Genealogy: Taking better digital travel photos

Taking better digital travel photosBy Barry J. Ewell

You don’t have to travel far to find fascinating nature and wildlife … just head into your backyard and look around. No matter where you live, outdoor photography will help you look at your world with new eyes—and improve your photo-taking skills, too.

Prepare for take-off. Before your trip, review travel guides and photos in books and magazines so you can make a list of potential shots ahead of time. When you reach a photo location, scout the area to plan your approach before shooting.

The right lighting is crucial to creating stunning photos. Consider the best time of day for your desired shot. For example, if you must have a photo of the Eiffel Tower while in Paris, shoot just before sunset or shortly after sunrise. The light during this time can lend everything a beautiful golden hue.

Compose your shots carefully. Keep composition in mind, too. You’ll want your subject to fill the frame; ideal composition is 90 percent subject and 10 percent background. Try to get within two to four feet of your subjects, and avoid the urge to always center them. Off-center subjects tend to make photos more interesting.

Before you shoot, make sure there are no stray objects that might detract from your composition. If you see a piece of trash or a phone wire, remove it from view. And pay attention to how background objects interact with your subject. A castle spire that looks like a hat or horn on your subject’s head can ruin an otherwise great photo.

Discover more ways to improve your photographic skills in Take better photos: part one and Take better photos: part two.

Try something new.  A few posed travel photos are fine, but remember to take spontaneous shots of your traveling companions enjoying the moment and interacting, too. A picture of friends laughing and eating gelato in North Beach is more poignant than a photo of them standing stiffly in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Your photos should tell a story. Eating, relaxing, leaning on street signs, and browsing roadside markets are part of the adventure. And remember, you’re using a digital camera, so snap as many pictures as you like! Just delete those you don’t want to keep. (Remember to pack an extra memory card.)

Experiment with shooting modes.  A trip is the perfect time to try using the special shooting modes on camera. For example, beach mode helps you capture bright seaside scenes with well-balanced highlights and shadows. And you can discreetly shoot pictures indoors with no flash or sound when you use museum mode.

Capture a grand landscape or large group shot by using the in-camera panorama mode and in-camera panorama preview option, which allows you to seamlessly stitch together up to five images. This ingenious feature makes it easy to line up each photo in sequence as you shoot.

Get a fresh perspective.  Try to get an unusual or interesting view of familiar sites. Crouch or lie down and shoot upward to exaggerate the height of Seattle’s Space Needle. Zoom in on a single statue in the Trevi Fountain, or shoot a picture of the Grand Canyon from an airplane window.

Give your photo more depth by surrounding the subject with windows, arches, or other framing devices. Or explore some more abstract views. Close-ups are a great way to create an appealing photo full of pattern and texture. Learn more about capturing close-ups.

Include people.  People give your photos personality. But how do you photograph the strangers you encounter as you travel?

Try to establish friendly communication with the person you want to photograph: Chat with the fruit vendor in Genoa or buy a bag of lemons from her. Learn how to ask for permission to take a photo in the native language, or simply smile and raise your camera. Wait for a nod or other positive sign. If you get a disapproving look, seek out a more willing subject.

Be creative.  Turn a trip into a voyage of discovery by keeping a travel diary, the perfect complement to your travel photos. Include descriptions of food, people, and scenery, and jot down comments made by companions and strangers. Add neighborhood maps, sketches of surroundings, ticket stubs, brochures, and other memorabilia.
When you use your photos to create albums, slideshows, websites, and other projects, incorporate memories from your journal.

Save and share your photos.  Also, make sure you save your photos somewhere besides your camera’s memory card. Learn how to create a digital archive by preserving photos on DVD upon your return home.