In Search Of The Perfect Photo

2nd December 2011

Whether you’re travelling abroad for fun or work, capturing the essence of the location in a great picture can bring the trip alive for those at home. However, there are some practical aspects which need to be considered when you take your camera and equipment with you on your travels.

Hannah Tomlinson, Product Marketing Manager at Serif, offers five top tips to help you along the way if you’re off somewhere exotic.

Do your research

One of the most important things you should do before embarking on your trip abroad is some thorough research. It’s essential to know where you’ll be going and what to expect when you get there. Search online, or ask friends and fellow photographers who have already visited the place where you’re heading. If you have good primary knowledge of a place, and respect the local people and their customs and religious beliefs then you will find it lots easier to take photographs in a much more personal environment, instead of always being an outsider. An awareness of the culture can prove to be very useful especially in countries where photography is seen as intrusive, for example, or in countries where it can be considered disrespectful to photograph women.

Another complexity is the photographing of children – it really is recommended to seek consent before taking pictures to avoid difficult situations. If you feel that a child is a little uneasy about having their photo taken, it is a good idea to show him or her your camera first and let them have a look at the photographs – this way they feel comfortable and you’re more likely to take a natural shot.

Keep it light

We all know how difficult it is to keep to the specified baggage allowance, especially when you want to take all your favourite camera accessories with you – ‘just in case’. However, it’s not always possible to take every lens, camera or tripod under the sun with you. You just need the essentials, and you can minimise the amount of photographic equipment you pack quite simply.

That said, even if you’re a beginner or inexperienced photo-grapher, you should think about taking two high quality digital cameras plus a travel tripod. The second camera is not entirely essential, of course, but it’s handy if your first camera breaks half way through your trip. Remember always to keep spare batteries on you, with a charger, alongside extra memory cards.

More advanced photographers and professionals often take two digital SLR cameras – paired with wide angle and telephoto zoom lenses, plus a travel tripod, spare batteries and memory cards. If you’re serious, this is the way to go.

Where to go

In order to make the most of your trip, it’s a good idea to think in advance about where you want to visit and take photographs. Spontaneity sometimes creates the best pictures, but if you’re limited for time, making a list of famous landmarks, buildings or the best place for a sunset or sunrise would put you in good stead for your trip. However, don’t automatically rely on the guidebooks – however useful – because it is also helpful to speak with locals, tour guides and fellow travellers about where the best places are; they could provide insights into places that the books may not know about or mention.

When to photograph

When you arrive, don’t start snapping away immediately, but take some time to look around to consider the light, angles and when the best time of day is to shoot. A famous landmark or building may be surrounded by tourists throughout the day, especially at lunchtime, but if you revisit the same location later at night or earlier the following morning, you could produce a completely different photograph. Plus, if you’re hoping to take landscape shots, remember to wake up early as photographic light is at its optimum at sunrise and sunset. Pack an alarm clock!

Keep it safe

Keeping your camera and equipment safe while you’re away is a must, whether it’s protecting them from weather conditions, or from opportunist thieves.

Shielding your camera from the elements is straightforward – invest in a hard wearing, waterproof case that will protect your camera from all types of weather, whether it’s sweltering heat or torrential rain.

To keep your equipment completely safe, though, make sure the case is lockable – and when you’re travelling by bus, train or plane always keep your kit with you. Don’t leave it unsupervised in the baggage hold or even the luggage racks, however close you’re sitting. You’ll end up worrying about its whereabouts, and in the unfortunate event of it going missing, you will be without camera, equipment and, probably, all the photos you’ve already taken.

It’s also a good idea to consider making your camera bag look a little more beaten, so it’s less attention grabbing. Plus, always remember to ensure your clips are done up, with all the pockets zipped and even locked. In a crowd it can be very hard to notice light fingers on your backpack. That’s why it’s really important to make sure you have travel insurance, even if your trip is only for a short period.

Now you’re all ready to go…

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