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5 Photography Techniques to Try on Your Next Vacation

Have you booked your next getaway? Looking to ensure you get some killer photographs to make your friends jealous? What better way to improve your photography education than by combining it with a vacation? Whether you are visiting an iconic city like New York or the barren landscape of the Moroccan desert.

These 5 photography techniques, will ensure you not only get some WOW shots but also help you to get a fresh perspective on some iconic landmarks.

Japanese temple in Hawaii. Here I used framing with the tree to add depth to this shot.

#1 – How to avoid tourists in popular locations

Change your perspective.

One of the biggest challenges a photographer often faces, in popular tourist spots, is how to take a good photograph with so many people around. However, there are several techniques you can master to ensure you score a winning shot.

A sure-fire way of getting around the crowds, while also finding a new perspective on an iconic landmark, is to simply change your perspective.

It’s pretty easy really, you just need to remember to try different camera angles and viewpoints like this. You'll also get more unique and interesting shots this way too. Here are some ideas

Look up . . .

Don't miss things that are above you, remember to look up now and then.

Look down . . .

Find a rooftop bar or place where you can get a high vantage point for a different view.
I wanted to capture the shadows and contrast between light and dark, and the stripes on the road. THIS is what I saw in my mind! So I aimed my camera down as I crossed the street multiple times before I got the look I wanted.

Get down . . .

Get down – low to the ground that is. Don't be afraid to get down and dirty in order to get a good photo.

Get behind . . .

Find something to add in the foreground to frame your subject and add depth to the image.

Read 4 Tips for Creating Depth and Dimension in Your Images for more on this topic. 

I created this image at the iconic Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. The people drinking coffee in the foreground add context to the scene of the sax player, and art shoppers in the background.
Shooting through a door or window can add another layer of interest to your shot like this scene of the Machu Picchu ruins.
The dancing water fountain at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas has been photographed many times so I took a different approach here, adding the spectators in the foreground.

Get close . . .

This was taken in one of the famous Gaudi houses in Barcelona. I focused on the hurricane lamp and pattern on the ceiling here.

Like really close!

Then I got even closer and composed another shot with just the lamp, it becomes almost abstract.
The trick is to find the detail in the shot and then really hone in on it. Do you need to see the entire animal here?

Sometimes the easiest way to get a good shot is to be patient and persistent.

You may have to wait for a while – so, choose the right lens, set your camera up, and then position yourself in the right spot – and then you wait.

Alternatively, you may need to get up early or come back at a quieter time to beat the crowds.

Be persistent and you will get your shot, without it you may just miss out.

Or try and find interesting things above people's heads. That way you can cut them out of your shot altogether.

This is the library at the Ephesus ruins in Turkey. It's always packed with people.
So I aimed up higher and shot over their heads to just show the top of the structure.
Then I got right underneath between some of the columns and shot straight up. To me, this is by far the most interesting image of this building.

2. Include people to add a storytelling element

Through travel photography, you have a chance to tell the story of the place you are visiting. That means, unless you are visiting Mars on your next vacation, the people and culture of a place are going to be a part of that story.

So why not use your trip to practice your street photography skills, and shoot some images that include people.

Look at the images below.

Can you get a sense of the location just based on the setting and the people? Can you guess where these four images were taken? Put your guess in the comments section below.

Hmm handmade wool carpets. Where might this be?
Do the buildings and people give you any clues as to this location?
Modern buildings and girls with cell phones by a fountain. Guesses as to the city?
Obviously, this is a different type of street scene than you'd see just anywhere. See how including the man adds not only context but interest to the image?

The key to perfecting street photography is to be quick and to capture the fleeting moments that tell the story.

We have a whole section of the website dedicated to street photography that you can read here.

3. Capture some movement in your images

Breaking news. Not every image needs to be a frozen moment, or as sharp as a knife.

In fact, adding movement to your images can not only offer you some fun new techniques to play with, but it can also make your images a lot more interesting. Especially when photographing in a crowded area or a well-photographed landmark.

So, try zooming on a long exposure.

This is a zoom blur creating by zooming the lens during the exposure. This was shot using a tripod to keep the camera steady.

Or, panning on moving objects.

panning photo classic car Havana Cuba
ISO 100, f/16, 1/30th – panning.

Let’s see what interesting images you can create with some motion blur.

4. Go Ultra-Wide

Not every shot needs to capture everything like you see it in real life.

In fact, some of the most interesting travel shots I’ve taken are using a super wide lens (I’m talking 15mm on a full frame camera, or 10mm on a cropped sensor).

Using a lens this wide will cause the edges of your frame to curve and will give your image a warped and surreal feel to it.

Night photography shot with an  8mm Rokinon fish-eye lens on my Fuji crop sensor camera.
NYC begs to be photographed at night and with an ultra-wide lens.
A subway train rumbles over the Manhattan Bridge. Here I have used three of the tips in this article: get behind, add motion, shoot wide. See how they work together?

But avoid making these: 5 Mistakes Beginners Make Using a Wide Angle Lens and How to Avoid Them

5. Photograph during the Blue Hour

Don’t be afraid of booking a late evening meal (in Europe, and many other places, 9 pm is a normal dinner seating time), and taking your tripod out for an early evening date.

Scout out a good location to photograph the sunset, and then as you watch everyone heading home for the evening keep shooting through the hour after sunset, otherwise known as the Blue Hour.

Not only will you avoid the crowds at popular locations, but you will also get some very different images of iconic landmarks and places that no one else will get.

This is the perfect timing for blue hour. The lights of the city are on and the sky is still a rich blue. Notre Dame, Paris.
Shot at ISO 200, f/22 for 25 seconds. Blue hour allows for long exposures and capturing light trails of passing cars as well. Colosseum, Rome.
Shot from the Manhattan Bridge in NYC at about 8 pm. ISO 200, f/8.0 for 20 seconds.
You need to shoot fast before the light in the sky fades. 20 minutes after the image above was shot, the sky is almost black and this image lacks the depth of the earlier shot. ISO 400, f/5.6 for 30 seconds.
Note: This magic Blue Hour happens twice a day. Yes! Who knew right?! It also occurs during the hour before sunrise. So if you are more of a morning person, then get up and avoid the crowds.


Now you have five techniques to practice next time you are on vacation.

But, remember even if you aren’t planning a trip anytime soon, you can still practice all of these techniques at home.

So, why not pick a time to be a tourist in your own city or town for the day? Just approach your surroundings with fresh eyes.

Remember, you can find inspiration everywhere, you just need to look for it. So, grab your camera and go see what you can find!


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