighter / brighter if the image is too dark then concentrating on making the colours stand out and the picture more vibrant. It's also fun to tone down the image, making it faded and haunting. It's really up to yourself what to do and how to create something different.
You don't need a set goal in what the image should look like, just have fun in experimenting with different edits & creating lots of pictures! It doesn't have to be complicated either - I just use Instagram to edit my photos then enhance them using an app called Fotor!
FOREVER BUILD SHOTS IN YOUR HEAD
If for whatever reason I can't use my camera or smartphone at a certain time and see something beautiful and different, I frame it inside my head and think 'that would make a great photo'. Try and practice this technique and you will find the skill of 'having the eye for it' will grow and you will be able to build and frame shots inside your head easily.
Use Instagram for inspiration and follow photographers that inspire you. Get off the beaten track after you've shot what you planned on shooting and start photographing something different. When you wander, you will find that there are so much more images waiting to be captured.
TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES
I don't claim to be a professional photographer or how to use super fancy cameras but I still have photos I'm proud of. That's because I take a lot of pictures going through life! I'm just constantly snapping away, usually discreetly, sometimes not so much, but that's basically my main skill!
If you have a large collection of photos, chances are you have a caught quite a few special ones! During my travels, I make sure I always have either my iPhone or camera on me so I don't miss capturing special (and usually once in a lifetime) moments, and then before I put my photos on my hard drive, I go through them all and delete the bad ones.
Taking as many photos as you like is a great way to practice the tips and techniques I've written about above.
But remember the most important part of any journey is enjoying yourself to the fullest and being in the present moment, so if you're not feeling inspired or motivated, just go out and have fun and leave shooting until another day.