The Surefire Way To Take The Best Travel Photos
7 tips from a pro.
Around 380 billion photos will be taken this year, so it’s only natural that we all end up with some pretty similar shots.
This is especially true when we’re out seeing the sights. There are the bog-standard pics of the Colosseum and the Statue of Liberty, as well as those novelty pics your zany aunt takes – you know, where she’s holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, pinching the top of the Eiffel Tower and crossing Abbey Road.
No one wants to fall into a cliché photo trap, so how can we start seeing some of the world’s most photographed monuments through a different lens?
Pair up with a local pro
Not only will a local photographer guide you down the path less travelled, they’ll also impart some of their picture taking know-how along the way. Paris’ Aperture Tours is helmed by Aussie ex-pat and photographer Alexander J.E. Bradley, who has lived in the photogenic city for six years. Aperture Tours run day and night tours for photographers of all levels of experience (from iPad clutchers to National Geographic aspirants) keen to improve their travel snaps.
We started our tour in a very Parisian way: sitting in a brasserie and chatting over a cup of coffee. After discussing with your guide what you want from your photos, it’s time to look at your camera, whether it be an iPhone or a DSLR. Does it have a bunch of settings yet you always use the auto option? You’re not alone. “Most people who come to me are unhappy with their cameras and want new ones, but don’t fully understand the capacity of the one they have,” Alexander says.
After some technical pointers and talk of angles and lighting, it’s time to hit the streets. “I try not to point out what to shoot, but look for what our guests are interested in,” explains Alexander. “This way I won’t spend too long on a landmark if their true interest is in candid street portraits.”
And if you’re mainly interested in selfies? No judgement. “Taking photos of yourself in front of a monument is not a new trend, it’s just that selfies have made it easier to do that by reducing the need to ask someone else to take that image for you,” Alexander shrugs. “The street hawkers in Paris sell more selfie sticks than they do their own souvenirs these days. I guess it’s more meaningful to have an image of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower than it is to buy a dangling Eiffel Tower key chain.”
Alexander shared some of his hard won tips to taking magnifique travel photos.
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“You need to study your subject and make sure you’re looking at it from all different kinds of angles,” Alexander recommends. “Never just take a photograph where your feet find you. Search out the best places to shoot from and shoot deliberately.”
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“Going back to the same location in different lighting conditions will drastically change the mood and feeling of an image,” he says. “If you’re short on time, figuring out where the sun will be and what will look good in which light will have a major impact on your image.”
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If it’s people watching you’re after…
“Parisians tend to wake up late, so the streets are pretty empty before 9am. Gardens are a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and provide good people watching opportunities. The best two for people watching in Paris are Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin de Tuileries.”
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Or avoid the hordes
“If you want to shoot the Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro with no one around, go there at sunrise.”
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“During sunset, you don’t want to be stuck in narrow streets that will fall into shadow. Choose wide open places like the river Seine, Notre Dame or the Louvre to shoot.”
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But slow down
“Digital camera culture is related to a shoot first, think later approach, but critically thinking about your image before you press the shutter will see drastic improvements.”
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Shoot, shoot, shoot again
“The surefire way to get fantastic images of your holiday is to shoot, shoot and shoot again. Take your camera with you at all times and keep it handy. People will say that some photographers are just lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to get “that shot”, but without being ready at all times for those unexpected events to present themselves they’re sure to miss it. Photography is about patience and dedication.”
The best global photography tours across the world
Aperture Tours also run in Venice, Verona and London, with Berlin soon to be established. If you’re in New York look for NYC Photo Safari, in Havana join I Love Cuba Guided Photo Tours, and capture the Northern Lights in the wilderness of Sweden’s Abisko National Park with the help of Lights Over Lapland.
If you’ve come into some serious cash, you can shadow National Geographic photographers on their travels: Jim Zuckerman’s photo tours will soon take place in China, Indonesia and Kenya, and Dream Photo Tours (Ken Kaminesky and Malcolm Fackender) are travelling to North Vietnam, Bhutan and Iceland this year.
But if you’re only going as far as the next train zone? Get to know your home better by doing a photo tour in your own city, such as Jaime Murcia’s Melbourne laneway tours and the Sydney Street Art Photography Tour.