First published on TripZilla, in collaboration with Canon.
Ah, the quintessential essence of travel photos in our social-media-saturated lives. Because the all-important question is – if you didn’t share any photos of where you’ve been, did you even travel at all?
The problem is, many a time we end up with awkward/badly positioned photos that fall short of what we’ve previously envisioned in our minds. If you’ve often found yourself frustrated with the way your photos turn out, save yourself the headache and arm yourself with these 20 tips (sans all that technical jargon) that’ll help you take better travel photos worthy of all your friends’ envy.
1. Follow the ‘Rule of Thirds’
You might have heard of this before – rule of… what? For the uninitiated, this is how the ‘Rule of Thirds’ works:
Placing the subject on the intersecting line allows you to have ⅔ landscape + ⅓ subject, which showcases the backdrop whilst still drawing viewers’ attention to the subject.
If your spatial awareness and dissection isn’t up to par (don’t worry, we found this division of lines a little hard to imagine as well), most cameras come with a function that allow you to impose a grid! These lines have an auto level function as well, and help ensure that you take balanced photos.
2. Make use of the foreground
We often focus on having a great backdrop for our pictures, but what about the foreground? Placing the camera on the floor can introduce a sense of elevation, and provides an interesting perspective for your photo.
It’s best to look for cameras with a hardy exterior so that they won’t scratch easily. This will give you the freedom (and ease of mind) to place your camera on the floor or on a rocky surface to capture such a shot!
3. Create a sense of depth
Make your photos three-dimensional by introducing a sense of depth. Having a subject in the foreground (preferably one that is out-of-focus) makes the photo more dynamic and pretty much helps the composition come alive.
For example, introducing the object of interest in the foreground shows viewers that the view is something that can be seen right in front of you, rather than an enlarged shot taken with a powerful zoom lens.
4. Capture candid moments
Posed photos are so yesterday. During your travels, pay attention to the people around you; it’s always best to capture interaction in its natural form. Many candid photos contain an emotive aspect, and allows viewers to mentally live the moment in which the photo was captured.
5. Be careful of corners
THIS is something that many photographers, us included, often cry foul at. Imagine taking lots of gorgeous photos, only to find that pesky little finger in almost every shot but one. Our advice to you? Be careful of corners. And keep those fingers in check!
6. Use human props to make your photos more relatable
Using humans as props adds personality to a photo, and shows that you’ve actually been there (even better if the person in the photo is you!). This even goes an extra mile to show viewers that hey if this person has done it, so can they!
7. Use something (or humans) to show scale
It’s often hard to show how large (or how small!) an object really is in a photo. Using something as comparison often serves to bridge this gap and gives viewers a sense of the object’s size. Both landscape and portrait photos work for this, although portrait photos will capture more of the object.
8. Look out for symmetry
Symmetry is naturally pleasing to the human eye. We take kindly to symmetrical set-ups, rendering the innate OCD inclination within us shivering with pleasure. Take note of your surroundings and see if you can spot any symmetrical layouts; they’d make for aesthetically satisfying pictures.
9. Frame the object of interest
Just like how photo frames provide a nice framing aspect to any photograph, there’s no reason as to why this can’t be brought out in the photo itself. The trick is to create a natural frame around the object/subject that you’re trying to portray; this gives the photo a sense of depth (see tip three), and gives viewers some background context of the shot.
To make things clearer: a simple photo of the signboard VS two people looking at the signboard in satisfaction after a long hard climb. In simple terms, framing also helps to tell a story.
10. Experiment with angles
The beauty of photography lies in its mobility; the photographer has the freedom to move around and try different angles. Explore your boundaries; taking an aerial shot or a down-up shot will suggest a different dimension to the photo. In this instance, this angle also gave the photo a three-dimensional feel.
Choosing a camera with a quick shutter speed helps with this, as it allows you to quickly capture the moment without much fuss or lag time.
11. Zoom in on the small details
Don’t be too carried away with capturing the bigger picture that you forget about the minute details. Look down and spot curved tree stumps, a cluster of mushrooms hidden away from the light or a troop of ants scurrying towards their anthill.
Take advantage of your camera’s macro function to capture these details in high-speed clarity.
12. Be creative and inject some humour
Be creative and inject some humour into your shots! Some angling and careful adjustment of posture can result in some pretty hilarious photos, i.e. this one of someone ‘hanging on precariously’ to a sheer rock face.
When, in fact, all she got were rock imprints on her hands and sore cheeks from gritting her teeth.
13. Play with the settings on your camera
See that ‘Scene’ toggle on your camera? However unassuming, this function is actually the rabbit hole to a whole new world of photo possibilities – you can employ ‘Vivid Mode’ (for a more vibrant overtone), Star Mode (for taking pictures of dazzling starscapes) or even the ‘Miniature Effect’ which gives a magical overlay.
In this case, the ‘Miniature Effect’ helped us transform our subject into a little woodland creature, and impose an ephemeral mood.
14. Introduce leading lines
The insertion of leading lines are a good gauge of distance; these lines gradually converge, giving an indication of lateral space. These lines help to draw and lead viewer’s attention, introducing a dynamic dimension as the viewer’s eyes move along the lines in the photo. This gives a good indication to the journey that lies ahead.
15. Ensure that heads don’t adhere to the horizon line
Having the horizon cut across heads not only dissects the scene, it also provides a distraction from the main focus of the photo. This comes in especially handy when taking group shots!
16. Stagger group shots
The trick for taking group shots is to gather all of the people towards the centre of the photo. If you have a large group, make sure to stagger your people; taller ones at the back, shorter ones in the front. It helps if you use something to prop up the people at the back, in this case, we got some people to stand on the steps of the van. One thing to keep in mind is that people don’t like to be kept waiting, so have the above in mind and quickly get people in frame!
17. The best photos are those that you have to work for
Nothing comes easy in life, and neither do good travel photos. Be it crouching down, lying on the floor, or climbing up structures to get that aerial angle, you gotta work if you want to capture that perfect shot.
18. Always have your camera in an easily accessible location
Precious moments pass by in a flash. Your friends will only explode in raucous laughter in response to a bad joke for a couple of seconds, and that elusive rainbow might disappear back behind clouds any minute.
Always have your camera in an accessible location so that you can whip it out and instantly capture these priceless moments! Look for a camera that is compact and sleek, one that can easily fit into the pocket of your jacket or trousers.
19. Have your photos tell a story
After all, travel photos aren’t just for showing off. Use them to tell a story, so that you can look back and relive those moments all over again and again and again. Plus, the storytelling will help provide some much-needed context for viewers.
20. Practice makes perfect
And yes, practice does make perfect! Bring your camera out wherever you go and give those angles a whirl. The world is your playground, so feel free to play around with the various functions and experiment with different perspectives. Also, like it or not, there are going to be tons of people in your shot no matter where you go. One way to get around this is to get up in the wee hours of the morning, no matter how painful it may be, and get to where you want to shoot BEFORE everyone else gets there. The end result? Absolutely worth it.
If you’re looking for a travel camera, we highly recommend the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II. Not only does it take stellar travel photos, it’s equipped with a multitude of functions – Low Light Mode, Star Mode, Miniature Effect, Burst Mode… You name it, it has got it! What we loved most about it was its compact body; we could carry it around easily everywhere we went.
Besides, we can’t emphasise this enough – always bring EXTRA BATTERIES!
You don’t want to be high up in the mountains or deep in the desert and have your camera die on you halfway. Trust us, they’re a total lifesaver. The Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II also comes with a wireless Bluetooth function, which will allow you to seamlessly transfer photos to your phone and upload them on the go! Plus, the camera has slip-proof grips, which came in really handy for butter-fingered photographers like us.
Are you ready to go out there and take great travel photos? Dare to experiment and we guarantee that you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the result.