Taking photos while traveling is a wonderful way to capture the essence of your journey, and will bring the memories of those places back for years to come.
You don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to capture great travel images, although if you have one, by all means, use it! Compact cameras or smartphones are sometimes the better choice for travelers, as they take up far less space in your luggage, and are a good deal lighter to carry around all day.
This article has some tips and advice for maximizing your chances of taking great-looking shots on your travels. Of course, you could always take some photography classes for beginners too.
Slow Down and Look Around
We’re all guilty of rushing around without really seeing what’s happening around us. While you are out taking photos on your journeys, try slowing down and looking at the scene around you. Let the action unfold, and just observe until you see something worth capturing with your camera.
Interact With the Locals – and Capture it
Try talking to some interesting-looking locals if you speak their language or if they speak English, and ask if you can take some photos of them while you chat with them. If you buy something from a market stall or buy some street food, ask if they mind you taking photos as they prepare your goods.
Something as simple as human interaction can create the most amazing photos.
Stay Calm and Don’t be Afraid
When you’re out and about shooting in a different country, it can seem a bit daunting, but don’t be afraid. If you ask to take someone’s photo and they say ‘no’, respect their choice and don’t get angry about it. Staying calm, patient, and cheerful helps a lot with street photography!
One thing you should do before you leave home is to check what the public photography laws are in the country you are traveling to. Many countries have variations on what street photography is allowed, so it’s wise to know the laws before you get your camera out. If you take photos where it’s illegal, at best you may be challenged, at worst you could be arrested.
Be Polite and Respect Local Customs
This follows from the point above, about respecting people. If you are going to take photos in a religious country, please make sure you don’t disrespect the people by going where you’re not meant to go, or touching things you’re not meant to touch. Dressing appropriately at religious sites is also a respectful thing to do, even if you’re not religious.
If you want to take photos of a local family out shopping or eating, for example, ask if it’s ok first. Put yourself in their position – would you like a stranger from a different country to walk up to you and your family without speaking and just start taking photos?
Go off the Beaten Track
Although you might want to get some of the usual tourist shots, you will get some really unique ones if you take the road less traveled. Go to obscure local markets or bazaars, explore, and ask the locals where the best unknown places are to go.
Change Your Focus
Try and mix up the focus of your images. Don’t just have all photos that only focus on a close-up of a person or ones that only focus on the whole street scene. The shallow depth of field is great, but not on every single photo. When you’re wandering the streets looking for good shots, take the background into consideration too.
Set Yourself a Challenge: Shoot a Specific Theme, Color, or Action
If you get bored of shooting the same old street scenes, and you want to shake things up a bit, try shooting a specific thing, such as a theme, color, or action. For instance, you could try shooting people on bicycles as a theme, or only things that are yellow, or people dancing as an action.
Don’t Over Think
Many a good shot has been missed or ruined by overthinking. Sometimes it’s better to go with the flow and let your instincts take over. If your instincts tell you to take the shot – do it! It’s when you hesitate because logic tells you that it won’t be a good shot or perfectly in focus that you lose out.
Practice Makes Perfect
Before you leave, take some time to photograph the people and streets that you know. This will give you a chance to get to know your camera settings, which will come in useful – if you are familiar with your camera, you can frame a shot and shoot it quickly without having to fumble around with the settings and risk missing the shot.
Spend some time editing your photos – try to crop them, turn them black and white, improve colors or apply some presets and filters. But don’t overdo it – remember, street photography is about emotions and atmosphere, not flawlessness and perfection. If you shoot with your camera, try shooting in Raw format – it will collect more data. Keep in mind, that for opening Raw files you will need a photo editor which can process Raw files, like Luminar, Lightroom, free GIMP, etc. If you shoot with your phone, take advantage of built-in or third-party photo-editing apps as well.
A good exercise is to try shooting in your hometown. It will give you confidence, and help you learn the best time of day to shoot, and how to improve your composition and framing. It will give you experience in shooting busy street scenes too, as a trial run for when you are traveling.
Read also: Top 5 Travel Photography Tips