Since it is Memorial Day and most of us consider this day the official start of summer (though my kids, who have school until the middle of June, would beg to differ), I thought it would be a great time to share some tips on photographing while traveling. By no means am I world traveler. I haven’t even left the continent. However, I have seen my share of this great country and have learned a few things along the way. The tips I share today, I have used on even the simplest trips. Whether it be a two week excursion through Europe (hope to do before I am 50) or a weekend at the summer cottage, being able to look back at past vacations and all the great pictures is priceless.
1. Do a Little Research
Now don’t get carried away. I’m not talking about writing a term paper here. However, if you’re traveling to lands never seen before, it doesn’t hurt to have a game plan. Check out a few travel guides and make a quick list of everything you would like to see. Fodor’s is always a great resource for gathering information on every destination you can imagine. Once you know what you want to see, then the picture taking becomes that much easier.
2. Memory, Memory and Then Some More Memory
Did I get my point across? You can never have enough memory cards. They are so reasonable in price that it doesn’t make sense not to stock up. Instead of purchasing a 32GB card and fitting all your vacation pictures on that one card, I would suggest bringing a few smaller cards (8GB or 16GB). It’s a little tip I picked up while starting off in the wedding business. What happens if a card goes missing or becomes corrupt? Now, what happens if that one particular card has every picture you took on it? Trouble!
If you are like me and shoot in RAW and use your camera’s video capabilities once in awhile, a larger card is essential. I would just stress, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Share the love among your memory cards.
With that said, we live in a wonderful world of digital, don’t be afraid to fill those cards. Now, realize that with every picture you take that is one more image you will have to view later. However, if you’re on a once in a lifetime trip, then it will be well worth your time. I also suggest you don’t delete as you go. Those image displays on cameras are rather small and what you are viewing might not be so bad once it’s on a larger screen. Sometimes you might even find the focus of your picture didn’t come out, but you were able to capture something else.
3. Pack Lightly, Yet Wisely
Be sure you are packing what you need and leaving all the access equipment home. Packing lightly is critical, especially when you are being charged up to $150 for a checked bag on the airlines. I would be sure to bring along two lenses with the camera, a wide angle and a telephoto. If you have a point and shoot, your set.
Don’t forget your battery charger and if you have one, an extra battery. There’s nothing worse than seeing that flashing red battery icon, when in the middle of taking breathtaking photos. It would really stink to miss out on amazing photos on the account of no power.
4. Photograph the Details
It’s great to get those pictures that encompass your entire surroundings. However, it’s even better when your pictures can tell a story. Be sure to really get in there and photograph the details. The food you ate, the people you met, all the sites you experienced. The goal is to be brought back to that particular moment in time, once you view your pictures.
5. You Don’t Always Have to Strike a Pose
Posed pictures are nice, but action shots are so much better. Capture all the fun and adventure on your vacation. Standing in front of a monument is a nice documentation of your travels, but also be creative. Your pictures will be more interesting and they will remind you and show others what a great time your trip was.
6. Enjoy a Sunrise or Sunset
These are the best times of day to photograph. It is also a great time to sit, relax and enjoy nature’s light show. I don’t often get a chance, but when I’m vacationing in Michigan, I’ll take at least one morning and wake up before sunrise and grab the camera. Before the kids wake up and we’re off enjoying the day, I’ll take a little time to enjoy the peacefulness of a sunrise. At times, I’ll have a little fun of my own.
My family always enjoys a good sunset. When in Michigan we’ll head over to the beach and say goodnight to the sun. There is always a crowd awaiting the same event. The best part is when the sun finally dips under the horizon and the crowd applauds. It reminds me to slow down and really appreciate the simple things in life.
7. Beware of Stranger Danger
This is not what you think, though I do warn that we should always be aware of our surroundings and those that surround us. For this particular tip, I am warning you to be careful when asking a stranger to take your picture. We have all been there. Trying to get a picture with friends or family and we ask a passerby to help with the shot. We have it in our heads of what we would like the picture to look like. We are usually standing in front of a spectacular view or a magnificent landmark. Before digital, it was always quite tragic to get that roll of film back and see that your breathtaking background had been completely cropped out of the picture. We can all breath a sigh of relief, now that there is digital. We’re able to peek at that display and make sure our “helper’ didn’t screw up.
Another suggestion is to compose the shot the way you would like it and position your “fill-in” photographer exactly where you want them. It sounds a bit bossy, but it will save you a little time, not having to take and retake the picture.
If all else fails you can always use your camera’s timer. It’s a little challenging at times to find a place to set your camera. However, when you do, the results can be quite nice.
8. Get in the Thick of It
Sometimes we have no choice, but to sit on the sidelines and take pictures. However, there are those times when we are given the opportunity to get in the middle of the action. Now, we always have to evaluate the situation and make sure that we are not putting ourselves, others or our camera in harms way. Breaking your camera or worse yet your neck, will definitely put a damper on any vacation. Be smart, have fun, and take great pictures.
9. Pass the Camera Off
I am guilty of this, all the time. I am so busy taking pictures that I forget to be in any of them. My children are going to grow up wondering why I didn’t join in on all the great moments in their lives. As much fun as it is to be the photographer in the family, at times you will have to pass that camera off and be in a picture. You might not like how it was taken or how you looked in the picture, but it’s proof you were there and was having fun, too!
10. Be Kind to Family and Friends
If you are anything like me, it is not a difficult task to return home from a trip with hundreds of pictures. You might think that every single one of those shots is a work of art, but believe me, not too many people are going to want to view all those pictures. If you decide to print pictures, create a book, or use a share site, make sure to put a collection of pictures together that isn’t repetitive and really encompasses your trip. Your family and friends will thank you for sharing such amazing photos and allowing them to do that in a short amount of time.
So, happy travels. Be safe and enjoy preserving those memories!