8 Tricks for Better Travel Pics

Christine Sarkis, February 26, 2015
Fares from Washington DC:

    Memories might be the best souvenirs from a trip, but photographs are a close second. We asked some of our favorite photographers for simple tips any traveler can use to take better photos. From lighting suggestions to advice on how to blend in while capturing a moment, here are easy ways to up your photography game and come home with great memories and fantastic images.

    Related: How to Take Great Photos on Your Smartphone

    Michelle Yam: Embrace the Camera You Have

    "'The best camera is the one you have with you.' I heard that quote somewhere, and it's true. Don't get caught up with the idea of having the latest and greatest of cameras. Ninety-nine percent of my photos posted to my Instagram are shot with my camera phone. By the time you set up your fancy camera settings and tripod, you might have already missed the sunset shot. Travel light, practice more, and have fun!"

    Follow Michelle Yam around the globe: @michelleyam on Instagram.

    Related: 15 Awesome Travel Photographers You Should Be Following on Instagram

    Jason Houston: Learn How to Approach Strangers

    "My work takes me all over the world photographing communities and cultures that are often quite different from mine. It's the people I'm most interested in, yet it's also difficult to approach a stranger with your camera. Here are some techniques I've learned over the years that work for me: Be friendly! Interact first, photograph second. Never hide your intentions to make a photograph. It immediately makes you look suspicious and like you're up to something you've decided is wrong. Seek permission. This is different than asking permission, which makes people self-conscious. This is related to showing your intentions. Let them know you want to take a photograph while giving them the opportunity to ask you not to. Honor their privacy. Treat people with curiosity and respect and they'll open up!"

    Follow Jason Houston's various assignments around the world on his Instagram feed @jasonbhouston.

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    Tim Calver: Make Your Camera Water-Ready

    "When we travel, my family is always looking for ways to get wet. Therefore I am always ready to take my camera in the water. With inexpensive housing for my iPhone like the ones made by Watershot, Inc., not only can I get pictures of my family swimming with dolphins or diving in the backyard pool, but I am also ready for rain, spray from the boat, or just fun in the sprinkler."

    Tim Calver is a travel and underwater photographer.

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    Rob Howard: Slow Down to See the World

    "I'd have to say that my best advice is simply to walk; walk a lot, and life around you will reveal itself. Slow down to see the world. Key word: See! That's it. Simple.

    "This photo is of Huli warriors, involved in a real war, up in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. It took me three days of walking to happen upon this scene … there were upwards of a few hundred guys fighting, and I felt like I'd traveled in a time machine to the Bronze era."

    Rob Howard has photographed in 140 countries and all 50 states.

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    John Torcassi: Look at People, Not the Lens

    "While photographing friends and family, I never use a flash—I just don't take pictures in places where my camera needs too long an exposure to handhold. With friends and family, I also rarely look through the lens—I like to not step out of the situation and make people feel on the spot or that they should pose. You can also lower the lens to children's heights more easily that way. Be one of those people who clowns around with a camera and is part of the fun. They get the best shots."

    John Torcassi lives in Italy and is one-half of the Seed Communications team.

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    Molly Feltner: Put the Light Behind You

    "When I first started studying photography, I learned a very simple but highly effective technique for taking better pictures: Put the light behind you. Whether your light is coming from the sun, a lamp, or a window, put your back to the source so the light can illuminate the front of your subject. If you're photographing a person, ask them to move if necessary. If you are photographing an animal and can't move yourself, be patient and wait for them [to move] so you can get to better light. You will be rewarded with a great-looking subject without any ugly backlighting or sun flares."

    Molly Feltner helped the Rwanda-based Gorilla Doctors organization document its work conserving wild mountain and eastern lowland gorillas.

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    Oriol Cara: For a Great Pic, Rapport Is Everything

    "Try talking with people and establishing a rapport before taking a picture. We're often tempted to 'sneak' photos of people we think represent or epitomize a preconceived notion of that place. Instead, get to know who they are and what it is they are doing—language barrier is not an excuse, and friendliness is universal! Try to have a real experience before you document a person, a place, or a situation. Your images will greatly benefit and if you are lucky, you will see that positive interactions very well may lead you to other photo opportunities."

    Oriol Cara is a photographer from Barcelona.

    Aaron Osteen: Zoom with Your Feet

    "When my wife and I travel, we are often exploring remote villages in Southeast Asia by scooter and try to keep our gear to a minimum. I usually just carry my Nikon D4 with a 35mm lens and use my feet to zoom. Doing this not only saves my back from carrying heavy camera bags but also makes me get close to my subject. The closer you are to your subject, the more dramatic the shot, and it also forces you to explore the outer limits of your comfort zone. The image above was taken in a village in Bali, Indonesia. I saw this lady working in a distant rice field but she was much too far for the 35mm. So, I took my shoes off, walked out to her, smiled, and took the shot."

    When they're not traveling the world together, Aaron Osteen and his wife Jillian run Aaron & Jillian Photography, specializing in weddings.

    (Photo: Carolyn Cochrane/Getty Images)

    This article was published by SmarterTravel under the title Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos from Photographers We Love.  Follow Christine Sarkis on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.