Part of the joy of traveling is getting lost behind my camera and seeing things that others do not see. I see the details. I feel the moment in a very special way behind the lens of my camera. The world slows down, I feel my breath steady, and everything gets quiet.
I experience a few seconds of stillness as the world outside of my lens fades away.
These past few years, we've traveled almost nonstop through the United States and through Turkey. We've documented most of it, and we want to share our very favorite travel photography tips and tricks.
1. Download Lightroom
Lightroom is a powerful photo editor for desktop that many professionals use. You can now download the app on your phone to organize and edit your photos. You can also photograph in RAW through the Lightroom app.
What I love the most is that I can import all of the settings that I've installed onto my desktop program. This makes editing sync across your mobile and desktop device for a more unified and cohesive look.
2. Do Not Over Edit
Yes, do edit your pictures! Fix your white balance if necessary, pump up the colors (especially if you shoot in raw), and create a cohesive look across all your images. There does become a point where images are over edited. Teeth whiter than snow, pore-less skin, and an absence of any wrinkles looks fake and cringey. When people cannot trust your images, they will struggle to trust your stories. Keep your images looking real.
Real life is beautiful. Age means you've lived, and that is beautiful.
3. Use the Rule of Thirds
When composing your photograph, use the rule of thirds. Mentally overlay a 9-grid across your scene. Align the subject of your scene across one of the gridlines. This mathematical concept improves the look of your image.
Also while composing your image, check that no random tree branches or light poles come out of a person's head or side of their body. Things like this add distracting lines and make the image less enjoyable to the viewer.
4. Check Your Lighting
Harsh lighting makes for a harsh feeling in your photo. Sometimes this is exactly what you want for the mood of your photograph. Typically the most pleasing light is at sunrise or sunset. You can also create it by putting your subject in open shade. Speckled and streaked light across a person's face is very distracting and not flattering. Often, just by turning the person in a different direction or moving a few steps left or right will fix the problem.
5. Choose Lens Type
If you specifically want a lens for your DSLR camera, the best place to start is a 50mm lens. This lens gives a human eye view perspective on a scene. From there, you can start building on different styles of lenses for what you specifically want. Starting with a 50mm lens trains your eye to what your camera sees.
Just for reference, most cell phone cameras have this (or something close to it) as their default.
6. Go Early but Don't Be Afraid
If you plan to visit an attraction, go early. Visit natural places at sunrise. Visit museums the minute they open. Go during the week when others are working. Go during off-season. This strategy will allow you to photograph an attraction with the fewest number of visitors as possible in your image.
If you are unable to use this strategy, do not shy away from taking an image. Photograph with people in your scene. Some of my most favorite images have locals in my photograph, and their faces make the image so much better. Your eyes will connect with theirs, and your photograph will take on a different tone.
7. Organize Your Photos
If you wait until the end of your trip to organize your photos, you will lose track of where you took each image. Trust me, especially for longer trips. Figure out what works for you and stick to it.
Here is what I do to stay organized. I personally prefer to shoot on my DSLR camera. Each night, when I return to the hotel room, I empty my memory card onto an external hard drive. I organize my files by Year -> Numbered Month -> City or Event. Within that last folder I have two more folders, raw files and jpgs. The jpgs are the files after I edit on my computer. If I spend a lot of time in one city and shoot extensively at location one, two, three, etc, then I would add those under the City folder.
It may not work for everyone, but this is how I have found my brain works and it helps me keep locations separate. I stay pretty organized and am able to go back and find an image pretty quickly.
I empty the memory card and am all prepped for the next day of shooting.
8. Empty and Edit Quickly
When images sit on your phone or on your memory card for days, weeks, and then months, you will most likely forget about them. Then when you remember, you'll start to feel dread over the entire process of editing and using your photographs. it is a little bit like that unopened Tupperware in the back of your fridge. You think, "I'll get to it later," then you don't. Then it turns into a questionable beast that makes you question your life choices.
Photographs should be a joy. Don't let them turn into a beast.
If you follow the advice above about organizing your images after each day of touring and adventuring, then they should be divided up into manageable size portions. You might even have enough time after each day to quickly edit them even while on your trip. If not, then you will already have them divided up so that you can tackle editing when you return home.
9. Print Your Images
Call me old-school. Call me old-fashioned. Images were not meant to get lost in a camera roll. You experienced something amazing on your travels, and you should see that. You can choose to get your photograph printed and framed, put on a canvas, or tell a story through a coffee table book. Any of these will keep your memories of your travels alive.