Smart smartphone cameras and Instagram likes may have tricked us all into thinking we’re expert travel photographers, but the first time most of us are finally taking the leap to the real deal using real cameras – potentially even in a professional capacity – we quickly learn that Instagram filters don’t make the photographer. Professional cameras, whether film, DSLR or mirrorless cameras, require much more technical and practical knowledge, as well as the ability to recognize and capture a great shot.
To that end, we’re looking at a few things budding photographers can do to up their travel photography game. You have to have the right tools, the right know-how and a lot of practice.
Starter gear for travel photography
A key thing to consider when it comes to travel photography is that while your intention should always be to pack as little as possible, the need for photography equipment is diametrically opposed to that goal. Sometimes you’ll come across those top shooters whose job requires them to lug around a suitcase full of expensive and flimsy lenses and equipment, but for your average person just trying to get a solid item or a shot of quality, you don’t need a lot.
Get an easy-to-use quality camera and a versatile lens or two. We’ll get into the lenses a bit below, but suffice it to say that you need to be able to take both well-framed shots and wider angles for landscapes and more expansive street views.
The Nikon Z50 is a good choice for beginners because it takes great photos without requiring an abundance of expertise. It’s not a perfect camera, but for its relatively low price, it offers everything you need to take quality photos and learn how to do so. The main issue with Nikon’s Z series is that they require you to use one of a fairly narrow range of their Nikkor brand lenses. Luckily, the company has released an adapter that opens that up a bit. Also, if you stick to the one or two lens rule, you don’t need a lot of choices.
The lens or lenses you’ll need depends on the specifics of what you’re working on, but generally speaking you want what’s called a “primary” lens for everyday street shots and a Any wide lens to capture the city and landscapes. A 35mm lens is a popular choice for prime because it offers a fairly intermediate sized frame to work with, as well as the superb photo quality you can only get with a prime lens. For wide shots, a lens that adjusts between 14 and 30mm can be a great travel option as it can open up for wide angles and zoom in for closer detail, giving a single lens a lot of versatility. objective.
An alternative to ultra-light gear is the Moment series of lenses that attach to a specific smartphone case. They greatly expand your phone’s photo capabilities without taking up much space in your bag.
Basic travel photography skills
There are a million camera techniques and functions that you will learn for the rest of your life, but to get started there are really only a few key things you need to understand: aperture, shutter speed, ISO and lighting. The first three are settings you control through your camera, and the last will mostly be a matter of sunlight conditions when it comes to travel photography.
Aperture is the size of the lens opening that lets light into your camera. Shutter speed determines how long light will be allowed through that lens aperture. ISO is the sensitivity to light. How you combine these factors – and under what lighting conditions – will determine the outcome of your photo.
Ultimately, learning how the three parameters interact is largely a matter of practice. A free video course that explains the use of these settings with the greatest clarity is Chris Bray’s 10-Part Beginner Photography Series on YouTube.
Frame your travel photos
In the most general sense, travel photos tend to be wide shots showing landscapes, tall buildings or monuments, or street scenes. Your goal in these cases should be to figure out which perspective will provide the most unique look at what you’re trying to capture, and how you can frame things in a way that elicits some emotion in the viewer. The more you practice, the more you’ll find that it doesn’t always mean going with a vast landscape.
A generic shot of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, for example, might not do much for the viewer. But if you get close to it and take a photo of it looming upward, it can give a more dramatic sense of scale.
Framing is a skill that can take a lot of practice and experimentation, but few things will get you out and exploring a destination like trying to figure out the best way to photograph it.
The best places to practice travel photography
This list is endless. Literally anywhere and everywhere is the perfect place to take pictures. That being said, there are a few destinations renowned for their photographic quality and offering relatively easy access to an abundance of variety to experiment with.
Epic natural areas like Moab, Banff or Oaxaca, for example, can offer a wide variety of conditions in a short amount of time and space – crazy geological opportunities everywhere within a short distance – and plenty of opportunities to play with the light at different times of the day. You will definitely want to have your wide-angle lens handy in these places.
On the other hand, renowned urban spaces like New York, Paris, Bangkok and Istanbul are a photographer’s dream. There’s so much going on all the time that you can’t help but stumble upon something interesting to photograph. Always have your main objective at hand.
But when all is said and done, with the right light and framing, you can make any place look beautiful, or at least interesting. It all comes down to practice, both in terms of learning the technical aspects of your camera and understanding how to compose photos. The more you practice and experiment, the more you will produce quality photos and develop your own style.
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