Remember the old joke about the dreaded invite over to see someone’s vacation photos? Well that scenario is long gone now that we see instant updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There was a good reason though for that dreaded invite and it is because the photos were usually boring. A cliche shot standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, a random photo of a famous landmark, or a photo of a famous piece of art in a museum is so over done that we have simply lost interest.
So what does make for more interesting travel photos? Having recently returned from Berlin I thought I would share a few of my images to illustrate five tips for taking better travel photos.
1.Shoot no matter what the weather. You never know what the weather will be like when you travel so get comfortable shooting in all conditions. We spent nine days in Berlin and it rained…EVERY…SINGLE…DAY! Seriously, over the nine days we were in Berlin the weather ranged from a steady light drizzle to a “cellular burst” that produced heavy rain and 70 MPH winds. Sadly, we found out the next day that two people were killed during the storm from falling trees. The sun finally came out late afternoon our last day there. At first I was really cranky that I wouldn’t be able to get any good shots of the city but actually some of my favorite images were taken in the rain. The photo below was me the entire time in Berlin. Everything I photographed was from under this umbrella.
Shooting the famous Brandenburg gate in the rain framed by all the colorful umbrellas and rain coats added some interest and color. I like the shot much better than if it was just a monument shot.
Another positive thing about an overcast or rainy day is that it can bring out architectural details that shadows from the sun often hide. I love the way the Cathedral dome stands out against the overcast sky. Putting a slim black boarder around the image helps it from getting lost on the page.
2. Get lost and wander. Since I had the luxury of being in Berlin for over a week and had no planned agenda, my husband and I spend hours each day just wandering through the city. Getting lost is a great opportunity to find interesting images that are not typical travel photos. Not every photo has to be a beautiful view or a well known landmark. There are post cards for that. Walk down alleys, sit at a cafe and people watch. Look for interesting colors or textures or an interesting juxtaposition. The photo below was really off the beaten path but had we not wandered I would never had seen this wall that really spoke to me. I love the color, the texture, the brick arch and that blue door!
Typical travel photo? No, visually interesting? Maybe not for you, but for me, yes.
I found this view compelling of the white building rising up over the graffiti covered plywood. Again, not a typical travel photo but I think it reflects the vibe of Berlin.
3. Shoot Inside. There was one day during our stay where the weather was truly frightening. It was down pouring rain all day and the winds were blowing so hard that parked motorcycles were flipping over. That day was definitely a museum day. There are so many interesting photo opportunities in museums but look for things to shoot besides the art work. I see so many people in a museum stand directly in front of a painting and pull out their phone. Are you there to see and experience the museum or to simply record the art work?
I took this image at the Natural History Museum as my husband was peering into the enormous “wet” specimen room.
I love this image of the beautiful architecture of the museum. This says more to me about the museum than had I simply just photographed a piece of art work.
4. Use people as props in your photo. Sometimes waiting around until a person walks into the frame is a perfect way to highlight the scale of something or add a human touch in the photo. The architecture of this new building becomes more impressive with the person in the photo.
This metal spiral staircase was not nearly as interesting without the people climbing the stairs.
5. Be open to the unexpected. You never know when a great photo opportunity will present itself. When traveling be sure to keep your photo radar turned on. Always be observant and when the unexpected happens be ready to grab the shot. I had no idea a man playing a guitar would be seated at the end of this underground tunnel and the purple light made it all that more mysterious.
I posted this image of a smoking bride on Facebook and it clearly was a favorite of all the images I posted. I had about ten seconds to get this shot and had I not been on alert it would have passed me by.
My final piece of advice is to shoot lots and lots of images. The more you shoot the better the chance you will have travel photos that everyone will like to see!
What do you like to photograph best when you travel?